The mainstream coverage of love is just disgustingly cheesy. Over-dramatic experiences alternate with too-good-to-be-true-it’s-never-going-to-happen-like-this outcomes. Not only it is that particularly bad (and it is pretty bad), but also it doesn’t actually happen like that in real life. It just makes you (well me at least) throw up in your mouth. I understand, people might need those cheesy movies/books/quotes, but I am utterly convinced it doesn’t do them any good whatsoever. The moment you throw out of your mind all the cliches media and your friends have been pouring in you about love, that is the moment you might be sort of ready for a loving relationship. And that excludes all over-dramatic quotes and statuses, all songs that only make you cut your veins (and that is only if you had enough to drink, otherwise you listen to them and find them pretty funny), and all advice that starts with the line “I am sure he liked you but…”. It’s no use getting yourself engaged in those movie-like scenes of kissing in the rain, throwing rocks to the window, or running to the airport. Not only because they do not happen, but because that is not what love is really like, or what it should be for that matter. Thank you, but I will like you as much if you came properly in the sun, instead of dramatically running in the rain. Wait until it stops, would you? It shows common sense, above all. Also, please don’t break my window. It doesn’t reveal that you are madly in love with me, it just clearly points out you wouldn’t care about the inconvenience it causes me to repair it. And don’t wait until I have to catch my airplane, Иf you liked me so much, well, you would have come the night before, wouldn’t you?
So why am I saying all of these proper bullshit? Well, because I think, if there HAVE to be some books about love, they should be more like Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her and less like…well I am finding it difficult to name any examples since I don’t read such books, but let’s just say less like all of the romantic comedies they have been bombarding us with. Wait, I got an example. Eat, Pray, Love. I know I was quite impressed by the book at the time, but you have to give me the benefit of the doubt. It was almost three years ago, and upon reading what I wrote back then, I feel utterly ashamed. So that would be my example of what a book about love shouldn’t be. And self-searching for that matter. Trust me, I have travelled the world and realised it would have been much the same if I stayed in one place. Finding yourself doesn’t mean escaping to another country, but that is another topic for another post.
So back to Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her. It’s a collection of short stories that deal with love, sex, cheating, revenge, and relationships in a more honest and real way than what we have been accustomed to. Most of the stories feature Diaz’s popular alter-ego Yunior and his reckless relationships with a variety of women. Abandoned by “the love of his life” because she caught him cheating with 50 women (50!), Yunior begins to engage in a variety of senseless and purposeless relationships. The older Miss Lora, the crazy student that gets pregnant with his baby (and eventually not his baby), the passionate Magdalena, who believes all Dominican men are cheaters (she might be onto something) form only a few of his sexual successes. And yet wandering from a relationship to relationship, Yunior cannot get out of his mind that he probably lost all chance of love, when his girlfriend left him because of infidelity. Among the short stories are a woman, who engages in a relationship with a married man, perfectly knowing his wife and child live ignorantly back in the DR, a man, who acknowledges a baby from another woman, that is not even his, because of his ultimate desire to have a son, as well as the numerous failed and abusive relationships of Yunior’s brother. Junot Diaz successfully creates a picture of love in the 21st century. It’s not really romantic-lets-hold-hands-together-until-the-end-of-the-world. It’s a constant battle not only against your own recklessness, but against other people’s alienation and weirdness. Men cheat. That’s a fact old as earth but what does this act of cheating really means? Is it just a one off thing to release the tension or does it mean the relationship is as good as gone? The author attempts to give an answer, with which I am not sure I completely agree. The women in the book keep making themselves vulnerable to intimacy, but men don’t. The moment they cheat, that is the moment they are the most distant from you, the moment all hope of intimacy and connection must be abandoned.
The men cheaters are the main characters of the collection. Women are just peripheral, they are being lied to and cheated to and as Virginia Vitzthum correctly put it in her article in Elle, “We pretty much only see the women as exes, crying and screaming after they’ve been cheated on, or as new possibilities, cataloged in terms of their fuckworthiness”. In that sense This Is How You Lose Her somewhat reminds me of Diary of a Seducer by Soren Kierkegaard (even though nearly 2 centuries separate them). The latter offers a hundred ways to seduce a woman and the former – a 100 ways to lose her. It might be one and the same thing, if you really come to think about it.
Junot Diaz offers a peak into the man’s mind, but I cannot really judge whether it is a faithful representation or not. I have spent 24 years trying to figure out men and I am no closer now that I have been when I was born. Even though some of the stories might be hurtful to the female population (I don’t see why, but I suppose they might be), Junot Diaz with his sarcastic and entertaining voice and with his insightful thoughts about fidelity and intimacy is among the contemporary authors worth being followed.
More from Junot Diaz:
Okay, we didn’t work, and all
memories to tell you the truth aren’t good.
But sometimes there were good times.
Love was good. I loved your crooked sleep
beside me and never dreamed afraid.
There should be stars for great wars like ours.