Love is All You Need… Or is It? (Writing 101, Day 3)

I have never been in love.

Some days, this fact about myself makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. In a consumer society where the movies we watch and books we read tell us the most desirable thing a woman can strive for is romance, not having it sometimes makes me feel weak. Open. Insecure.

Singleness is often portrayed as a dreadful thing that women need to get rid of. I love romantic comedies, but how many center on women who are dissatisfied with their relationship status? To be single is to be a failure. If you’re not in a relationship, you’re not desirable enough. You’re not beautiful enough. You’re not smart enough. You are not enough.

What a bunch of crap.

Most days, romantic inexperience doesn’t bother me much. I’ve never felt the desire to date for the sake of dating. When I enter a relationship someday, I want it to be something that lasts. I don’t want to be with someone for the sake of not being alone. I want to be with someone because they fascinate and inspire me.  I want to be with someone who loves me for who I am. In reality, I’ve never actually met anyone I seriously wanted to date. Oh I’ve had crushes.  Lots of them.  But only one person has ever seriously caught my eye and that didn’t even start to go anywhere. That, however, is a story for another day.

When it comes down to it, I love being single. I love making life decisions without needing someone else’s input, worrying about distance, or providing for children. For me, there is a whole world of possibilities. I could move anywhere, do any job, and pursue whatever adventures come my way. Singleness is a unique time in life and I don’t want to spend it moping around.

I do hope to find love eventually, but why detract from the joys of life by buying into lies that I need a man to make me happy? Everyone says it comes when you least expect it. I figure that if I live without expectations of romance, I can enjoy all the wonderful things in my life now. When love comes, it will take me by surprise and will be so much more exciting.

My philosophy on love and dating may not resonate with everyone. Most of my views stream from my deeply rooted faith and security in God. But to go into all the spiritual aspects of my reasoning would be crossing into waters I tend to avoid in the blogosphere. (Maybe I’ll write about why I don’t talk about my faith much someday. I’ll add that to the list of post ideas.) Anyway, if my words don’t fit your perspective or worldview, that is okay. We’re all different. As the phrase goes, “You do you.”

The truth is, though, culture is wrong. You don’t need romance, dates, or sex to live a fulfilling life.

Falling in love? Maybe someday. Until then, I am enough.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Removing the Pedestal: Why Paper Towns is Culturally Important

This weekend, the film adaptation of my favorite John Green novel is being released.  In light of this, I’d like to pause my usual On the Shelf book reviews in order to talk about why this story is important–not just to me, but to culture in general.

As far as plots go, Paper Towns isn’t anything special.

Q, the hero of the book, fits the average, nice guy mold to a tee.  He drives his mom’s minivan, hangs out with the band kids, and hates the whole idea of prom.  He actually tries (to an extent) in school, never breaks rules, and is secretly in love with the girl next door.

Then, one night, Margo Roth Spiegelman (the beautiful, mysterious girl Q loves) shows up at his window and takes him on the all-night, prank filled adventure of his dreams.

We live in a culture that idealizes women.  We place them up on pedestals and only see the pieces of them that we choose.  Women are viewed as perfect, pristine creatures that must be served, protected, and loved.  In the process, their humanity slips away.  Idealized women are scattered throughout literature, starting with the Troubadours in medieval France.  It was true in the Victorian Age when Coventry Patmore wrote his famous poem about “Angels in the House“.  It happens in Tennyson’s Guinevere in Idyls of the King–a poem in which the failure of Camelot’s queen to live on a pedestal brings about the destruction of a nation.  The idealized women shows up in the form of Daisy Buchanan (a personification of the American Dream) in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  There are hundreds of examples out there.  Literature and film are great shapers of how people think and the presence of supposedly perfect women only leads to the expectation that such women actually exist. (Newsflash: They don’t.)

It’s not surprising, then, that our fictional friend Margo finds herself on a pedestal.  In fact, this is one of the first things we ever learn about her.  In the novel’s prologue, Q informs us that:

The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightning, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us. I could have seen it rain frogs. I could have stepped foot on Mars. I could have been eaten by a whale. I could have married the Queen of England or survived months at sea. But my miracle was different. My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.

When the wonderful miracle that is Margo disappears, of course Q feels compelled to rescue her.

In addition to idealizing women, culture has messages for men as well.  You see, we live in a culture that is obsessed with guys “getting the girl”.  Don’t believe me?  Go pick up any chick flick released in the past thirty years.  You’ll see what I’m talking about.  So many movies and books teach men that they can get the girl if they just try hard enough.  Although this story line leads to some adorable, enjoyable, films, it also introduces rhetoric that is alarming.  It implies that nice guys get girls.  Which isn’t always the case.

Messages like these are powerful.  They have consequences.  In 2014, Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree on his college campus to enact revenge against all women.  His logic?  Watch the video he made before committing his murders.  It’s bone-chillingly familiar.

Back to Paper Towns.

The story has been told before.  Average boy (Q) loves unattainable, idealized girl next door (Margo).  Idealized girl disappears and average boy feels the need to rescue her.  They fall in love, ride into the sunset, and live happily ever after.

Or do they?

This is where Green turns the tables.  This is where things get good.

What if Margo is aware that everyone around her idealizes her?  What if she would rather disappear completely than continue living on her pedestal?  What if Q goes on a quest to save her but, instead of saving her, discovers that he never actually knew her in the first place?

