Valentine’s Day can be fraught with expectations, and it seems that these days we almost need to put a trigger warning on the topic because so many vocal people have been so badly traumatized by the holiday.
But I’d like to start this Valentine Week from the perspective of plenty. You may not have the perfect love partner, or indeed any love partner. But if you think of love in a broader sense, it’s a good day to be thankful for the love in your life. That might be family, or friends, or a pet. One thing is for sure, though. If you are reading this blog, you have a love for romantic stories. Let’s share the love.
My favorite love story is by Lois McMaster Bujold. Over the span of Komarr and A Civil Campaign, we follow the love story of Miles Vorkosigan and Ekaterin Vorvayne Vorsoisson. Ekaterin has Love PTSD. Her mother died young, her father was neglectful – and I’d like to add that we don’t find this out in pages of tortured backstory at the beginning of the books, but in very natural conversation when it’s important for Miles and the reader to know this. Her first husband was a narcissistic mess who sucked up all her attention. And again, we don’t find out she’s trapped by culture and a sense of duty through backstory. Her escape from her marriage IS the story, or at least a major component of it, during the first half of Komarr.
So, here’s the trick of A Civil Campaign: how do you get an emotionally fragile woman who has great reasons to shun commitment to actually take a risk with love again? Miles shows how NOT to do it with great flair at a disastrous dinner party where he declares his love prematurely and many of his manipulations are exposed.
The great turning point of the story is the love letter that he writes in apology. In it, he admits his mistakes and gives up his hustle for love – instead, he hands the power to Ekaterin, who has never held the actual reins of the relationship before. In the parlance of our classwork at McDaniels, he gives her the air conditioner – in other words, he gives her exactly what she needs. Control over her own destiny.
Only then can she examine her feelings for Miles rationally, and decide if he is the man for her.
I’ll be spending my free time Valentine Week re-reading the books, reminding myself what it is I want a romantic element to do.
It seems appropriate, in that the love letter plays a part in many of the Valentine Day origin myths. Letters brought by birds, letters conveyed by saints . . . the love letter is an important part of many romantic stories. I’d be more than happy to chat away about Miles and Ekaterin, but I’d also like to know, what’s your favorite love letter? (Links are welcome!)
And, here are some more love letter references:
A rather stuffy love letter advice article from The Atlantic. My feelings are rather love/hate – what do you think?
The Guardian, a British newspaper, chooses the best love letters of all time. I think they are pretty good!
The oldest known love letter in English! I find the original beautiful, but indecipherable. Thank goodness for transcripts!
Some Valentine Day quotations. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Love does not dominate; it cultivates.”
And finally, a snarky ode to the ancestor of BOB (the battery-operated boyfriend) from Restoration Poet, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. Sometimes the greatest love of all is loving yourself (-:.