Monday, February 27, 2012

Silly, Silly Love

I get impatient with love stories.

Again, I’m being honest in my post for YAOTL, maybe even too much so. (Though I’ve gotten patient feedback so far. Thank you, patient ones.)

Here’s the damn truth.

I’m not impatient with love. Ever. Love is the only force in the Universe that I truly believe in. That job promotion we think we want, the toys we think we need, the money worries…I think it’s all a type of illusion. I think there will come a time, at the end of this life, when I’ll realize none of that meant anything like what I thought it meant anyway. But real love is always important.

So why do I get impatient with love stories? Well, I don’t with all of them. Just most of them.

It’s because I feel that a lot of what our society promotes as love…isn’t. Really. Not the kind of love that will still feel important when all is said and done.

I love to read YA, but I notice that in (nearly) every book, there has to be a crush. A lot of YA books are about little else besides a crush, but I avoid those.

I was a teen, though God knows it was long ago, and I know those early romantic posturings feel incredibly important. My problem was that I kept posturing long into my adulthood. Long. Into. And now I look back on that and shake my head. And now I feel so done with all the silliness.

Silliness? Did she just call love silly?

No. I did not.

What’s silly is the feeling that we’re only okay if he/she wants us. What’s silly is when we guess what’s going on in his/her head, but don’t really communicate. When we have wants and needs but can’t express them, and end up getting angry because we think the other person should know. Without being told. Like magic. Like osmosis. Or worse yet, when we assume we have no right to our wants and needs. It’s silly to let other people treat us as anything less that valuable, maybe because we don’t get that it’s okay to want better. Well. For any reason.

It’s sometimes unavoidable to feel incomplete, but it’s silly to believe someone else can fill that big hole in our hearts.

And yet there’s no doubt that as a teen—hell, as a 40-year-old—I had no idea how to do better, either. And yet I find myself wanting to read about something better. Maybe that’s nor fair. But that’s where I am.

Many years ago, long before I stopped being so silly in my own life, I began writing about non-romantic love. I wrote my first novel, Funerals For Horses, about a sibling bond. I wrote Becoming Chloe about the bond between an emotionally handicapped teen girl and a gay teen boy. In Love in the Present Tense, Mitch had a romantic entanglement (with the wife of his biggest client), but Leonard saw right through it and pronounced it silly. (Though not in so many words.) In some of my novels, like Jumpstart the World, my main characters do fall in love, but with somebody they know right off the bat they’re never going to get. That they can never be with (Frank is older and in a long-term relationship). Somehow that cuts down on the posturing and pulls out the pure emotion underneath, completely detached from any promise of gain. At least, that’s how it feels to me.

In Chasing Windmills, I did explore the feelings of first love. In fact, it was a bit of a retake (though only in a limited way) on the Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story drama arc. And I think that made people assume I would end it a certain way. As in, happy ending. Which is funny, because Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story did not have happy endings. Some people liked my ending, some did not. (Spoiler: nobody died. I didn’t carry the comparison through.) But I felt at least it wasn’t silly.

For those who object to my use of the word silly, please just consider that I use it to mean "that which takes us to a place we never really meant to go."

I guess what I’m saying is that I wish we could do love better. In real life, and in books. I wish we could focus more on what’s real, what touches our souls rather than our egos.

A great big wish that might never come true. And a lousy Valentine’s Day sentiment if there ever was one. But I throw it out there to hear what people think.


  1. I am in wholehearted agreement. My mom always used the phrase "the icing on the cake" and that's what love is for me. It's a wonderful bonus, but it's not - or shouldn't be - the foundation of anyone's life.

  2. You're not the only one who has a little unhappiness reading the romances in YA. Don't get me wrong, I live for the YA section, but it does bother me when the plot circles around the instant love. To me, love is time. It's commitment. It's learning all about the other person. Not every guy is going to be amazingly beautiful and have some dark secret. And more often than not those guys that are a little awkward and completely normal are the best ones.

    I'm babbling. Sorry. Anyway, what I meant to say was GREAT POST.


  3. I gotta say, my fave of all your explorations of love is 2ND HAND HEART. That book stayed with me long after reading...I completely agree, though--real love is always important. (And real love is not necessarily romantic love.) Beautiful post.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly! Excellent post, let's hope writers who read this might try making a change. However, young adults and preteens are going through the crushes and looking for books that reflect how they are feeling. I guess that's what commercial blockbusters are all about :)