The above quote comes from a movie I watched a few weeks ago called ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. It’s an absolutely touching movie about coming of age. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and do that. It’s about the tortured existence of just about anybody who is going through the painful experience that we all so casually call growing up. Growing up and then realizing that you’re not, in fact, part of the mainstream. And all I know is that the mainstream sounded pretty fucking amazing when I was in my late teens. I longed for the effortless belonging that some people my age felt and tried my very best to pass for uncomplicated.
Watching this movie these words really stuck with me for some reason. “We accept the love we think we deserve”. I guess it’s because they sound wise. And because, frankly, I experienced them to be true in my life to a certain extent. I guess it stuck with a lot of people too because an innocent image search on Google resulted in a ridiculous amount of versions of the quote in different fonts and a range of background images. Not to mention the images of these words tattooed on people’s ankles, ribs and arms. But is it in fact true?
I never quite thought of it in that way but the destructive relationships that people get into and the suffocating feeling we all get when someone loves us too much – the same love we later crave when we look back and realize we had something amazing and didn’t value it – is that in fact a type of self-loathing? I’ve seen some pretty exceptional people that I love very much enter and willingly continue some of the most disastrous relationships I have ever had the displeasure of being around for. And if you think about it, we actually tend to refer to reciprocal, caring, supportive love in terms of being ‘lucky’. So do we ever really consider ourselves deserving of true love?
I think that, for starters, we have fairly unrealistic ideas about love. “Romantic love is an invention”, my Social theories of Sexuality lecturer told us. He argued his point with a bunch of literature that seemed to make sense at the time but I still think it sounds a little bitter and cynical. I think romance exists. I think romantic love exists. We all feel like being a little corny when we’re in love. Whether this is learned social behavior or who exactly teaches it is another story. It’s not so much the romance part of love that I am concerned with though. What I find problematic about narratives about love is that they usually end at the peak of passion. The great love stories of the world, be they Disney fairy-tales or Shakespearean tragedies, usually end when love is still fully equated with desire and butterflies. I would argue that real life generally drags desire and butterflies down one of two avenues: Monotony and Habit Road or Heartbreak Hotel Boulevard. And when that happens we are very unprepared as to how to cope.
If you started reading this post thinking I might have an answer for the question posed at the top of this page, I am sorry to disappoint you. It is more of a reflection than anything else. But I invite you to do the same because as much as I identify with the message, I cannot help but think that saying we control what love we accept is little else than an elegant form of blaming the victim.