I let the title for this collection of essays fool me for a second there, thinking it would be some self-help junk about the magic of love and all its promises. It’s far from it, actually.
“I hated this way of talking about love, but I caught myself doing it, too. The right choice, the right person, the right kind of love, the one. Was it moral rightness or narrative rightness—a good person or a good story?”
In a series of candid, vulnerable, and wise essays that takes a closer look at what it means to love someone, be loved, and how we present our love to the world, Catron deconstructs her own personal canon of love stories. She delves all the way back to 1944, when her grandparents first met in a coal mining town in Appalachia, to her own dating life as a professor in Vancouver, drawing insights from her fascinating research into the universal psychology, biology, history, and literature of love.
Contrary to my first impression, Catron delves into the realities (not fantasies) of loving and being loved. The harms of romantic comedies in painting an unrealistic view of healthy relationships. (“When I tell people I think love stories make us worse at being in love, they are quick to agree.”) The author’s family history on love, compatibility, and divorce. Plus, there’s an emphasise on making the research inclusive with including LGBTQIA+ relationships.
However, I do have to note that How to Fall in Love with Anyone wasn’t a particularly life-changing read for me, since I was already familiar with the subject of having the media glorifying the concept of love. But it was still fascinating to get to see this blend of memoir and reportage work so well in my favor. My favorite parts by far were when the grandmother and mother were in the mix, talking about their lives and loves. I do still wish that we would’ve gotten to spend more time with those two in the second half.
“As she talked, her life veered from tragic to comic, sounding more like the plot of a good book than a real person’s experience. ”
And a list of other things I appreciated were:
- The many mentions and recommendations of great books the author read on the topic of love. (I’ve so far added Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love, which I’m eager to get into next.)
- Another thing I cherished was the many feminist undertones, especially when talking about rom-coms:
“Most of these stories rely on an inherent paradox: True love is the ultimate means of validation and personal transformation, and yet a virtuous woman should never pursue love directly. (Men in persecuted hero roles, on the other hand, are allowed—even expected—to woo their love interests.) Love is the means by which Cinderella and Vivian and Sixteen Candles’s Samantha get what they want: status, wealth, recognition. But these characters are rewarded for not seeking love, for cultivating silent crushes and earnest longing.”
- Feelings of loneliness and uncertainness.
“I understood how you could leave someone and feel lost without him, and still choose that loneliness over being with him.”
- The media’s infatuation with kismet aka meet-cutes.
“Maybe instead of telling stories about how we met our partners, we should all share our stories about the limits of love—the times it disappointed us, the apprehensions it couldn’t soothe—and why we chose it anyway, or why we let it go. We don’t need stories to show us how to meet someone—we’ve got apps for that.”
- And finally the notion of “if you can fall in love with anyone, how do you choose?” and so much more is explored in this book.
All in all: I’m glad I decided to give a chance to How to Fall in Love with Anyone because the combination of learning about love from a scientific perspective with the author’s self-deprecating humor was a win for me. Though, I would like to mention that the notion of experiencing so many breakups over the course of this book was a bit mentally and physically exhausting for me by the end.