Love is tender, tentative, brutal and bold. It’s messy and magic! It can be the most frightening thing in the world, purely because it feels like safety, and that safety is reliant on total trust in another, with whom we share our hearts, expose ourselves and allow ourselves to be seen for exactly who we are. But when we allow ourselves to trust like this, there is a freedom that we can attain – a glory. This book is about being seen in all your iterations, in every dynamic, brightly and in colour. It’s about the joy and hope that accompanies the celebration of that phenomenon.Bolu Babalola, Love in Colour
There is such a thing as being spellbound by a book. It is a feeling I discovered early in life.
Having whole weeks, months even, where you’re living on the very edge of reason, when all you can think about is how a book dropped a laugh in your lap or made you slightly unbalanced in the way that only a book can. It is because I know that feeling, that I know what it is to really love a good book. Memoirs, short story collections, fiction, whatever. But I love romance too. In fact, I’d say I love romance more.
It is only romance that has seen me read until the dead of the night, curled up in a blanket, weeping with only my phone or Kindle screen to thank for light. But did my ‘bookstagram’ that I created reflect that in its early days? No. Did the way I spoke about and interacted with love reflect that? No.
You couldn’t even say my love for love was my best kept secret because I barely acknowledged it. I would read or watch something about love, deeply enjoy it and simply move on as if the surface of my soul had not just been scratched. If I did touch on it, it would be perfunctorily. I wouldn’t allow myself to fully embrace the joy because I was wary of it.
I thought loving love would make me seem incapable and unintelligent. Shallow, if you will. I was society’s darling – a product of its subtle scorn for romantics. It bled into my romantic life, too. I was an unhealthy mix of disdain and fear; scepticism personified. Then I read Bolu Babalola’s Love in Colour and all I have to say is that now, my Twitter screen name is ‘hopeful romantic’.
The passage that I quoted above, that changed me so deeply, was in fact part of the introduction! We hadn’t even yet gotten into the stories – and I was hooked.
Love in Colour is my favourite book – perhaps only rivalled by Bolu’s new book Honey and Spice (safe to say – she *gets* me). Never have I been more grateful for Twitter’s unrelenting grip on my life, because that’s where it found me. At a time when I was living a lonely, dull life, letting romance pass me by and leaning into inauthenticity in a way that nobody should.
“It made me want to taste that freedom, to touch love’s glory. To believe in it and embrace it and I did. I have”
When I read it, I felt seen, “in all my iterations, in every dynamic, brightly and in colour.” It was affirming in a way that I hadn’t ever experienced. This passage screamed warmth and hope and light. It made me want to taste that freedom, to touch love’s glory. To believe in it and embrace it and I did. I have. Pursuing a trust like this, a love like this, it is not easy. It is hard, intentional and sometimes painful work but it is so worth it.
Because of this love, this freedom, I have known romance and been held in tenderness – chocolate cake ‘just because’, annotated books that remind them of me and sister-friends who are my rock; the kind that people write about and pray for. My life overflows with depth and joy, even on the hard days, because I rest safely in the knowledge that I allow myself to be seen clearly by my loved ones and they love me just so. I can love and be loved, in spite of it all.
I know now that if there is one thing love is, it is insipidity’s antithesis. There is nothing in this world that has flavour like it. It is sharp and soft and sweet all at the same time and being able to experience it in its fullness and feel its plenty is a blessing.
Now, I believe in its transformative power; in decade long affairs and whirlwinds, too. I read and watch romance and sink wholly and fully into it. I love love loudly. I see life in technicolour: everything is magenta and hot pink. I dream and feel with intensity, but I am sturdy in a way I never have been because while love is freeing, it is also grounding. I am a better lover, writer, daughter, sister, friend. There is no delusion or shallowness here, only glorious hope.
I revisit this passage whenever I need a reminder of love’s goodness and while I maybe, probably, would have leaned into love without it – I like to think serendipity worked her charm and made it find me when it did. I’m pretty sure I’m right.
The Passage That Changed Me is a series curated by Aurelia’s Editor-in-Chief, Kya Buller, in partnership with gal-dem. This series is a short series of essays by people of colour from marginalised genders, celebrating the power of literature. Each piece will illuminate a writer’s personal response to a chosen literary text, exploring why it moved them, what path it set them on and how it changed the trajectory of their lives.