Last year, I asked a friend for some advice. He admitted, first, that he was underqualified to give it. (This is how happy people preface everything.) Then he sent me a lyric from a Los Campesinos! song from 2008, implying that I should go ahead and consider it applicable to my present romantic imbroglio.
It went like this: “I taught myself the only way to vaguely get along in love / is to like the other slightly less than you get in return.”
“Hmmm,” I told him. “Yeah.”
Yeah. “This advice is not only cynical but also titanically stupid, and bad news for the people who love you,” I thought, quietly. Though, it would be less than two weeks before I’d sit across from that friend in a purple-lit bar with a name I forgot before I finished walking in the door, tapping cocktail napkins to a knee gushing blood and gravel bits, pinning a lemon wedge to the bottom of a rock glass, growling a half-hearted thanks for the compassion and Catholic school politeness that prevented him from saying “I told you so.”
I was grateful to my friend, for that and for the genuine attempt at helping me avoid the suffering in the first place, but though I told him he was right, I secretly nursed the continued belief that his advice was terrible. How could I have followed it even if I’d wanted to? Is the human heart an algorithm? Are we remotely capable of regulating or rationing affection? And should we even try to, in a world where there is already too little of it to go around? “No,” I thought. “The only way to vaguely get along in love is to let it all happen.”
In the morning, all of my skin felt like tissue paper and my skull felt like the six-o’clock news. I drank a Gatorade and called my mom, who told me "Well, honey, I’m sorry." All I’m trying to say here is the obvious: When you’re talking about love, there’s no such thing as good advice. Happy Valentine’s Week!