The story’s main message is pounded into Q’s head through retracing Margo’s steps and closely analyzing Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself”.  In order to find Margo, Q must put himself in her shoes, to see the world as she does.  In the process, he learns that he knows nothing.

Q’s quest, ultimately, isn’t about Margo at all.  It’s about stripping away preconceived notions and learning to see people as they really are.  At one point, one of his friends even points this out, saying “You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves.

Ultimately, this leads to Q’s major revelation:

Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made—and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make—was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.

This is why I love Paper Towns.  Green spoon feeds us the expected “boy gets girl” story only to turn the tables.  The story isn’t about finding Margo.  It’s about taking Margo off the pedestal and restoring her humanity.  It’s about stripping away the ideal and acknowledging that people, even beautiful ones, are cracked, flawed, and messed up.  In the end, the story presents us with the challenge of seeing people as they really are.

My favorite line from the book states it perfectly:

To finish it all off, I’m really looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation.  I know it won’t be exactly like the book, but I’m okay with that.  I’ve been assured by John Green (via Vlogbrothers videos) that it stays true to the message of the book–a message that I believe is powerful and relevant.

P.S. Much of this post was influenced by the Courtly Love literature class I took this past Spring.  A huge thank you to my professor for giving me insight into the importance of these messages and the way they affect society.

Versatile/Liebster Awards

It’s always an honor when a fellow blogger nominates you and features your blog.  The thing is… I’m terrible with awards.  On the one hand, I think they’re fabulous and are a wonderful way to connect the WordPress community.  On the other, they feel a bit like chain mail.

Recently, I’ve been nominated for a number of awards.  So, instead of putting them off, I thought I’d respond to them in one big post.  The thing is, though, I’m not going to pass the awards on.  I know that it defeats the purpose, but the part of me that resists anything that feels like chain mail is simply too strong.  (I mean, I even avoided doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last spring, despite numerous nominations.)

Versatile:

A few months ago, Britta of It’s a Britta Bottle! nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Part of the award involves sharing seven facts about yourself.  Here goes:

1. I believe in the Loch Ness Monster.

2. During my junior year of high school, I held a lead role in a production of Disney’s High School Musical.  (In case you were wondering, I played Taylor McKessie.  Second to the left.)

3. I have read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban over fifteen times.  (Yes, I kept track and have since lost count.)

4. This past summer, I was in charge of the children’s programming for an international Ethiopian Church Conference in Minneapolis.

Me withs some of the girls

5. I have seen The Phantom of the Opera on the Broadway and West End stages, as well as a traveling production.

6. In high school, I wrote a novel length Harry Potter fan fic.

7. I spent my 21st birthday in Oxford and had my first drink at the Eagle in Child pub, where my literary heroes J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and friends (also known as the Inklings) used to have their weekly writing group.

OxfordBirthdayEaglenChild

Liebster:

Yesterday, Akanksha of The World Past Me nominated me for the Liebster Award.  Part of this award includes answering a number of given questions.  Here are my answers toAkanksha’s fantastic questions:

1. What do you want from life?

I want a simple life doing something meaningful.  I want to work in full-time ministry serving and building the Kingdom of God.  I want to travel the world.  Someday, I want to settle down with a husband that I love and raise a family.

2. What’s your secret fantasy?

To eat all the Nutella in the world and not gain weight.

3. What is your favorite color and why?

Green.  Because it’s pretty.

4. If you could change  into an animal anytime, what would it be and why?

I would become a beluga whale because every time I see one in real life, I become so full of joy that I nearly start hyperventilating.  (Yes, I’m a weirdo.)  I want my presence to bring joy to the lives of others.  Also, beluga whales are adorable.


5. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why/why not?

There are lots of kinds of love out there, each very complex and distinct.  In a romantic sense, however, I do not believe in love at first sight.  I think you can see someone and be incredibly attracted to them.  But the kind of love that lifelong marriages are built upon takes time and commitment to foster.  It can’t be captured in an instant.

6. What do you believe is humans’ greatest strength?

I think that one of our biggest strengths is our ability to create.  There’s something about art, literature, and music that transcends words.  Crafting beauty that moves and inspires is something that only we human beings are able to do.  It’s absolutely incredible.

7. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind every morning when you wake up?

Usually, I think about Jesus.  He’s my best friend.  (I also do my daily devotions first thing, so He is naturally the first thing on my mind.)

8. A trip with your best friend or a brunch with good friends?

This is a tough one.  I’m going to go with brunch with good friends.  Why?  As much as I love travel and as much as I love my best friend, we’d kill each other if we were in each other’s company for too long.

9. What’s your favorite book?

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  The first time I read it unabridged, I didn’t know what to do with myself for a week.  I felt like I had lost a very dear friend.  Hugo has crafted a novel that captures the essence of the human existence.  It never fails to move me.

10. If you could date one celebrity, who would it be and why?

Andrew Garfield.  Because LOOK AT THIS MAN.  (Although, in real life, I don’t think I’d ever want to date a celebrity.  Too much publicity.)

So… that concludes my awards acceptance post!  Thanks so much Britta and Akanksha for the nominations!

P.S. I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award in the past, so do check out my previous answers!