“Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.”
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
You know that film… Revolutionary Road, with the unhappy American white, blonde couple, living the American dream, the good life, big house, beautiful garden, happy energetic children, corporatist husband getting a promotion? Nothing could go wrong, but then it does. The American dream not realised, but almost. All goes terribly wrong. Well, that’s what would have happened if Jack would not have died on the Titanic, but luckily he did, and then Rose had a nice romantic love story to tell. Marriage, house with a garden, kids, Lassy, grandkids, a few romantic trips to Paris, or Venice or Verona, they’re quite near to each other anyway, and actually who exactly cares? Both Italian cities starting with a V; a few sunsets on the beach and the annual kiss under the mistletoe, oh, love!
There’s nothing more beautiful than young love, isn’t it? Prince Charming arriving in his blue chevy nova, the young, innocent, Marylin Monroe wannabe, with her blonde wavy hair, red lips, and white dress sneaking out in the middle of the night. His dark eyes, her mysterious shy smile just in the corner of her lips, such a wonderful life awaits them. A great love never grows old, not even when there’s a pile of laundry above it, a house mortgage, dirty dishes, and an unemployed partner, a kid to be supported through college, old ill parents, no, love never dies, and guess what saves it? Yes, that cheesy Valentine dinner, and that pink heart-shaped Valentine card with a random quote about love “I love my life because it gave me you, and I love you because you are my life” – or something like that.
What would one do without the little love gifts? How would love survive when confronted with the ordinary little miseries of life? But does love make life better, or it just piles, even more, insecurity, fear and in the end misery on top of the house mortgage, student loans, stress and just daily worries?
I might sound like a cynic, but don’t worry, even cynics get struck by love at some point, sooner or later, because nobody can escape it. No one can escape the attraction, the desire, the crave, the lust, the disappointment, the suffering, the insecurity, and jealousy, the fear, because love is as Eva Illouz describes it her article Why We Don’t Celebrate Friendship With the Same Fervor as Love: democratic – good and bad people can feel it (almost everyone has felt love in their lives). And it’s the non-discriminatory feature of love that makes it universal, and its inevitability that makes it profitable, makes it commercial. Our whole lives are polarised around the notion of love. I need to get a degree, have a good job, find a man, fall in love, marry, have kids and be happy. Our whole world revolves around the things, situations, people that we want and hope to have in our lives, and once we have it (whatever that it might be), we are too afraid of letting it go even if it harms us, it suffocates us, it makes us deny our own freedom, our own soul.
And here my photographs come into the picture. Taken 3 years ago in the Little Paris, as Bucharest was called before the communist era, I considered them perfectly fitted to represent the cruelty of optimism, the cruelty of love, by the juxtaposition of the word love (followed by a whole palette of meaning) with something as trivial as a garbage bin. It is almost ironical how Paris is the city of love, and then Bucharest, its smaller sibling, after a “short” encounter with communism, and of course with its family values and abortion banning, decided to throw love into the garbage bin. And the second one… is just the outcome of a love that ended differently than how it was supposed to end. It’s the American dream gone wrong, the Prince Charming who went to work, had an affair with the secretary, the unhappy Marylin Monroe trapped in a dreadful marriage, but too comfortable, and too afraid to leave. It’s the norms, the rules, the “you must”-s and “you have”-s in a relationship failing, the Valentines cards and fancy dinners that won’t play their magic anymore. It’s the optimism of a happy ending, of the dream of the good life, meeting reality, it’s the ugly side of love. And this ugly side of love only appears when love is made the highest expectation, and not love in general but a certain kind of love, the monogamous, heterosexual, based on a sexual relationship kind of love. We idealise love so much, and at the same time advertise it so much, that it became one of the most common and trivial feelings. It is a must, but then it is an ideal too. The perfect lover, the soulmate, the other half is hard to fine, but then, why are you single? You should never let the loved one go, you should fight for it, but then, that loved one might at some point be the exact reason that you’re suffering. Love has been turned into a paradox and the “love” and the garbage bin is the image of this ironically and sad charade.