Why Being A Romantic Isn’t Hopeless
Because the Ally Sheedy character in The Breakfast Club is wrong, and you don’t have to let your heart die as you get older. I love my idealism, my naivete, my stubborn insistence that I’m going to end up happy, and I refuse to let anyone tell me that I need to or have to settle or to tell me that compromise and negotiation needs to make me quietly sad all the time.
Because I want what my grandparents have, a life that fits perfectly into faded photo albums and gives comfort and quilts to those around me, who aspire to know a love as inspiring and effortlessly photogenic as mine. I want love to be more than just faith, more than an empty longing and more than wishes that are never fulfilled, and like Stuart Smalley, I believe we can find the love we deserve if we believe we deserve it, if we know that we are worthy of being loved.
Because Julia Roberts movies lied to us, because Bridget Jones lied to us, because Cosmo lied to us and there isn’t just somebody out there waiting for us, and we need to have the gumption to go get ourselves loved. Love isn’t just something that we should allow to exist in storybooks and novels; we should not accept that good sex should be what other people are having or people in magazines are having.
Because the moment we let ourselves refuse that, we deny ourselves joy and hope; we allow ourselves to stop striving; we let ourselves think we deserve pain and heartache. Demanding a love that fulfills us helps us to demand a life that excites us, one that we would want to tell our grandchildren about, and helps us to push ourselves and take the chances to get what we want, rather than becoming complacent, like the emotional equivalent of the amorphous space people in Wall-E.
Because believing that I can fully love another human being helps me remember that I can give my broken, egoistic, flawed self to something greater than me. I don’t need to believe in God to trust in a higher power, a force that compels us to strive, to ache, to want more than we have and accept nothing less than what fulfills us.
Because I believe that romance and the act of loving does not have to be perfect and should not be perfect and look forward to the struggle of loving someone, the ways in which the difficult act of love forces me to be more selfless, more giving, more honest and more tough. I believe that love makes you a better person, that it need not make you co-dependent, symbiotic or weak but that it can make you stronger, because being a lover sometimes means being a fighter, too.
Because I know for a fact that I don’t need to be in love to find myself, but I still want to continue to explore new parts of myself through that diving off into the romantic abyss, the fear that giving yourself to this transcendent unknown entails. I want to learn to give more fully and openly, and one day, I hope to give my mother — whose body only had the strength to give birth to me — the other child she always wanted, but one she won’t ever have to raise and can complain about me to on the phone when she thinks I’m not home.
Because having had a terrible relationship with my dad my whole life, I know how important it is to be surrounded by people who love you, who affirm you, who help ground you in a sense of community and give you a purpose. I’m tired of being a child of divorce and know that my life doesn’t have to be broken homes, broken families and broken relationships, that I have the ability to go out and create community, to give affirmation and love to others.
Because I believe that marriage shouldn’t belong to anyone in particular and that love deserves recognition and protection, even if the state of North Carolina disagrees with me. I know that someday having the right to marry whoever I want doesn’t mean I have to get married and have 2.5 children; I have the option to choose the life I want, with whomever I want.
Because someday I’ll be ready for that choice and in the meantime, being a romantic makes me open to the life around me, to being in love with not just one person but a fractured, volatile world that needs my love, my care and my attention. I want to wake up every day and be ready to stand silent with awe at what the world has in store, whether those are small miracles, the biggest thing I could ever imagine or the romances beyond imagination.
Because every time I doubt the future, every time I doubt myself, every time I doubt my ability to love and be loved I need to be proven wrong, to renew my faith in myself and in other people. I need to believe that life has a million romances in store for me, the ones that give me children and stress headaches and something to do with my 401K, the ones that keep me out drinking way past my bed time on a Saturday night, the ones I can find hidden between lines of Faulkner.
Because I sincerely think that without fearlessly loving, even if it seems silly, pointless or hopeless, life isn’t worth living. I want to die saying that, even if love doesn’t exist, even if I end up unfulfilled by my career and personal relationships and even if I die alone in a ditch somewhere or half-eaten by wild dogs, I believed in the ecstasy of life. I dared to believe.
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