From a stupidly young age, we are bombarded with images of what love looks like; we are promised we will either find our prince/princess who will make life wonderful for all eternity, or we will be doomed to spend each February sulking and throwing shoes at Meg Ryan billboards and random couples kissing in the street. In essence, our media’s depiction of love divides us into the cruel categories of either bitterness or bliss, but I just don’t buy this breakdown. I have been single for far more of my life than I’ve been part of a romantic pairing, and in my days of singledom the onslaught of greeting cards and heart-shaped chocolate boxes at this time of year never made me as bitter as the single ladies we see on TV; rather, it made me a mix of sad and hopeful. I was sad because I ached for love to hurry up and find me, and I was hopeful that I, too, could one day partake in the sappiness of Cupid-filled holidays. It irked me then and it still drives me bananas now that this complexity of emotion is rarely talked about or portrayed in chick-flick culture. Instead we hear DJs, TV personalities and Katherine Heigl characters tell all singletons that they should kick over every rose bucket in the grocery store, petition Congress to abolish Valentine’s Day, and slash married people’s tires. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the depiction of married couples and their Michelin tires (you know the stereotypes, the ones who are either annoyingly perfect or philandering their way back to becoming bitterly single).
The truth is, love and our desire for it are far more complicated than most people dare to admit or bring up in polite conversation. One fact I’ll dare to acknowledge, however, is that we all do desire it…We all want love, and we should – whether we’re single and searching for our soul mates or married and still discovering new aspects of our mates’ souls. No amount of relationship hard times or taunts about the evils of pink-and-red candy aisles should ever strip us of our desire for true amore. Of course, we all may find this kind of fulfillment in different places (for some this means traditional marriage, others it means several epic romances, and still others it can mean a wealth of platonic friendships), but the key is admitting the types of love we want in our lives and never losing hope. I’m not advocating becoming a hopeless romantic, a.k.a. the kind of people we see portrayed in movies as guys or gals who are blindly optimistic about their romantic prospects and eventually learn painful lessons; what I am advocating is being bold enough to wish for and seek out genuine human connections in our lives. If we’re in relationships this means finding new excuses to fall in love with our partners, and if we’re single this means putting ourselves out there while listening to love songs instead of snarky talk radio.
I guess you could call this hopeful romanticism and, heck, I’ll go ahead and define it as the practice of blasting Stevie Wonder songs, mailing Valentines to your dearest friends, and smiling (with both shoes securely on your feet) when you walk past couples in love. I could also define it as embracing matchmaking services, making the occasional self-deprecating comment when romance doesn’t go our way, and constantly reassessing what we truly want. So much of life is all about wanting after all, and these wants/desires in and of themselves tie us into a great love affair with the human race. I dare you to eschew the media’s stark portrayal of bitterness and fairy tales this season, and I ask you to join me in simply wishing for the deepest possible love for yourself. Make that a double dare.