One of my college lecturers gave me three big bits of advice. Two of them were useful and one of them wasn't. The first was while I was still studying. I'd go to her office and tell her what I wanted to write about. One day she got bolshy and said, 'Why do you want to write about all these things you already know about? Are you trying to make yourself look clever? Why don't you give yourself a treat and actually learn something? Why don't you write about something you don't know?' It's exactly the opposite of the advice that everyone always gives writers: 'Write about what you know.' She had the idea that if you set out to write about what you didn't know then you might find out about it in the process. The idea of writing a book about love was a project very much in that vein. I didn't really have a clue about it but I wanted to work something out. (I had done a lot of fieldwork boyfriends, girlfriends, marriage, etc. but hadn't reached any firm conclusions.)
Her next bit of advice was just before I graduated. She said, 'You shouldn't wear such high platform shoes you'll fall over and hurt yourself.' I chose to rise above that one literally, on my big shoes. But then I met her at a dinner about ten years later, and immediately noticed that she was wearing very tall platforms. We talked about what we'd been up to for the last decade being married and having children and how hard it all was. She told me her father had always told her to marry a kind man, but that she'd completely ignored his advice and always gone for bastards. Now she was in her fifties she could see that he was right. It hit me like the most revelatory idea. 'Wow! You're supposed to choose a partner who's nice to you!' It fed into a crisis I was already having and my marriage ended about a month later.
I mention this just because, while I have serious reservations about giving advice especially on a subject as complex as love I can see that there's a place for it. Apart from the fact that you can very easily ignore advice, there's also the possibility that it may change your life.
So, for the rest of the week I will try to answer some of the questions people might have about love. I won't be doing this because I actually think I know the answers, but because I think love is a subject worth thinking about, speaking about and generally taking seriously. The advice may be life-changing or utterly ignorable, it's not for me to say. But if there's something that seems worthwhile to you to ask then I will try as hard as I can to answer in a way that seems worthwhile to me. And with a bit of luck, between us, we won't be wasting our time.