Love that cannot be complete because the object that is loved cannot/will not return it. A sad state, indeed.

Suzanne Lenglen was the greatest female tennis star of her era. Alain Gerbault, a young, handsome tennis star, fell madly in love with her. Despite his being a major tennis star, World War I flying ace, author, playboy, and yachtsman, she rejected his love. So he quit tennis, bought a small boat and became a hermit, sailing around the world.

Years later his long-dead body was found in a hut on a small island in the South Seas. Ironically, the island he was found on was known by the natives as "The Island Of Lost Love."

This is for... well, that's none of your business

The hardest things about unrequited love are not that I can't hold you in my arms, that I will never know the taste of your lips, that I can't make love to you. Those things can be difficult, but they aren't the hardest things. It's being unable to send you the love letters, being unable to brush that lock of hair back from your face, and to smile at your beauty as I do it. It is being unable to do all of the infinitesimal things that love requests me to do that really drives me mad. Love is like that. It desires, of it's own accord, to be expressed in some form. It is a constant force, driving my actions, telling me to reach out and just touch you, only for an instant, just the slightest brush of my fingertips against your face. Sometimes I think the endless bliss of such a thing would be enough to stop my heart. And what a sublime way it would be to go. Love moves all on its own. It requires no encouragement and no motivation. It is as if some sort of intricate and beautifully delicate perpetual motion machine has been set loose inside of me. Only you could do this. I cannot stop it and I cannot let it run free. It runs and runs, and I wonder what it would sound like if it were a real motor turning within me. An exquisite sweet hum, and perhaps a sound like wind chimes on a summer afternoon. Still, the actions which it desires must be held in check. To use a silly metaphor that only a girl as wonderful as you would appreciate, I have to hold my foot on the clutch all day long.

It's all worth it though. I still get to write the love letters, even if I can't send them. And I get to see that lock of hair fall down across your face, even if I can't touch it. Perhaps once in a great while you might accidentally brush against me with your hand, and even if it does not stop my heart, please do not be surprised when I stumble in mid-step because my knees have given way, and my voice falters as I try to explain the simple workings of a distributor cap. Only you could do this, and I would only ever want you to be the one who led me to such a state.
She's walking down the hall towards me, pushing her clipboard against an Idontwanttoknow how soft pink sweater. Big smile. I smile back, it's the least I can do, for the least she can give me.

It's like this a lot. In between classes, at the dining hall. We interact, we move in the same circles and we are in the same area code of friends. Often we will talk to each about family and dating, in the abstract- as if she were talking about this girl she knows, or I am talking about a guy that I knew from Richmond. So, its like that-detached and second hand. Sometimes she sits next to me in the library or on a crowded bench and we are (for me) uncomfortably close. I can smell her hairspray, her perfume and her cheap mints. I notice imperfections in her mascara (just a smudge off ) and I wonder if she notices me staring, cataloging this data.

One day, while walking around a portable circus that had come for a weekend, we stood in line at a carousel. We got on and chased each other around horseback. Later, she asked if I had
reached for it .
Reached for what? , I asked.
The brass ring, You goof!
----- she laughed at my expression. (Which must have been perplexed)

Nope, I don't want to fail that often.

Liar , she said as she walked away.

Well, I guess she knows after all.

Well, they didn't quite say no. More of an "I don't know, I've got some study to catch up on." Feel that pain right between your stomach and your heart. No, that's indigestion. This is a bit higher. Yep, there it is.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is unrequited love. The agony of it is that you didn't realise just how much you needed them until they put themselves firmly out of reach.

Unrequited love is, simply put, the illusion we grant ourselves as a reward for rejection. Huh? Reward? Unrequited love is the understanding that you need someone almost as badly as life itself, and even when they say 'no', you still need them just as much.

Unrequited love is the final knowledge that even in your emptiness you have reached for someone, and maybe, just maybe, have made their life better because of it.

On the other end of the phone line, they may be crying, they may be snickering, they may be screaming, but, somewhere, deep inside them, they are smiling with contentment.

And if that is not the most beautiful thing in the Universe then I am at a loss for what is. God bless you for caring for someone.

