Sontag on Love

While we’re at it…



All of today’s blather on love (or something like it,) (see what I did just there?) reminded me of the illustration posted above, which has been squatting on my desk-top since I first read it on Brain Pickings. (How novel and accurate it was. Self-respect does seem to be the unsung secret to good sex).

I can get behind most of it–even argue that the symptoms she describes when diagnosing a cold case of The Loves are wholly capable of being felt under unilateral circumstances. And though I don’t mean to argue with the woman who wrote “Notes on Camp” and may or may not have functioned as the redeeming quality in one such University class called “The White Plague: A History of Tuberculosis,” I can’t really believe that loves mean willing to ruin yourself for someone else.

Romantically, maybe. Unrequited love stings worse than a paper-cut under acid rain. And that is, after all, the sequestered case in which I’d be willing to ruin myself, right? Unrequited love? But is that as poignant as love of the requited variety? Is it even really love? Let’s just get Valentine’s Day jargon out of the way now: what is love? (Baby don’t hurt me.)

Get more Postmodern Love ?
  • “Unrequited love stings worse than a paper-cut under acid rain”
    Couldn’t be more accurate.

  • MardiJane

    I absolutely love this, can relate to so much of it but I really don’t want to.

  • sontag, on love, on anything, always brilliant. the brainpickings crew, also, curate absolutely wonderful content!

    • Leandra Medine

      I know. That site harbors such a substantial wealth of good-to-knows.

  • vandal

    Sontag used the word “willing”. So it’s not that you’d WANT (or seek) to ruin yourself for love but rather when a situation arose where you had to choose between your own welfare versus the welfare of the person you love you’d be WILLING to ruin yourself/sacrifice your own needs and put your partner before you..rather than leave them hanging in order to protect yourself. At least this is how I have lived my love life and interpreted Sontag’s words. Anyway, if you love as good as you blog Leandra I’m sure you’ve got it down pat!

  • Wind-up bird

    It has been my experience that love has made me more capable at “soitary flight.” I’m a relatively quiet/mildly introverted person, and my manfriend has been incredibly helpful in my quest to be more outspoken. Susan Sontag has a beautiful mind, always an inspiration.

  • KaileyKramer

    Nothing tastes as good as requited love feels.

    …that’s what Kate meant to say, no?

  • Sasha

    “Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.”
    -Charlie Brown in Peanuts, penned by Charles Schulz

  • N

    New follower here. Just back-read your blog and now I strongly believe you are my spirit guide haha! Seriously, you are such an amazing writer and your style is just wonderful. Hope to meet you soon 🙂

  • Love is nurturing. Love is kindness. Love is respect. Love is growth. Love is laughter. Love is tenderness. And lots of it, pls 🙂 Love is wanting to become better, everyday, for the person you love. Because you love them.

  • Cassandra

    “I’m only interested in people engaged in a project of self-transformation.” I have no patience for a person who is well-adjusted, happy with their present. I love surrounding myself with friends that can nurture my fluid state, whose own trajectories inform my own.

  • lavieenliz

    love you forever, love you for always, as long as I’m living…my baby you’ll be.

    does anyone remember that book?

  • Maarten Gubbens

    Nice post…
    Fashion Online

  • Lauren at adorn la femme

    In my 24 short years, I have learned one thing about love: you can’t bestow it upon someone else unless you have done it to yourself first ; )


    -Lauren at adorn la femme

    • Faye-Fashion Hound

      amen honey

  • Domonique

    C’mon no ones gonna mention how expertly you managed to fit in a Haddaway song title? Genius! Love was the most popular searched thing on google in 2012, did you know that? I like to go with the chemistry theory that love is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent.


    • Leandra Medine

      haha. THANK YOU.

  • she is simple yet prolific. J’adore

  • Don’t know yet since I’m still young and I’ve never experienced true love…but I can’t wait to.

  • Bonnie, Clyde + Marni
  • Holly-Bella

    ‘I cannot persuade her with words to love me’…so true. Why does no one understand this? Or at least, why does no one remember this when it really matters?

  • Leandra Medine

    the evolution of familial love! my mom always cried when we got to last page of that book.

  • L’oliphant
  • kiiyha

    I love this, saw it on brain pickings as well.

  • i like burgerz

    thank you for being you.
    fashion wise, you have given me the balls to wear unicorn laden socks with my uncomfortable-as fuck-isabel marant stilettos. EVEN if it looks like i have cankles worse than pregnant kimye.
    writing wise, you remind me how refreshing it is to have an actual sense of humor (along with having foresight, and intelligence) in the ever serious, and slightly depressing fashion world.
    i cannot tell you how often i find myself snorting alone while reading your posts. so thank you for the inevitable man repelling aura you emit via my laptop screen. (or is that radiation? i can’t tell.)
    anyway, you may now resume your take-over of the universe. DON’T STOP ANY TIME SOON!

  • Anna

    Wow,your blog changed so much . Looking forward to still see your outfits ,valentine’s day one ,for example .

  • Hudson Berry

    Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  • the (un?)social butterfly

    Love is so many things; I can’t say love is necessarily self-destructive, nor that it isn’t at all; there are many ways one can define love and none is true, only some fit some specific purposes. I think, for instance, to say love is by definition redeeming (and if it’s not, then it’s not love) means to exclude some other pretty good definitions.

    When it comes to romantic love, it can be joy and trust and companionship, or a desperate need to be with a specific someone; some believe love is almost the same as hate. I don’t feel I’m able to validate this or that meaning…

    • Leandra Medine

      I like, or dare I say, love this so much.

  • Sarah

    this is so fitting as I’m trying to figure out my relationship. DO I LIKE HIM?! Thank you leandra!

  • Behind the Mirror

    “Unrequited love stings worse than a paper-cut under acid rain.” sums it up perfectly to me!!!

  • Georgina

    I see you in the future, not long from now, being the editor of Vogue or some top glossy of sorts. I first came to your blog for fashion, now I come for all its varied content. Its so great beyond words!!! Thank you!!

  • Faye-Fashion Hound

    Thank you so much for teaching me about Sontag – seriously sublime writing x

  • Faye-Fashion Hound

    PS. ‘Love is not Love, which alters when it alteration finds’

  • I actually tried to write an essay on “What is love?” and I have to admit (though it might sound dorky, oh wait… it is) I was one of the people in 2012 goggling “Love”. I even asked one of those robots you can talk to in the internet. And yes! I felt stupid! But then again, I went back and read some wise full of interesting knowledge old literature, and a couple of the new ones too. After that I asked my friends, and my whole family. I even looked for it on the dictionary. And you might be surprise how many definitions love has! Therefore, (and give me some credit because I’m only sixteen) I believe love is what we ourselves want it to be.

  • IslingArt

    Let me apologize in advance, but the photograph that the illustration is based on is by Peter Hujar and was taken while Sontag was asked to think about death (and existence), which I think adds some context to the image, but really when it comes down to it death and love are the only things really to meditate on. Brilliant post.

  • Such a nice site!