I have been a closeted hopeless romantic for as long as I can remember.

I don’t particularly enjoy rom-coms. I rarely read romantic novels. I don’t parade around playing matchmaker or doing overly gooey things.

But I do believe in love. I believe that it’s impossible. Euphoric. Maddening. Comforting. Excruciating. Addictive.

I’ve always wanted to be in love, perhaps more than the average child or teenager should.

I didn’t care for labels, or perfect relationships, just love.

I wanted to experience it. To have something so unquantifiable swallow me whole.

I wasn’t sure that I’d truly live until I experienced romantic love.

It’s easy to blame the movies. It’s what we do, right?

My romantic references span across decades. My earliest memory of watching a movie was devouring The Lion King 2 for the hundredth time (which, according to Wikipedia, resembles a cartooned Romeo and Juliet).

Next, was 10 Things I Hate About You. I watched it a cool five years old, and became completely obsessed with the paintball scene. It had everything. Cheek. Fun. Sweetness. Spark. Colour.

I would often dream of experiencing my own version of said scene, but apparently Australian paintball involves automatic guns and there’s nothing even remotely sexy about it. Before, during or after.

Then, it was Maid in Manhattan. A classic tale of a working class woman pretending to be rich and falling for a politician. Obviously I wanted to end up like J.Lo, wrapped in white cashmere and parading around New York City. I’d watch it on repeat, always with a bowl of chicken stroganoff and rice in my lap.

At 14, I saw posters for an indie movie that lured me in. 500 Days of Summer quickly became gospel. It was so honest, refreshing and realistic. It stood out amongst the noise of repetitive narratives and happy endings.

It has the complete opposite of a happy ending and I adore it. Sorry to be a spoiler, but Tom loses Summer halfway through. It’s a beautiful, crushing representation of when love goes wrong for no particular reason.

For the first time, I realised: things might not work out. This love thing might not end up with me getting married, living somewhere fabulous and holidaying in Paris.

At the time, I was hopelessly in love with my best friend. I should’ve seen the signs that he was clearly not interested, but he baited me long enough to fall so deeply that I could no longer think or act rationally.

That was at 14. What an age.

500 Days of Summer kept me safe during that time. A reminder that love is complicated and messy and sometimes isn’t enough.

That was the scariest part. Coming to terms with the fact that the thing I’d worshipped all these years was a terribly flawed structure.

There was no sense to be made, no rules to follow. We were all just as blind as each other, stumbling through the chaos in hope that we’d emerge relatively unscathed and optimistic.

A year later, I discovered Sex and the City. And Skins. Two shows I still watch yearly to this day.

They are both beautiful in their own respect. One taught me the complexities of dating and to avoid anyone from the New York banking scene.

The other, a polished reflection of what I was experiencing as a teen.

I’ve grown up with Skins. I didn’t expect it to have so much of a colossal effect on me, but it did. It shaped me into the woman I am today.

Watching Sid and Tony and Michelle and Effy and Freddie fuck up helped me navigate my own messy adolesence.

Despite the fractured families, the drugs, the school complications, the fights, the diagnoses, they all found love.

Maybe it wasn’t the right love, or a love that lasted, but they found love nonetheless.

I used to think, if they can get through it, so can I. If they can maintain some semblance of a relationship with all of that shit going on, so can I.

And yet, I didn’t. Until I was 17. Then I fell pray to the all-consuming side of love.

How easy it is to be manipulated and emotionally abused. How desperately I wanted to be a good girlfriend, to not get in trouble. To keep the peace.

It’s no surprise that I find solace in a book exploring that very kind of relationship.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart has become the closest thing to a bible that I own.

I read it when times are tough. When I’m seeking guidance. When all I want to do is run away.

Out of all the books I’ve read (which is a lot, for a gal my age) this one has stuck. I gaze at it longingly on my bookshelf, spellbound by the magical illustrations and stories within.

It’s taught me so much about myself. Helped me work through past traumas. Reduced me to tears of ache and happiness. Fuelled an obsession with Australian wildflowers.

When times are tough, or my new reads stack fails to excite, I always go back to Alice. I know it’s cliched to feel like books are your friends, but this one truly is.

I write this today as I reflect on the upcoming dissolution of my relationship. Amicable. Practical. Unavoidable. And yet, it hurts. My god, it hurts.

There’s no way around it, and there’s no hate. Just two people coming up against a brick wall and bowing out gracefully.

Will I resort to these books in movies in the coming weeks? Absolutely. I fully intend to sink back into the blankets of my youth, enjoying the comfort and safety of the stories that have built my world view.

I wonder what lessons I’ll learn this time round.

December 12, 2019

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