We need to talk about love. No one explains the full deal, and even if they did, you wouldn’t listen. The thing is, falling in love is like finding your dream car. The salesperson shows you the sleek new paint, the electric everything, the heated seats. Oh, those heated seats. They’re enough to make you sign on the dotted line right there and then. But you are a smart woman, a savvy shopper, and you’ve jumpstarted enough broken-down junkers to know a thing or two about love. So, you check under the hood. You take a few test drives. You look at the sticker price. And you decide: This one is a good deal.
But then come the extras. The hidden costs, the upgrades, the insurance, the maintenance. Because love needs more than a 3,000-mile oil change. The tires of love wear dangerously smooth. There are blowouts and dead batteries. There are flashing red check engine lights that won’t go off, even though from the outside everything looks fine. Love comes with personality quirks and in-laws, with unexpected health issues and financial snafus. Love ages and has changes of heart. It has bad days and good days, and then bad days all in a row. Love comes with death and fights and compromises you swore you’d never make. It comes with big dreams and giant rocks of reality. Love snores and has nightmares. It leaves dirty dishes under the couch. At 3 a.m., love pokes you in the ribs and says, “I can’t sleep. Are you awake?”
But don’t be put off. Because even when the paint has faded, the electric window sticks, and the wipers have more gap than blade, you can still count on love. And some days you find a gap in traffic and pull out onto the open highway. Then you and love roar down the road with the sunroof open, the A/C cranked, and the heated seats warming your skin. And with love still laughing beside you, it’s all worth it.
Lisa Manterfield is the award-winning author of A Strange Companion, The Smallest Thing and I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. Her work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Los Angeles Times, and Psychology Today. Originally from northern England, she now lives in Southern California with her husband and over-indulged cat. Learn more at LisaManterfield.com.
How is it that I know so little about cars and yet I understand exactly what Lisa is advising her younger self about love? Because she’s right. I wish I could transport her letter — right now — to Me@15, just before I made the mistake of reading my first Harlequin Romance: Obsession by Charlotte Lamb. One hundred and ninety-two pages later, my naive heart thought 1) only love at first sight is true love; 2) the more jealous the man, the more he loves you; 3) sex = love; 4) saving my virginity was a must; 5) Never, ever wear makeup because being natural is most appealing; and 6) love is always exciting.
I know, it’s funny, but I seriously saved myself (no pun intended) for an idea, the wrong idea, and I would make a few unfavorable choices about relationships to boot. Fortunately, I’m much smarter now, and I have “true” love in all of its perfect imperfection.
And instead of reading Harlequins, I now read books that give me goosebumps for a different reason. I just finished reading Lisa’s A Strange Companion. Have you ever loved someone so much you are afraid to grieve the loss of him because the pain seems larger than life? Kat has, and when Kat least expects it, and when she is willing to take a chance and fall in love once again, her first love comes back to her, but not in the way you might think.
Have you ever read a book where days, or weeks, later, you can’t stop thinking about the characters, or something you see reminds you of the book? This is happening to me with Lisa’s book. Anytime I see a child or tomcat — which happens often — I’m going to be thinking of A Strange Companion.
I am grateful to Lisa for writing her Dear Me letter and her wonderful novel. I’ve learned from both. If you read her book, let me know what you think. Hm…maybe I should start an online book club. And of course, let me (us) know what thoughts her Dear Me letter triggers.
If you have a letter you’d like to write your younger self, and in turn, possibly reach one person who it might help, please let me know.
As always, thanks for being you.
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