In my New American Webster Handy College Dictionary, the word unrequited isn't given its own definition, but the word requite is: repay (either good or evil); recompense; retaliate.

So I would assume that while we often determine unrequited love as love that isn't returned at all, I would define it as love that cannot or will not be returned to the degree that it is sent out, therefore it is not real love, or at least, the love that is true, ideal. If you would allow this to also be true of unrequited love, then I would say that even the one real relationship I have had, and every attempt thereafter, has been love of this kind. Even now, I am struggling with love that cannot be returned to me, but it is more supposed that it is because I ended the relationship's definition and therefore upset the balance that would have potentially given birth to true love rather than the other person's inability to return it that is seen as the culprit.

My ex could not return my love. He wanted to keep all these little parts of himself secret from me, and he could not trust me nor those close to him. He lived his life in a front of feigned confidence and control. He kept that front up even for me, for reasons even now I cannot say I know with certainty. Even if my love didn't know what it wanted, he was still unable to return it, so we were both mistaken.

The hardest thing about unrequited love is that you cannot remedy it. You cannot beat it into submission with logic, emotions, or the facts. Even the person you are dating and have made confessions of mutual love has the potential to not be able to return your love to the degree that you send it out, and the pain of this realization is enough to keep you up at night, staring at the ceiling, almost on the verge of tears but hot with anger and frustration. Then the little inquisitors start up:

Why can't you just love me back?
Why can't you love me with half the devotion of my dearest friends?
Why can't you just show it?
What are you so scared of?
Why can't you love me as much as I love you?
What is wrong with me that you can't love me back?
If you can't, why do I let you stay in my life?

The most painful response to the desire for love returned is not rejection, my friends, but confusion, indifference, anxiety, indecision, silence. It would be more tolerable if that person hated you than if (s)he didn't know or didn't care either way, for at least hatred is a raw emotion, it is something you can pinpoint and dissect, something you know and understand. A shrug, raised eyebrows, arms held up in defeat. These are the things that can tear you heart out, when you have sent out love as best you can and it is not returned with a tenth of the intensity. It is the very definition of lukewarm, deserving only to be spit out of your mouth, and instead, you let it linger, because your heart is tangled up in it, and cannot let it go.

There is no shame in hurting because you feel deeply. If you only love those who love you you will never feel any pain--pain is unrequited love--pain makes you grow, it makes you strong.

Focus on others; as you spend time getting to know others you will love them. You cannot help it. People are amazing. However, the minute you begin focusing on yourself you will be miserable. You will hate yourself: people are not perfect. Do not be ashamed to love--and hurt. With the love, comes pain, but "you learn, my God, you learn." --(C.S. Lewis)

Unrequited love is, arguably, the inspiration behind much of the most enduring and effective works of art ever created, be them literary, visual, cinematic, or musical. It's also something that's so ingrained in the collective unconcious that one almost feels an innate obligation to feel it at one time or another in his or her life. Honestly, though the portion of the world's population composed by my friends and acquaintances is admittedly rather small, not one of them has gone without those pangs of wanting that someone that will not be had. This phenomenon is a result of various factors.

(1) The odd attraction people have towards feelings of pain and loss.This is, in part, borne of people's innate love of tragedy in all forms, especially the form most conducive to this particular node, transgressive love (something started with Tristan and Isolde, perfected in Romeo and Juliet, and imitated thereafter countless times). People want exciting lives, and people with exciting lives usually have intense emotions, such as unrequited love.

(2) People are attracted to things they know they can't have. Always have been, always will be. It's a lot safer to dream about something that you don't have to worry about actually coming to pass. Daydreams often usurp reality in terms of excitement, and people inevitably fall in to liking the image that they create around the object of their desires more than the comparatively bland realities that they actually live. It's not really that you love that person, it's more that you love the person you've created to go behind that face to which you were drawn. (Marcel Proust describes this in his colossal novel, In Search of Lost Time, to a far lengthier and competent degree than I can.) Basically, you don't REALLY love the person. Rather, you've fallen in love with an image of your own creation that never truly existed.

