Mandy Len Catron asks in latest book: How important is love anyway?
By Sarah Green, Arts Editor
For the longest time, I thought love was something that happened to me. I pictured love as this formulaic and calculated concept that would decide to strike when the time was right. In my mind, I would simply wake up one day and be head over heels in love. I always envisioned myself lying in my bed, smiling to myself as I realized that I was a young woman in love, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I don’t know where this slightly bizarre narrative came from. Maybe it was the copious amounts of young adult fiction I read growing up (seriously, I won library bookworm contests as a result of my obsession). Or maybe it came down to the unhealthy amount of romantic movies I watched (or still watch), where the beautiful goody-two-shoes falls in love with the handsome bad boy, no matter how hard she tries to fend him off. Whatever the case, my concept of love was deeply flawed — I believed I was completely passive when it came to love, with no control over why, how or when I fell in it. However, Mandy Len Catron’s book, How to Fall in Love With Anyone, completely altered my perspective. Here’s why.
In essence, Catron’s book is a set of beautifully written essays as well as a vulnerable memoir detailing her love life. Each one of Catron’s essays are backed up by psychology, history and science on the nature of relationships, all delving into the question — how important is love anyway?
Ultimately, all of Catron’s research boils down to this — love stories are problematic. She believes they perpetuate a set of unrealistic expectations on the importance of acquiring love and maintaining it. Throughout her book, she offers a counter-narrative to contrast the passive picture of love society paints. Time and time again, she reiterates that we are able to reclaim a sense of agency over our love lives.
“Reframing love as something I get to create with someone I admire, rather than something that just happens to me without my control or consent, is empowering,” writes Catron.
Even with this liberating truth in hand, Catron believes many people live their lives according to society’s definition of love — a definition that has profitable and idealistic motives.
“The most validating thing for a woman is being loved by an interesting or powerful man in the context of so many of our narratives — it’s in a lot of Cinderella-type stories,” Catron explains in a CBC interview.
“There is something appealing in our culture about this belief that there are larger forces that act on us and absolve us of agency over our behaviour. When it comes to love, maybe this is something that we want even though it’s not very good for us.”
To put it simply, this definition embodies the easy and digestible version of love that many people desire. This form of love doesn’t require any sense of ownership, responsibility or effort — it simply falls into our laps and sweeps us off our feet. However, Catron believes that in its truest form, love is not a walk in the park.
“So many of [society’s] stories are about how two people get together, but ultimately we don’t talk that much about what it means to stay in a relationship and what that looks like and how that works,” says Catron.
In Catron’s mind, falling in love is the easy part. Falling in love is not the same thing as staying in love — love is a continual choice that requires true grit, determination and selflessness on both ends. Even though this isn’t the most sexy definition of love, it gives me hope. It reminds me that love is a powerful choice I can make each and every day. It reminds me that I can choose to build a beautiful future with someone who chooses me. Most importantly, it reminds me that love will always be something worth fighting for.