In All About Love, bell hooks writes: “Had I been given a clear definition of love earlier it would not have taken me so long to become a more loving person. Had I shared with others a common understanding of what it means to love it would have been easier to create love. It is particularly distressing that so many recent books on love continue to insist that definitions of love are unnecessary and meaningless. Or worse, the authors suggest that love should mean something different to men than it does to women- that the sexes should respect and adapt to our inability to communicate since we do not share the same language. This type of literature is popular, because it does not demand a change in fixed ways of thinking about gender roles, culture, or love. Rather than sharing strategies that would help us become more loving it actually encourages everyone to adapt to circumstances where love is lacking (p. 11).”
Ah, love. If I had to get rid of all holidays, and only keep one, it would be Valentine’s day. Yes, even over International Pancake day.
It is easy to characterise Valentine’s day as the holiday of commerce when we live in a world where everything is commodified. Remember that you are the one giving and receiving love! You are the one who has to give meaning to this holiday! Christmas has enjoyed a rebranding as a holiday of reflection and connection. Why do we meet Valentine’s with bitterness and cynicism not two months later?
While I have to admit that love as a concept has garnered more than enough attention from pop culture, I do find it to be lacking. We tend to assume the image of romantic love where love is a feeling of passion, and that a healthy relationship should grow naturally from that point. Even I find it difficult to reject that ‘head in the clouds’ type of love. My first kiss was in front of a lit-up fountain on the Saint Peters square in Rome. I was doomed to have high standards. I try so hard do undo this. But simply rejecting this type of idealised love cannot make us better lovers, or better people overall. We really need to ask ourselves: how do I love well?
And then do it. Again and again and again.
A PDF of All About Love is accessible online, but feel free to contact the Editorial Committee if you’re interested in a physical copy.
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