(3) (This is really just an off-shoot of 2, but having three points just makes me feel better) People get bored doing the same thing every day: work, school, what have you. Everyone needs an escape and a fantasy, and more often than not that involves some wish for companionship, spiritual union, and fulfillment. It's funny that way; love is the object and the source of so many dreams, but in order for it to actually work it must have it's foundations firmly rooted in reality.

She's cute, smart, sensitive, and we have a lot in common. I first met her when I was a grad student, teaching a lab course in biology. She was one of my students.

Almost a year passed. She was in her last year of undergrad, and I didn't see much of her. In the meantime, I broke up (anticlimactically) with my girlfriend of three years. A while later, we started hanging out, I can't remember how, but we found out we shared a lot of interests and got along well. I was becoming smitten. Then she left, to pursue grad studies herself in another city.

Another year passed. I saw her another couple of times, and we corresponded and talked regularly. I realized that she fascinated me - I thought of her often, and it dawned on me that not only was she intriguing, she was one of the most wonderful people I'd ever met.

So I told her. Sitting in her apartment one Sunday night, after a nice dinner and a walk through the darkened streets of Toronto, I said "I'm your friend, and I don't want that to ever change, but I have feelings for you that go beyond friendship."
She was nice. She told me I was a good friend to her, but that she just didn't feel that way about me. She told me that she has problems becoming attached, a legacy of her parents' untimely divorce. She told me that her work doesn't leave her much time for a personal life.

It's all true. We are still friends, as close as before. She is still single (as am I), still devoted to her pursuit of science above almost everything else. I wish, often, that she would meet some nice guy, her equal if such a man exists, and be happy with him. She deserves it.

I have another reason for this wish. It is a selfish one. You see, hope can no longer "spring eternal". I am sick of this hopeless hope, this torment. It must end, and I don't know if I can finish it myself.


Wow, this writeup seems so nauseatingly navel-gazing now. It's been a year and a half since I wrote it, and I've since come to suspect that I subconciously but deliberately become attracted to inappropriate women, possibly to ensure that I don't have to follow through with a relationship. Or something. Anyway, take this with a grain of salt, it's really just proof that we all have a sad, insecure 16 year old inside of us...
don't question me. this is where this belongs...

i'm sitting here writing a paper about attitudes toward adultery in the middle ages, but these thoughts keep flitting by inside my head...his owlish scowl behind those adorable glasses, the way he laughs so cynically at me when i spin dreams over coffee, vacant desolation, beautiful music...i love how daft he looks when he plays the drums...i'm afraid to touch him, you know. afraid to even shake his hand. i almost don't want to feel the warmth of his flesh in friendly contact...it would be easier if i didn't know him from a dream. i'm afraid he'll read this and know it's for him. i'm more afraid he'll read it and not notice. he smells like freedom...i remember the wind in my hair...i'm afraid he'll never speak to me again. i can still hear his voice: he was impressing a waitress with his command of the japanese language. things were more antagonistic then, in a friendly way. but now i can feel the banter getting thin. i don't know the strain on him, but i know the strain on me. i hear him hurt and i want to kiss away every bitter word before they sting his lips. i want to make things better; i want to make things right. but i'm wrong, and i can't. "we are lost, we are freaks..." but maybe we're just not the same species. i don't know, but sometimes it hurts that i can't slow down enough to be appealing...

there. i've said it. i've been thinking it for so long...

Often unrequited love occurs between friends, and as close as they get one regards the emotional intimacy as a normal consequence of friendship while the other can't help thinking of something more. In environments where all of your friends are of the same sex as you are, and most are heterosexual but you are not, unrequited love can be of the most hopeless kind. There's a case in point out of a movie that carries over so well to real life: In a subplot of the movie Election, a lesbian has a best friend who she regards as her romantic soulmate, because they are so alike and have such a good time together, etc. And it's true, all the close things friends do suddenly become very sexy when there's an attraction on one end.

