Culture

Ten Utterly Unromantic Quotes in Anticipation of Valentine’s Day

Editor's Note:

If you’re stirred by these author quotes, amble down our archive for more.

Most of us are more worried about Valentine’s Day than we are about El Niño — after all, the latter only returns to torment us every few years. Meanwhile no one is spared the red tide of schmaltz at the drug store: the single and the partnered are equally at risk. After New Years Eve, it’s probably our largest undiagnosed public health epidemic.

Being a Valentine’s humbugger doesn’t have to be a lonely affair. Most great literature owes its inspiration to heartbreak, and poets living and dead remain united in skepticism of the mythical healing properties of romantic love. Keep the following quotes in mind as your social media feeds become glutted with updates from temporarily-happy couples, and if anyone tricks you into participating, set aside a few of Dorothy Parker’s choice words for them:

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

(Oh, and you also may want to read up on that El Niño business as well, apparently it’s quite serious.)

1. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, 1847
“You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry; and wring out my kisses and tears: they’ll blight you—they’ll damn you. You loved me—then what right had you to leave me? What right—answer me—for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart—you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.”

2. L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900
“I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”

3. C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 1956
“Did I hate him, then? Indeed, I believe so. A love like that can grow to be nine-tenths hatred and still call itself love.”

4. Lawrence Durrell, Justine, 1957
“Who invented the human heart, I wonder? Tell me, and then show me the place where he was hanged.”

5. Tennessee Williams, Suddenly Last Summer, 1958
“The Venus flytrap, a devouring organism, aptly named for the goddess of love.”

6. Pablo Neruda, from “If You Forget Me,” 1970
“Well, now
If little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you
Little by little
If suddenly you forget me
Do not look for me
For I shall already have forgotten you”

7. Anne Sexton, from “Lessons in Hunger,” 1981
“Silence fell off his tongue
and sat between us
and clogged my throat.
It slaughtered my trust.
It tore cigarettes out of my mouth.
We exchanged blind words,
and I did not cry,
and I did not beg,
blackness lunged in my heart,
and something that had been good,
a sort of kindly oxygen,
turned into a gas oven.”

8. Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body, 1993
“You said, ‘I love you.’ Why is it that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear? ‘I love you’ is always a quotation. You did not say it first and neither did I, yet when you say it and when I say it we speak like savages who have found three words and worship them.”

9. Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played with Fire, 2006
“When she came to her senses again she cut off all contact with him. It had not been easy, but she had steeled herself. The last time she saw him she was standing on a platform in the tunnelbana at Gamla Stan and he was sitting in the train on his way downtown. She had stared at him for a whole minute and decided that she did not have a grain of feeling left, because it would have been the same as bleeding to death. Fuck you.”

10. Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her, 2012
“You ask everybody you know: How long does it usually take to get over it?

There are many formulas. One year for every year you dated. Two years for every year you dated. It’s just a matter of will power: The day you decide it’s over, it’s over. You never get over it.”