All writers have a tendency to romanticize, and we’re especially good at judging others for doing so as if we’ve never done it ourselves. Exhibit A: me cackling from my little evil core when stumbling upon this quote by Warsan Shire on Tumblr: “His eyes were the same color as the sea in a postcard someone sends you when they love you, but not enough to stay.”
Because WHAT? Hold up. That metaphor is so stretched out it thinks it’s actually Jane Fonda in the eighties. That metaphor is as bad, even slightly worse, than the one I just used. Because, really GIRL, what could this color you’re referring to possibly look like? Is it necessary to infuse this poor character’s eyes with the weight of fickle past loves? Are you trying to imply that this eyeball holder is cut of a similar cloth to said-loves? And if so, could you please just say that in a more straightforward way?
I know, I know—poetic license, creativity, and all that jazz. But really this just smells like the dialogue of a desperate, 4:00pm soap opera that no one watches anymore. Or a line dreamed up and sniffed repeatedly by a wide-eyed Sarah Lawrence “poet,” freshman year.
I guess I just want you try a little harder, Warsan. Think outside the cozy seablue eye scenario, and the dramatic attachment of love to every minor thing just to give it some weight. And, dude, I LOVE drama! Trust me (or my parents, or my high school boyfriends, or the girl I called a bitch in fourth grade). But this, Warsan, this is off course. You’re not doing drama justice—you’re keeping it safe, and too saccharine. You’ve given me (and surely others) verbal diabetes.
I want to help you, you cute, published asshole. What else might his eyes be blue like? Perhaps like cleaning solution puddling in a public toilet, or the color of a fancy gin bottle once successfully chucked at a lover’s head. Be absurd, but throw us off—don’t tread in the same old, same old, inserting empty romance into every writerly void. Frankly—and I’m sorry, I really am—we just don’t care about the lover who loves you but not enough to stay. If lovers must be mentioned, tell us of the ones so batshit they still run back to you, drooling like feverish babies. Or the ones whose insanity you can’t bear in daylight but would love to keep holed up in your bed.
Or fuck the lovers altogether, and tell us something downright weird. If we’re still reading, you can be sure we’re not reading to hear about life in clichés. We want to be enthralled, swept up by secrets or truths that can’t be bottled in a dime store, or found in quaint corners at Disneyland. We (the book club consisting of my various, opinionated limbs) want you to fuck with the page, not slip into it slowly like you’ve been married for twenty years.
Please, Warsan, I beg you—with the weight of many nostalgic postcards, deceivingly sweet blue eyes, and the special vitriol reserved for loves who’ve had the audacity not to send love back.