‘So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star.’
So goes one of my favourite lines in literature, from The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is to kiss Daisy. An impossible starlight envelopes him from a realm that humanity can almost hope to graze as love looms. It is otherworldly. Gatsby is love’s earnest parasite.
Obviously, Gatsby is a sad example (I shan’t give more details in case you are yet to delve). But I remember upon my first meeting with this quote I was quite silenced. Fitzgerald’s glorious description of the lavish dissolving to lament has a poignancy that I recall often. It is not that it is one of my favourite books (it isn’t), but at points his descriptions of love are so potent that they stun.
Withdrawal symptoms of English Literature studies aside (see last blog), this line is important to me because it highlights an amorous inebriation that I feel some relationships nowadays lack. This realisation befell me a year or two ago, in a conversation that I had with my headmistress. I was discussing the fact that, after five years of an all-girls existence at high school, the girls were finally aligned with their testosterone-filled counterparts. This, quite predictably, was carnage. The boys emerged from years of tireless male teasing. None of them had been particularly special in their mid-adolescent years; the same souls peppered with the acne that us teens endured, with school uniforms that gaped from their paling forms, suddenly grew into their clothes and were newly crowned deities of Chichester. The girls, who had been starved for half a decade, had a zealous new goal; get one.
And get one they did. Maybe even five or six (in one night). But of course, momentary flares of intimacy were really quite counterproductive; just a bit of imparted spit, really. Nothing was truly shared. Thus, many ventured further ashore. In the end, most found a willing soul and settled into a relationship.
This saddened me. It also frustrated me. From where was this desperation seeded?
I understand that physical needs contribute. They also accumulate, exacerbating the drive. In equal measure, I understand that the notion of companionship is blissful when you lack it, especially in the absence of your friends due to their relationships.
But is it as nice when it is found via a flurry of anxiety about being alone? For some, it is. I cannot deny that I have seen love flower in conditions that I never thought that it would; clearly, high-pressure can obtain results. Not for everyone, but it can.
For those left behind, the shadow of semi-happiness is a resounding passivity (contrary to what social media may present). You see, whilst I observe many lovers who somehow propel one another into a wrath of gorgeous energy, I also see those who have just flirted their way into social cohesion by finding a like-minded being with whom to cleanse themselves of this dirt of single life. Back home, once you had a boyfriend you were in the clear. Thank God, you were no longer one of those girls who had to live for her own dreams; now you were in one (sort of), and you would never need another so long as you lived.
But it is difficult in this climate of hysteria, when you lack the tools of seduction that everyone else seems to have unpacked. I have never been overtly flirtatious, much to my mum’s dismay.
‘Let him know that you like him!’ she says every time I complain about my perpetual boredom in this arena.
‘I can’t,’ I reply simply. And that is it; I just can’t.
I maintain, however, that this is not always a bad thing.
And if, like me, you are not the type to moan into the ear of another, or to breathe with your eyes the confidence of lust unto any boy or girl that takes your fancy, then be not afraid; be indignant. Be indignant that only those who are flagrant with their flirtation are those who are met with their desires. Be indignant that the loudness of the status quo dictates that you need a partner to be fulfilled. Be indignant that whilst your heart is fragile, it throbs with a seething audacity that waits to be quenched.
Do not be disheartened by people’s agitated need to speckle their social media with the smugness of romance. Be bold enough to question the hypocritical refrain that we should work on ourselves and our ambitions, whilst only being contented by the presence of another at our side. Take risks if you can. And if you cannot, or if it hurts, then be kind to yourself; it is a confusing planet to inhabit when the stars are far even as they glimmer.
But above all, do not give in to the narrative that you need a boyfriend; you do not. Rather, what tempts you is Gatsby’s stardust love; do not conflate them. Lastly, do not worry; stardust falls to earth at the speed of light. To those who already bathe in it, I wish you a wonderful Valentine’s Day. And to those who do not, I wish you an even fucking better one.