"Unrequited love is nearly a universal experience. It is the stuff of literature (Cyrano de Bergerac had it badly but carried it nobly) and of deep despair. A study of 155 men and women in the Journal Of Personality And Psychology, from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, found that only 2% had never experienced unrequited love (defined as an intense, passionate yearning that is not reciprocated). The study counted being rejected and rejecting someone as such an 'experience'. Men were a third more likely to have suffered unrequited love because of rejection."
Continues the wise Dr Dillner,
"Some people are more prone to unrequited love. If you are anxious (about relationships), emotionally needy and fall in love rather easily, then you're courting disappointment. Passion is great, but too much, too soon can push people away."
What brought on my interest in this neglected area of romance were the lyrics of the Harrow Sparrow, our very own warbling and tweeting Kate Nash. I kind of love her album, and I was struck by two tracks in particular, which articulate so well the highs and particularly the lows of unrequited love, or a giant crush. Listening to them made me remember all those times I've been in the throes of an agonising infatuation: the sweaty palms and the clumsy tongue and the excruciating blushes.
Nash has songs that go on forever, so I've plucked some choice lyrics
We Get on
Simply knowing you exist
Ain't good enough for me
But asking for your telephone number
Seems highly inappropriate
Seeing as I can't
Even say hi
When you walk by
[After a very funny and rambling narrative, Nash concludes on these prosaic and sweet words]
I don't ever dream
About you and me
I don't ever make up stuff about us
That would be classed as insanity
I don't ever drive by your house to see if you're in
I don't even have an opinion
On that tramp that you're still seeing
I don't know your timetable
I don't know your face off by heart
But I must admit
That there is still a part of me
That thinks we might get on
That we could get on
That we should get on
And then The Nicest Thing, wistful and full of longing,
I wish I was your favourite girl
I wish you thought I was the reason you are in the world
I wish my smile was your favourite kind of smile
I wish the way that I dressed was your favourite kind of style...
I wish you had a favourite beauty spot
That you loved secretly
'Cause it was on a hidden bit
That nobody else could see
Basically, I wish that you loved me
I wish that you needed me
I wish that you knew when I said two sugars,
Actually I meant three
There's just something about the way Nash blends the everyday mundane with sadness and longing that really got me. I'm not usually a fan of yearning and angsting and wishin' and hopin' but these songs have made me want to read some romances that deal effectively with the torments and obsessiveness of unrequited love.
In the past, I've shied away from this type of romance, possibly because pining heroines in the classics I was forced to read as a kid - books like Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Villette, The Professor (the entire works of Charlotte Bronte, let's face it) - left me angry and frustrated. Do something, damnit! Stop moping, ladies! Not to mention, the object of all this repressed longing was rarely worth the trouble.
Another practitioner is Mr Charles Dickens, who creates intensely passionate feelings in the hearts of his male protagonists. The foolish passion Pip felt for Estella (I never had one hour's happiness in her society, and yet my mind all round the four-and-twenty hours was harping on the happiness of having her with me unto death); the deep love John felt for Bella in Our Mutual Friend, which was ultimately returned; and Sydney Carton's love for Lucie Manette in A Tale of Two Cities ("You have been the last dream of my soul..." ).
Which brings me to my next point: I think men are intrinsically more sympathetic as the victims of unrequited love. Where Elenaor and Fanny made me gnash my teeth, Mr Darcy, Rhett Butler and Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables) made me sigh and melt. Perhaps it's a female thing: the thought of powerful, handsome men pining away for a woman must appeal on a wish-fulfillment level.
One of the few sympathetic portrayals of female unrequited love is Cassandra's for Simon in I Capture the Castle, an absolutely fantastic book about being young and in love.
More recently, romances I've read with one half of the couple secretly in love with the other include The Smoke Thief, That Linda Howard Sarah's Child - and - and -!
Not much else, really.
Some recommendations, please! Anything that makes you sigh with fellow feeling as you recall in excruciating detail the follies of your youth will do.
I leave you with the immortal words of Charlie Brown -
"Nothing spoils the taste of peanut butter like unrequited love."