With Valentine’s Day coming up, I’ve been thinking more about romantic love in our culture. Have you ever ‘cried a river over’ that special someone who broke up with you? Ever ‘long for yesterday or seek a place to hide away’? Maybe, like ‘everybody’, you just ‘need somebody to love’ ?
We get so many of our metaphors for love from love songs—and often they focus on the pain of unrequited or lost love. Writing or listening to songs about such pain may be cathartic, a step in the healing process, but have you considered the collateral damage: our own optimism and expectations about love?
I came across a quote from High Fidelity by Nick Hornby recently that put a new spin for me on the power of our metaphors. “People worry about kids playing with guns and teenagers watching violent video games; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands—literally thousands—of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”
And it’s not just kids; we all listen to these songs. They flood the radio stations. The best singers croon them. They are poignant, often beautiful , and we can all relate. But is it the air we want to breathe? With music pumping through our radios and earphones daily, what’s meant to be a step in a healing process has become the environment we live in.
Why is it that we ‘fall’ in love? That sounds like it hurts! Why are we ‘love-sick’? Even our metaphors about the ‘blind’ first stage of love sound dire! It only gets worse as hearts break, they get holes in them, and we’re told we can’t live with the pain and that ‘you’re nobody ‘til somebody loves you.’
So, if we don’t want to encourage a culture of equating lost love or having no romantic partner with utter devastation, what kind of attitudes might we foster instead?
There are, of course, many songs about how wonderful love is. And some empowering songs about not wallowing in lost love’s misery, the sort that promote a “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair” or “I will survive” attitude; they offer messages about resilience.
We can be careful about what we tell our children and, especially our teenagers, as they begin to wade into the waters of romantic love. Yes, rejection hurts, but after some period of grieving, it’s good to take stock of what you’ve learned about yourself, about relationships, about what’s a good fit for you, and move on. And they need to hear that you’re not defined by your love status nor is your life in limbo when you’re not paired up.
Can we celebrate friendship as well as lovers? Is there a saint for friends? A special friends day?? Perhaps this Valentine’s Day season, we just need to be more conscious of balancing the messages we take to heart, and be sure we’re ‘looking for love in all the right places’: all around us.