“And what about love?” she asks me running her fingers on my knee. She wants to test the effect she has on me, but everything has been said before. I have already ascertained the umpteenth impossibility, the worthless self-deception. “Nothing” I answer, as usual. But I feel the need to add: “Only a few disgusting things”. A few means one, but I feel the need to say it perhaps to clarify that I am a human being like anybody else and that there are people who trouble themselves to touch me every now and then. We discuss about poetry courses and she gets excited declaring that there is no way to teach something like that. I reply that, as any other art form, even poetry can be practiced, improved and learnt. But I don’t think I could ever write anything as an exercise. Poetry is something romantic, magical and mysterious that can’t be learnt. Like love.
Nevertheless, this morning I get on my train and open this old book which has already lived its season of uproar. I am looking for a treatment against the impossibility of being loved, against my wrong way of loving. I have read as few as twenty pages and many things have become clear. In every relationship, the women who love too much are trying to solve a problem dating back to their childhood. Never loved nor appreciated, not even seen by my father as I was, I keep on looking for appreciation from men to whom I mean nothing. As if to become something in their eyes, from the nothing I am, could be a happy ending capable of deleting the disaffection assimilated throughout the 45 years I have lived so far. I am impressed as I read such a clear explanation of the mechanisms against which I have fought for years, when I was feeling guilty for not arousing desire in the man who used to sleep by my side. When I was looking for any solution to make him love me or wish to spend some time with me. I am too fat, I used to think, and losing weight could be a solution. I started writing down my good intentions on a notebook, I was under the illusion that I could psychoanalyse myself, treat myself. I imagined my figure shining in some beautiful dress, slim and perfect. He would automatically love me. But I was already slim, pregnancy had left me maybe two hectograms more than my usual weight. But in his spiteful eyes, those 200 grams grew to 200 kilos. So I became truly fat, I turned the perceived reason into a real one because I needed a problem to solve. Otherwise nothing could ever change.
Ten years have passed since then, that relationship is over but there hasn’t been any redemption. Love is still something impossible for me and sometimes I wish I could stop desiring so that I wouldn’t feel I am nothing once again. But I still love, and hope, and try to find ways. She writes all these things in the book and everything is clear. Just yesterday I was standing in the theatre and couldn’t take a step towards him who was dismantling his equipment and didn’t see me. Loaded with love, my eyes were staring at him as if they wanted to touch him. Just call me now, I prayed, embrace me. I follow him as he tours Italy waiting for the moment when he will hug me to feel once again like I did that day when without reason he held me tight for endless minutes and healed a recent wound of mine of which he had no idea. I move closer and immediately turn away, oppressed by too much love and shame. He stands on the stage, I have to climb up and down, I look up at him and he doesn’t see me. I often stand on a stage too in order to shine in somebody’s eyes, to climb down and hear people say that I am good, to be validated by admiring looks. “Validate” is the verb I always use when I refer to the praise I need, the act that saves me from being nothing. “Validate” is the verb that she repeats in this book that I am sure I have never browsed before. I go on reading and things become clearer and clearer. But I can’t feel less. I need to cry but I go on reading. Love becomes something reasonable that can be learnt. Like you learn to ride a bicycle, to swim, to drive a car or to translate from French. Like you learn to write poetry, after all, why not? First of all you need to learn to see all your mistakes. I see mine now, page after page they are being displayed before my eyes. If I told him that I love him like I have been wishing to do for years, it would be like telling him I am sick. But the book promises that after the mistakes there will be a chapter about the therapy. The train has just stopped, I dry my eyes, I go on, I need to get to the last pages. Complete my education. My healing.
Robin Norwood, Women Who Love Too Much, Penguin 2004