Competing for a Love We Won’t Recieve

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June 11, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Lorde has grown on me a lot over the past year or so to the point where I believe she will become the big female pop icon of her generation, much in the same way that Lady Gaga should have been for my generation.[1]  When I first heard “Royals” I thought it was one of the best pop songs I had heard in a long time; there was something very anti-pop about it that I respected, especially coming from a sixteen year old.

Naturally enough, I then listened to her debut album, Pure Heroin, and immediately labeled it as being too monotonous and apocalyptically pretentious.[2]  And then I heard “Team” and everything changed.  Because “Team” became my fourth favorite song of 2013, it forced me to listen to the album again, and sure enough my initial thoughts were wrong, not completely off base, but wrong nonetheless.  All the tracks on Pure Heroin are still a little too similar to one another, but Lorde is nowhere near as pretentious as I initially thought.  It’s because she only rights about what she knows, that I mistook her sincerity for commodification.

“Team” boasts one of the better beats on the album, but it doesn’t necessarily have the best lyrics, as most of the song seems to be an ode to her old neighborhood.  There’s one line though, that proves to be the best lyrics on the album, and therefore the best she’s ever written so far.  The line “And everyone’s competing for a love they won’t receive” is quite possible one of the truest and most heart wrenching things I’ve ever heard in my entire life.[3]  And then it got me thinking about the true meaning of the song: finding oneself and likeminded people in the world, within the confines of suburbia.  That’s the purpose of being “on the same team” that two people understand each other when everyone else is telling them to “throw their hands up in the air”.

That line though, “And everyone’s competing for a love they won’t receive”, I can’t stop thinking about it, because of its catholic appeal.[4]  It’s not just a line that describes a bunch of high schoolers with fleeting crushes, but one that speaks to the overall nature of unrequited love, and the absurdity that abounds from pursuing someone who does not feel the same.  At one point or another, we’ve all competed in an unwinnable competition in vying for the affections of someone whom we’d receive nothing from.  Even though you know that you’d never win them over, you keep trying and keep pursuing.  It could just be childish immaturity, but I think those feelings are some that never really go away.  It’s a line that plays to the hopeful desperation of unrequited love in that you’re fighting against the impossible.  In trying to get somebody to love you, you’re fighting against something that doesn’t exist, namely their nonexistent feelings, and that’s why we always lose.  We compete foolhardily and treat love as quantitative instead of qualitative.

Anytime you say to yourself “If I do ___________________, then she’ll finally feel the same way about me that I feel about her”, you automatically set yourself up to fail because love isn’t about tasks and results, it’s about how two people feel about each other, and anytime anyone has to do something to make somebody love them, it invalidates those feelings, because said feelings will always be dependent upon actions only.  Love cannot be quantified, only qualified.  Everyone has felt these feelings of infatuation before, and that’s exactly what it is, infatuation.  You can’t really love somebody who doesn’t love you, you might be in love when them, but you can’t really love them because all you’ll want to do is serve them.  You’ll always be competing against feelings that either don’t exist or aren’t as strong as yours.

The moment though, that you realize your love is in vain is one of the worst feelings to describe however.  The best way I can put it is that it feels like someone puts a gun to your sternum, pulls the trigger, and blows your heart right out of your back.[5]  That is the moment of clarity, when you realize that this is a love “you won’t receive”.  We’ve all once competed for such a love, with the vain hope that somehow, something we do will make that person love us in return.  The absurdity of it all is that we keep trying until we hit that emotional low, that realization that everything you’ve done and everything you’ve ever felt for that person has been in vain.  We all have someone like this, someone who if they called us at 3:00 A.M. saying that they wanted to see you, you’d run right out of bed and meet up with them ASAP.  And, chances are we’ve been that very object of infatuation for somebody else in turn.  Everyone has competed for a love that they would never receive, and everyone knows the feeling that comes with the revelation that this other person doesn’t reciprocate the same feelings.

Lorde, at only 17 years old, sums up this idea, not only of unrequited love, but of the blindness and self-delusion that comes with it.  We blind ourselves to the truth, and we delude ourselves into thinking that there might be a chance to convince this other person to feel otherwise; but, by doing so, we actually instill our own ideals and fantasies into this person.  The notion becomes “Things would be so great if only I was with ­­­­­­­­­­_______________”.  And that isn’t love; it’s cheap.

There’s an episode of Futurama entitled “Parasite Lost” wherein Fry accidentally eats a sandwich laced with space worms, parasites that actually prove to be beneficial to him. They make him stronger, smarter, and more charming.  After certain acts of affections towards Leela, to whom Fry has unrequited feelings for, Leela begins to fall in love with him….or better yet who he has become.  Realizing that the parasites are enabling him to do things such as properly demonstrate his feelings for Leela, and that it is these actions that are making Leela warm up to him, Fry evicts the parasites from his system, rationalizing that he’d rather have Leela not love him for who he is, than love him for who he isn’t.  Normally, Fry isn’t this articulate and romantic superman; he’s a bumbling idiot, but he knew better than to earn Leela’s love by acts alone.  He wanted her to actually love him, not the things he did that made her feel special.  Faced with the prospects of a love based upon falsities, or crushing emotional despair, Fry chose the latter because he knew that the former wasn’t real, and therefore wasn’t worth Leela’s love.

It’s the moment when Leela tells Fry “I love what you’ve become” that Fry has his “shotgun moment”, the moment wherein he realizes the truth behind his blindness and affections for Leela.  At that moment, Fry would rather have the truth than his own fantasy.  He was in a lose-lose situation; either he lets the parasites stay and Leela will fall in love with him, based solely on how he acts, instead of how he feels, or he purges himself of the helpful fiends and reverts to type, the kind of person that Leela is not attracted to at all.  In either scenario, he’d still be competing, and regardless of the choice, he’d never truly receive Leela’s true love.

Until we realize the truth, we will always be fighting for that person’s affection and love.  We will be like Sisyphus, desperately trying to roll the rock up the hill as a grand sign of love and devotion but once we graze the top of the hill, it will roll back down on us, proving that our actions were for naught.  I’m 23, and just recently have I realized this for myself; I’m kinda embarrassed that a 17 year old kid had to spell it out for me.



[1] And was for a brief time between 2009 and 2010.

[2] I don’t really know how else to describe “apocalyptically pretentious” besides examples of people who demonstrate this behavior.  Examples include: Lana Del Rey, 1980s Bono, and Michael Cimino.

[3] The fact that it was written by someone younger than my youngest sister blows my mind.

[4] Catholic, as in universal.

[5] Also known as the “shotgun feeling”.

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