“…and there’s a picture of a train!” – Ralph Wiggum
Oh, Ralph Wiggum. Poor bastard didn’t stand a chance. The Simpsons may have lost its relevance in recent years, but back in the day, not only did it feature the best satire on television–it also had some of the most honest and human moments. And it was a damn cartoon! Consider the Valentine’s Day episode from 1993, entitled “I Love Lisa,” in which Ralph misguidedly falls in love with Lisa only to end up rebuffed on national television:
Oh, man, that’s rough. It’s bad enough to suffer heartbreak in private, but to have to suffer complete and total heartbreak in front of countless others is something else altogether.
Speaking of Valentine’s Day cartoons, it’s time to dust off the old VHS copy of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown and have a good laugh at the misfortune of everyone’s favorite blockhead as he, too, wrestles with the agony of unrequited love.
Nowadays, I imagine that he would be checking his phone or his inbox rather than his mailbox. What I’d like to know is, how is it possible for the hopeless to exhibit so much hope when it comes to affairs of the heart? Why do we continually check our phones or our inboxes when we know nothing is going to be there? How delusional can we continue to allow ourselves to be? I mean, in Charlie Brown’s case, the sorry sonofabitch even brings a suitcase to his school’s valentine exchange in anticipation of receiving so many valentines that he won’t be able to carry them home. And of course, his suitcase winds up just as empty as his mailbox.
A wise and pretty girl pointed something out to me today, the gist of which was that to receive valentines, one needs to give valentines. That thought had never really occurred to me before, but she’s right. When it comes to love, we must ultimately lie in the beds we make (no pun intended). Charlie Brown has no right to complain about not getting any valentines because he never sends any himself–he just spends all of his time sitting by his mailbox and waiting for someone to love him. Sure, he fawns all over the little red-haired girl, but does he ask her out? Does he even have the courage to tell her how he feels? Of course not, because that’s not in his character. He is the perpetual loser, after all, and it is his place in the universe to remain unremarkable and unloved. Why fight the cosmos? I’ll tell you why–because the impossible can never become possible if one doesn’t even try.
True story: there actually was a “little red-haired girl” in Charles Schulz’s life, whom he dated for three years before proposing. Not only did she turn him down, but she quickly ran off and married a fireman instead. Seriously. Of the event, Schulz said, “I can think of no more emotionally damaging loss than to be turned down by someone whom you love very much. A person who not only turns you down, but almost immediately will marry the victor. What a bitter blow that is.” I believe it, Chuck.
Of course, one of the predominant themes in Peanuts is unrequited love: Charlie Brown and the little red-haired girl; Sally and Linus; Peppermint Patty and “Chuck;” Marcie and “Charles;” Lucy and Schroeder; Linus and Miss Othmar, etc. The fact that even intellectual Linus is a hopeless case indicates that no one is immune from the stupidity and silliness that comes with unrequited love. Sally is literally in his face doting on him, but he’s more concerned with loving someone completely unattainable: his teacher, Miss Othmar. I especially like the scene when Linus loses his shit trying to deal with his rejection:
Oh, the things we’ll do for love. I saw a news story that mentioned the average person will spend $143 on their valentine this year, up about ten bucks from last year. So I reckon I’m gonna go buy myself $143 worth of those antacid hearts with the cheeky expressions on ’em. I’m actually out of Tums, so this is pretty serendipitous, come to think of it. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get the one with the poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning on it (side note: this scene has since been edited out of the television re-broadcasts, which is a damn shame):
There are few things on this earth as wonderful as being in love. And while it’s undeniably wonderful to be in love, I think it’s much more important to be loved. That’s the key, I’m convinced. As fun as it may seem to indulge in idolatry and worship women whom we place on pedestals (where would the world of art be without this phenomenon?), at the end of the day, it’s far more important to have that feeling reciprocated–to feel wanted and appreciated and validated as a man or a woman (or just as a goddamn human being). Like Harvey Fierstein famously said (or SNL’s Jon Lovitz as Harvey Fierstein more famously said): “I just wanna be loved, is that so wroooong?“
So why do we torture ourselves? Why can’t love just be a simple and uncomplicated thing? Because we don’t allow it to be–that’s why. The happiest people I’ve known in my life have either been the least complicated or the most willing to accept life on its own terms and without prejudice. People with open minds and open hearts can roll with the punches while the rest of us with our preconceived notions of how shit is supposed to work hit the deck. By our very nature as human beings, we are complex and complicated–we can’t help it. This is what separates us from the animals, after all. But why do we have to make it all so complicated? Why do we overthink things to the point of fucking them up? Life and love likely seem a whole lot easier when you’re willing to play the cards you are dealt rather than fold your hand–if you’re willing to either take what life gives you and embrace it, or decide you’re going to bluff your way into something better like Jay Gatsby. Giving up is simply not an option.
When it comes down to it, the human heart is a fragile fucking thing. Romance is ultimately fleeting and takes a great deal of effort to sustain; it’s hard damn work, and when you find yourself facing adversity or hardships in life it’s difficult to devote enough time and energy to properly nourish a love affair–no matter how much you might love someone. Hopefully, the pain or misery you are experiencing won’t make the person who loves you miserable, too. But sometimes that’s inevitable, and when that happens, what do you do? Do you decide to throw in the towel? Well, in most instances you don’t because the other person will throw it in for you as the damage is almost always already done. Sad, but true.