My school is single-sex, extremely religious, and unlike the fabled Catholic school girls in short skirts, the students here are stunningly repressed- homosexual relationships are not wrong, they are not an impropriety, they are EVIL EVIL EVIL. As friends, students here are generous with casual touch and with hugs, but not a one is openly homosexual or bi. Unrequited love- when someone is your friend, you see him or her all the time. When you sit in class all day staring at said friend's hands and you so desperately want to hold her. When you watch her doing math problems and the concentration on her face is so beautiful. The environment I speak of is especially cruel, as any love cast out toward the timid and repressed object of affection is bound to be automatically, violently rejected.

If you are a masochist, unrequited love is definietly for you. It never goes away, you can pull it out for a perverse pleasure when you're hankering for some pain, and you can practice whining and write either really shitty, bitter poetry, or really good, bitter poetry, while under its encompassing influence. I personally am a hedonist of the 20th Century sort, and dispise this state of being greatly. And, of course, I am also in it. RRRRRRR. It makes me want to drink, and chain smoke, and let out impromptu streams of expletives at will. It makes me bitter. I have one question in my mind, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to ask it. It can be phrased so many different ways, with convenient wording, flowery verbage, one can weep while doing it, or ask it in passing, to throw the object of affection for a loop. It can be asked in jest, in all seriousness, while on the roof of a fifty story building. It's a really bad party favor, like that confetti everyone buys at Hallmark and you find months later in the crack of your sock drawer. An appropriate follow up of the unrequited love binge is a large dose of self pity brought to a close with some cathartic experience of your choosing. Things can get ugly when unrequited love in involved, and this sort of thing doesn't generally love company.

Some other aspects of unrequited love: (these are of course from my personal experience, but I'd be pretty surprised if they weren't standard issue)

  • Guilt.

    Particularly in the situation where that incredible person you love is also a dear friend (and that friendship is reciprocal). If your friendship is true, you've probably told em of your love, and if you're lucky (as I am in this regard), e accepted it as fact, told you that e appreciates your feelings but is unavailable (and, if there is an unacceptable sexual mismatch, permanently so), and hopes that you find another wonderful person that can and will return your love.

    Bearing in mind the simple definition of love propounded by Robert Heinlein -- love is that condition in which the well-being of another person is more important to you than is your own[1] -- it's probably better if you don't bring up your feelings in conversation with your amour. And you have to have a good measure of Control in this regard, or your friendship may be a casualty of its lack. Nonetheless, you always want to, and occasionally you do so, in statements varying from "Sure; you know I'm always glad to" in response to a request for a favor, to "Nothing would make me happier" or something of that ilk when e asks you to lunch.

    Even though sometimes these remarks could easily appear in the context of a much less intense attraction, you both recognize the undercurrent of emotion, probably elaborated by the way you said it. The problem is, you know that when you let your feelings show, it's generally because you want so much for em to hear your love -- and, let's face it, you want em to be reminded of the suffering you endure on eir account. And you feel guilty because you know you did it because you like to hear it, and not because e needed to.

  • Arrogance. Haughtiness. A Holier-Than-Thou attitude

    This is probably mostly seen in the case where your love is not sexually attracted to persons of your gender, and has an SO. This stems from the imaginary debates you have with said SO about which of you loves em more; this tends to end with the irrefutable Oh yeah? Would you love em if e didn't love you in return? Would you love em if e was involved with someone else rather than you? Because I do.

    These thoughts don't tend to make one feel real good about oneself.

Who would have thought that I could work the Protestant work ethic into this writeup? We who yearn for love from a person who cannot give it fantasize that in a world where e would love us, e would share the most sublime joy in our mutual bond. But things that come easy are less highly prized, they say.
   cirrus...
   Socrates...
   particle...
   decibel...
   hurricane...
   dolphin...
   tulip

Seven arbitrary words, and we become beloved by our mahal. Is it any less real because of that? A question for philosophers, but in the deep recesses of our minds we would always wonder.

A person once said to me, after hearing my tale of woe, a remark I found quite hilarious:

Anyone who's never loved someone unattainable has never truly lived, though I wouldn't recommend it as a regular lifestyle!
Golly!, you can say that again.


[1] I took some liberty there. The actual quote is "'Love' is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."

"May those who love us, love us. And those who don't love us -- may God turn their hearts. And if He cannot turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, so that we may know them by their limping."

- old Irish verse

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