There’s a quote from the movie “Before Sunrise” that I’ve been thinking about lately:
“Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?”
The movie came out 23 years ago but despite all our proclamations of modern self-sufficiency, of wellsprings of internal validation, this still feels true to me.
We grow up trying to gain the approval (aka love) of our parents, which is sometimes freely given and other times, is much withheld. At school we desperately want our peers to like us, to love us, to admire us, including the mean kids who will never really like us. At work we seek a kind of professional love, we are hungry for the love of society and we seek it by attempting to emulate those who are most “loved” by society.
Then we become grownups or young adults at the very least, and have the enormous task of finding someone to love in a way that you haven’t before. Maybe there will be one or two or three or if you’re really lucky, more than that. And if you’re really really lucky, that love will be returned (or so I’m told).
Even if you identify your motivators as money or success or some sense of self-righteousness, underlying all of this is to hold onto a little more love.
In some ways it makes us look like these desperate hungry animals, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with that particular kind of hunger. If it makes you kinder towards others, fuels your success, maybe even gives birth to your values and sense of empathy, it can’t be that evil.
So what happens when that desire for love is left unfulfilled?
If you look at any villain, from Voldemort to Lucifer to Loki, the common thread in that backstories is that in some way, they felt that some of the love that was owed to them was denied. Even today’s modern day villains, the red pillers and incels of the skeevy parts of the internet (though underscored by patriarchal entitlement) feel cheated out of love, albeit physical.
Then there are also the Miss Havishams of the world, those who touched the promise of love only to see it vanish. Though they do not transform into classic villains, they do become bitter and twisted, unhappy shadows of their former selves.
Love is a scarce commodity. Modern life makes it possible to exist without love at all (exist, but not really live). So how do we search for it, particularly as a woman where you are generally shamed for wanting it or for that matter, not wanting it. How do we know it’s genuine and not just the bottom shelf version that will have us with our heads in the toilet the next day? And most importantly, how do we hold onto it?