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5 Lessons in Love from Literature

BY ALLANA LUTA
“Toughen up, Valentine’s Day wasn’t meant for my kind anyway.”*

When it comes to romantic love, I haven’t had much experience. You see, I’m part of the SSB Club: Single Since Birth. No biggie—being single is awesome… except on Valentine’s Day. Or Single Awareness Day for my kind, anyway.

And yet, despite the despondency of the lyrics above, I personally have nothing against Valentine’s Day. How could I when it celebrates the most human of emotions? Although it has admittedly become a Hallmark Holiday in recent times, at its very heart, Valentine’s Day is still day for love. (Not that the rest of the year isn’t. But you know what I mean.) And besides, just because I’ve never been in a romantic relationship doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about love. In fact, when you’ve lost your wits from all those cooties in your head, you can come to me for straight up sensible, cold-feeling, bitter *ehem* logical relationship advice. After all, I only learned from the best.

Lesson #1

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From The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

All the romance books in the world can tell you this but I prefer the story of Tomas, Tereza and Sabina. Can you really love just one person but still feel the need to bask in the warmth of another’s body? Does loving someone mean giving up your entire life? Can having a loyal dog fix all of a couple’s marital problems? And more importantly, how can one die so anti-climactically after everything one has been through?! Bonus lesson, as suggested by friends: In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Tomas tells Tereza that his love for her is completely separate from his sexual exploits. But in Paolo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes, sex is seen as an expression of love. It was from this novel that my office mate’s view on sex was turned around. It was also from Eleven Minutes where she first learned that you could fake orgasms. (She probably hadn’t watched When Harry Met Sally at the time.)

Lesson #2

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From Every Day by David Levithan

A is an entity that travels from one body to another every single day. A happens to fall in a love with a girl, Rhiannon, one day when A is inside the body of a boy. But A continues to be in love with Rhiannon even when A has moved on to a different body. In an ideal world, I imagine we would all be A, falling in love with someone regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. When A told Rhiannon that s/he believes in liking someone beyond their gender, I actually whooped and gave a mental round of applause for David Levithan (I say mental because my hands were busy holding the book). In an ideal world, we would all be A, falling in love with anyone without fear of judgment from anybody else. We would be body-less creatures, inhabiting other living beings just to get a taste of the physical sphere. In an ideal world, we would all be like A, a plant.

Lesson #3

When you want something, you should work hard for it. And if the person you want doesn’t want you back, DON’T GIVE UP! Make like Juli Baker and be relentless in showing your Bryce what a fantastic choice of partner you are, even if you’re a little “eccentric” and they’re more than likely a little stuck-up. But if they still can’t see how iridescent you are after all you’ve done for them, drop ‘em like a hot potato, or eggs-that-might-have-salmonella. Seriously, be a Juli. Or you could also be a Bryce and convince your person that you have indeed seen the error of your ways by planting their favorite tree in their front yard. To be honest, being either one will result in you being happy, so the real lesson is, be yourself. (I know. I can already see your eyes rolling all the way from here.)

Lesson #4

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From Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If you really want your relationship to last, you’ve got to work for it. It may be easy in the beginning, what with all the butterflies in your tummy distracting you from the acid. But over time, the acid eventually kills the butterflies and you’re left with an upset stomach. So you’ve got to keep those fluttering insects alive somehow. Fermina Daza married Dr. Juvenal Urbino initially for security and wealth but they eventually learn to love each other… well, I guess not so much love but tolerate. After years of marriage, you’d think they’d get bored with one another, doing the same routine day in and day out. But Urbino finds a way to spice things up by cheating on his wife! Oh, wait a minute. But still, with Urbino’s death (don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler, he dies in the very first chapter), the reader finds out that they did love each other, despite everything.

“Love conquers all.”—Florentino Ariza, probably.

Lesson #5

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From Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

There’s a chapter in Like Water for Chocolate where Gertrudis, after having consumed the food her sister Tita prepared, is overcome with sexual desire so strong that her body starts releasing immense heat, evaporating water from the shower before it even reaches her skin. In fact, the heat from her body causes the wooden walls of the shower to burst into flames, forcing Gertrudis to run naked into the field and into the arms of a passing soldier. They then make love on a galloping horse. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So yes, you can literally burn yourself with love, or in this case, lust. So always keep a fire extinguisher nearby, kids.

Spoiler alert: At the end of the story, spontaneous combustion occurs.

So what have we learned so far? Probably that I need to read more love stories because I still have no idea how romantic relationships work. Thank goodness I’m not in one, right? ☁

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*Lyrics from “Look Away” by Stars. Want to be happysad on Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter? Stars has you covered. Happy S.A.D., everyone!
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