“My memory of men is never lit up and illuminated like my memory of women.”― Marguerite Duras
A single-subject anthology about the heart’s most powerful emotion, edited by Tavi Gevinson. Touching upon love in all its different variations, from “a devotional to dogs” (Durga Chew-Bose) to unrequited love to accepting your self-worth to experiencing intimate friendships with women.
“Love is all around, but its holding place is not always another person. Sometimes you find the best companion in yourself, or the fun of worshipping a teen idol, or the challenge of trying to understand love in its various forms. ”
Before starting, I casually browsed through the table of contents and saw a stellar piece titled “Do Sisters Actually Love Each Other?” by Jazmine Hughes, which I hurried on to read because it was something I really needed. And it was just as spectacular as the title conveys, featuring a group text between a bunch of sisters.
“JAVONNE I came back to, like, eighty messages to read and I will not.
Someone fill me in if you want an answer from me.”
When I then saw that Tavi Gevinson had shared a live reading of this hilarious and touching piece, I was over-the-moon:
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Already my favorite play of 2018: “Do Sisters Actually Love Each Other?”, a study conducted by @jazzloon in a group text with her sisters, performed live by @djsharp, Jasmine Sanders, and @tywrent at the #RookieOnLove launch. All-star cast and beautiful @booksaremagicbk set & lighting design. Tony frontrunner. Critical darling. I COULD KEEP GOING but thank you @jazzloon you genius and thank you everyone who was there laughing tears with us!!
Rookie on Love, however, didn’t quite embody the expectations I had in mind before starting. More than once I experienced the feeling of really enjoying how a story builds up but then, almost without fail, it would veer off downhill, destroying what it had created in its small space, and end on a completely unsatisfying note. And because of the short length, there wasn’t even a redeeming moment that could’ve saved the narrative.
It also didn’t help the collection of hitting a rough patch in the middle, where none of the essays held my attention and consequently failed to raise any emotion out of me (I mean, other than bitter rage at a certain line in Collier Meyerson’s piece I landed upon while randomly flipping through the collection)… Thankfully though, when I finally reached Victoria Chiu’s written piece, which came in to save the day, as she touches upon her choice to abstain from “(penetrative) sex.” As well as other standout pieces in here that I’d like to feature, such as:
- Fwd: Letter to Leyb by Tova Benjamin, talking about relationships in the digital age:
“Sometimes I think, I will never forget that I felt this way. And then I do. It seems horribly scary to invest so much time and energy and emotion into something that will eventually wind down to the end of its life, be it 44 days or two years and nine months. And then what?”
- The Most Exciting Moment of Alma’s Life by Etgar Keret. A quick story on life after experiencing your highest high.
“Though for Alma, it’s not really just a question. Sometimes she actually dreams about what happened at the Biblical Zoo. She with her braids and the lion standing so close to her that she could feel his warm breath on her face. In some of the dreams, the lion rubs up against her in a friendly way, in others, he opens his mouth and roars, and then she usually wakes up terrified. So one can say that as long as she keeps dreaming, that moment hasn’t completely passed. But dreaming, with all due respect, is not exactly living.”
- Beyond Self-Respect by Jenny Zhang. One of the most important pieces, talking about how love and respect need to go hand in hand, which I also heard a lecture on a few months back and it completely changed my viewpoint.
“The way we talk about respect and teenage girls needs to change. I want girls to learn how to disrespect the men in their lives who cause them harm and violence, I want them to learn how to disrespect patriarchal values that bind and demean. Looking back on my past relationships, I can pinpoint the very moment when I lost respect for the person I was dating. Often, it happened early on—a casually offensive remark that betrayed deeper levels of racism, an unfunny joke that revealed how much he feared and hated women, or even just a delusional comment that showed zero self-awareness—but always, when I was younger, I would continue to date that person, doubling down on my commitment, all the while losing respect for him. That’s the most disturbing part, that I thought I could love someone I didn’t even respect.”
- Super Into a Person’s Person-ness a conversation between Rainbow Rowell and John Green, “YA powerhouses on writing epic—yet real—teen love.” I can listen to Rainbow Rowell for eternity, as you can tell by my extensive review of my all-time favorite book of hers, Fangirl.
“RAINBOW When I’m writing love stories (which I can’t help but do, it’s always a love story for me), I really don’t want to be writing a story that makes it worse for the people reading it. That perpetuates all the lies about love and attraction.
RAINBOW But also, if I’m writing about teenagers, I don’t want them to be somehow magically above this bullshit. They can’t be wizened 40-year-olds who know from experience that it’s garbage.
JOHN Well, but also, I don’t think you ever get magically above this bullshit. We’re talking like this is all in our past, but of course inherited ideas about beauty and attractiveness affect adult life, too.
JOHN Hopefully over time you develop an awareness that, e.g., your obsession with the perfect nose is completely ludicrous, but it’s not like it all goes away.
RAINBOW You’re still a nose man?
JOHN God, no. I am a PERSON MAN. I am super into a person’s person-ness.”
- Before I Started Writing These Things Directly to You by Tavi Gevinson, on trying to capture the feelings as they occur.
“I just don’t trust words a whole lot, and wonder if writing this, too, takes the air out of the whole thing, like in the Chekhov story “The Kiss,” where the sad loner shares the story of an improbable romantic encounter with his male colleagues and, upon hearing it out loud, experiences the whole thing as woefully insignificant.”
I wholeheartedly enjoyed this piece by Tavi, wherein she managed to create a solid grip on her relationship with this goofy grinning guy in just one page.
Overall, I’d say I came to appreciate most of all the pieces that exposed my innermost feelings so successfully that it made me reflect a lot. So even though the collection as a whole was mainly a hit or miss with its forty-something stories, I still came to cherish a handful of pieces.