The (Note)book of Love

#LoveMonth

Notes on love and relationships, friends and their experiences, films and writing and maybe climate change

The (Note)book of Love
Min An on Prexels

It was in 2006 that Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” introduced some of my classmates to the urgency of climate change and how our generation needed to be on a war footing and work to be able to counter it in our own small ways. This group of young teenage activists went from classroom to classroom, introducing some methods through which we could lessen our impact on the world by creating less trash, essentially following the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. One such method was to reuse filled notebooks by writing on the already written pages with a different coloured ink pen. And repeating it with another coloured pen, if one were ‘crazy enough’. We of course, didn’t leave any pages blank. That would just be wasteful beyond comprehension. 

This is  exactly how I feel about ‘love’ today.

My experiences with ‘it’ over the past year have not been great. But what I tend to forget is that ‘it’ is not just a layer of writing and rewriting on a used notebook. We don’t even know how many layers our many selves have penned over time. If one imagines one’s love life as a notebook, well thumbed and tattered, with thin soft pages, and multi-inked writing, is the original self even comprehensible anymore? But it is still there, right? Playing peek-a-boo behind all the letters written over it. It is filled with romantic songs and day dreamscapes, and of course with conventional imaginary scenarios, happy endings, ridiculously sad middles and unsuspecting beginnings; all fuelled by consuming a generation and a half of romantic comedy dramas and one hundred years of bilingual lyrics of seven different shades of love.

But in a world where ‘the girl rescues him right back’, the line between fact and fiction is a Valentine red blur.   

Sometimes, I wonder if the labour of this writing was even necessary. Friends have gone through life never picking up this notebook. Some have a thin pamphlet or a crumpled up note hidden somewhere. And while they might have tomes on other themes, I wonder if it is worthwhile to compare.

Another analogy I am reminded of is much like the magic slate, a kids’ toy. A philosophy professor once brought it up when discussing the concept of “tabula rasa”, or the blank slate. Whether we talk about a newborn learning the ways of the world or a brand new relationship with its honeymoon period still ahead of it, imprints or shadows of the past, however faint or apparently inconsequential, are almost always lurking in the background. The overlap between the new and the old is always there. Beyond all theories and opinions, there are personal, visceral, devastating and often invisible bombshells, just waiting to be dropped unexpectedly. 

In the notebook of love, the newest ink shines the brightest in order to be hyper visible. As by virtue of function and existence, the newest is the most important and relevant. A hierarchy of attention seeking. The problem, however, with this overwritten, under-processed, excessive romantic love is that the latest writing might become jumbled gibberish. A classic case of ‘current relationship status: what is even happening?’

Yesterday, I watched ‘The Worst Person in the World’, an Oscar nominated Norwegian film which deals with the choices a young woman, from her career to love life. While I related with many things in the film at an emotional level, as I did with movies like Marriage Story and other darker ‘romances’, it is the over-writenness of ‘love’ which stands out for me. The New Yorker’s review of the film by Richard Brody was godsend, it put for me in words, the situation of ‘romance’ even beyond the context of this particular film: The idea of love stories taking centre stage and sidelining everything else is not just a recipe for a bad movie with a great lead performance, it is also a bad real life strategy. 

The most sensible take on love I have ever come across is by a friend: ‘What is even a relationship? It’s just having someone to be vulnerable with.’ It hit me hard. I couldn’t stop smiling. But how do I express in words the many different coloured words that stand in the way of that?


Asmi Saxena

Asmi Saxena

Asmi is still trying to figure herself out. Writing about it is in equal parts terrifying and exciting for her. Borrowing the words of Oscar Wilde: ‘to define is to limit,’ she is finally willing to spend the rest of her life substantiating this idea, in a lot of written words, till she runs out of them.

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