The Valentine Paradox: Advice For My Son
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, son, and the trick to nabbing a valentine is to seriously up your game, player. However, the trick to upping your game is tricky because it’s all about not having a game or any tricks. I’m sorry, but all the best things are paradoxes.
To construe romantic love as a game is to lose before it begins and you’ll inevitably lose afterwards too because there’s no escaping that part where you’re clutching your heart like Reverend Dimmesdale with snot all over your face and hair and your friends will have no choice but to shake their heads at your incoherent babble between all the cataclysmic sobs. It will end badly. Like everything. But no worries, young man. There’s a deep optimism beneath the surface of pessimism. I told you, man, paradoxes.
This is the part where I tell you to just be yourself. But does such a thing exist when you’re 15? To thine own self be true, Laertes. But what’s that even mean? And what in the world does it have to do with valentines?
What it has to with valentines is another paradox. Seek a valentine and she is nowhere to be found. A valentine never appears until you don’t need her. Being yourself, being true to your complicated self, and just doing what you love, however, is a valentine magnet. But, to contradict myself (only seemingly), playing video games all the time is not very attractive. That’s because—I’m sorry—playing video games is not what you really love. Not at all. It’s a distraction from what you love, like looking for valentines. What you love will call you like a vocation, which is actually, of course, a goddess singing to you with her arms wide open in a gale of black chaos. Embrace her. Hear her song. I’d sing it for you but I don’t know the words and neither do you. That’s why I told you to hear her song. Are you even listening? Get over there and embrace the goddess!
It could be anything. You might love to write or paint or play the drums or fix cars or build log cabins or compete in triathlons or read big fat books about Being or wars or wizards and dwarves. But you’ll know it when you find it because it’ll be love and you’ll lose yourself and you won’t need anything else to make you feel whole because you’ll already be empty, gone, lost in what you love, which—paradoxically—is the substance of fullness.
And then—when you are completely satisfied—that’s when you’ll be swarmed by valentines. Be wary, though, of people attracted to the power of your love who seek to be its object. These are vampires whose thirsts your blood will never quench and soon you’ll be arguing about money, the color of towels, and other incomprehensible matters. Rather, your valentine, also attracted by the force with which you love, will love and protect your love, and you too will love and protect what she loves for only those in the throes of the goddess’ song can recognize and love one another.
The desire to play video games will vanish. You’ll look upon your valentine with no small amount of discomfort because your whole body will vibrate with a million things to say but you, in a dazed and blinky stupor, will be dumfounded, speechless, conked by lust. It is at precisely this moment, when what resolutely resists articulation insists on being said, that you will be called to pull up your chair to the table of poetry. Here, don’t waste your metaphors on her physical appearance, on the pearls of her teeth or the crashing ocean wave from her waist to hip. Stay true to love. Make no sense. She is a book in a thunderstorm, a map of fire, a key to the house of ashes and forgotten songs. Like that. Confuse her. Real lovers will find comfort in confusion, joy in ambiguity, and home in the rotation of seasons.
Seriously, write her poems. I’m giving you all my heat.
And this above all: Be kind. Figure out what kindness means to her and be exactly that. Imagine all your conflicts from her perspective, see yourself with her eyes, and be for her everything she desires. Forget yourself. Unflinchingly, unceasingly, with complete abandon. Chase away every thought about getting or not getting the love you want. Just be the love you want and you will find in so doing a paradox about which the very wise do not dare to speak unless it’s the gentle rain on the silent mountain.