Valentine’s Day has always brought about a variety of emotions given its inherently cheesy nature and also given my finely curated collection of unimpressive romantic experiences. Love has almost always been unrequited for me, and, in all honesty, I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. One of the most character-defining attributes of a person is their approach to love and relationships; it’s the ways in which they view intimacy and sex, emotional bonds that connect people despite insurmountable circumstances or just the sheer validity, or lack thereof, of love. 

Love terrifies me. Since I’ve always experienced one-sided love, it’s hard to convince myself that love could be anything else, that I could be truly loved and appreciated beyond a simple friendship. Being led on is one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced and yet, each time it happens I feel as though I become a funnier, more well-rounded person. The most confusing of all feelings is that of heartbreak despite never having been in a relationship. In spite of the painfully honest retellings mentioned thus far, I’ve had some incredibly wholesome experiences with love. The small things never go unnoticed, and those, despite their lack of “romantic substance,” have always meant more to me than anything else. With Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought what better way to celebrate than to give to those reading this a playlist from the depths of my more or less emotionally wounded, yet hopeful, heart. 

“The Wonder of You” — Elvis Presley 

A song I discovered only because of its feature in the HBO show “Big Little Lies,” “The Wonder of You” is a tender and wholesome track featuring some of Presley’s most novel, robust vocals. He sings, “I’ll guess I’ll never know the reason why / You love me as you do / That’s the wonder / The wonder of you.” Sometimes we love people and don’t truly understand how those feelings came to be, purely because they were second nature at the time. It’s often hard to explain why we yearn for someone when they’re gone or why we imagine them before dozing off to sleep, but that is perhaps the most beautiful thing about love: its ability to blossom out of nothing and turn into an ever-present feeling that lives with us for eternity.    

“Right Side of My Neck” — Faye Webster 

“Right Side of My Neck” is one of my favorite Faye Webster tracks. This song comes off of Webster’s 2019 album “Atlanta Millionaires Club,” an album composed entirely of honest and vulnerable songs detailing love, loss and heartbreak. Webster sings, “I wonder if you got home / But we just said goodbye / You looked back at me once / But I looked back two times.” Realizing that you care about someone more than they care about you is a universally painful experience. We’re left wondering what part of us is possibly inadequate, but it’s much more likely an indication that physical attraction is not the same as intimate connection, a painful truth I’ve had to learn as I’ve gotten older.      

“Come Here” — Kath Bloom 

Kath Bloom’s 2006 album “Finally” contains “Come Here,” easily one of my favorite songs of all time. There is nothing about this track that is flawed, and the impact it’s had on me as a young woman is unparalleled. Bloom sings, “There’s a wind that blows in from the north / And it says that loving takes this course / Come here, come here / No I’m not impossible to touch / I have never wanted you so much.” To crave someone’s touch or physical presence need not always be seen in a sexual light. There is gentleness and security in merely holding the one you love or resting your head on their chest; to exist as two souls physically connected for a moment in time is a beautiful experience all of us should experience many times in life.    

“Fade Into You” — Mazzy Star 

An absolute cult-classic in Mazzy Star’s discography, “Fade Into You” presents itself as a timeless and romantically unadulterated music piece but doesn’t shy away from exploring the “underbelly” of love: opening up. Hope Sandoval sings, “I wanna hold the hand inside you / I wanna take the breath that’s true / I look to you and I see nothing / I look to you to see the truth.” Is allowing someone to enter into your tiny world quite possibly the most terrifying thing a human can do, or is there beauty and comfort in vulnerability? At least for me, opening up is hard, especially with someone who I’ve had more of a casual relationship with. There are stories I’ve never told, feelings I’ve never explored and memories I’ve never revisited. There are parts of me no one will ever learn about, simply because I’m terrified of the reaction; will they love me deeper because of these stories, or will they slowly shy away after learning that I hold a lot beneath the surface?

“Love On The Brain” — Rihanna 

One of my favorite tracks off of Rihanna’s 2016 album “ANTI,” “Love On The Brain” tells the honest story of fighting for requited love. Rihanna sings, “And I tried to buy your pretty heart, but the price too high / Baby, you got me like ‘Oh’ / You love when I fall apart (fall apart) / So you can put me together and throw me against the wall.” She will do anything to have the man she loves love her back, placing her in endless romantic warfare. It’s extremely hard to leave the one you love even if they have no strong feelings for you in return since holding out hope is one of only ways to maintain sanity while in love. When your feelings for someone grow deeper over time, love never seems to leave your brain, making rejection seem much scarier than the present dilemma of unrequited love.

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