A Little Happier: Does Love Make You Think, “I Must Be at My Very Best?”

I love reading memoirs, and I love the wonderful 1984 memoir D.V. (Amazon, Bookshop) by the brilliant, funny, imperious, Diana Vreeland. Vreeland was the iconic fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar and editor-in-chief of Vogue, and she helped shape the world of high fashion for decades.

She has many great observations in her memoir, for instance, “Songs last forever. They fix particular years in your mind.”

One thing I think about a lot is the nature of love. There are many kinds of love. I was very interested in an observation that Vreeland made about the nature of her relationship with her husband, Reed Vreeland.

He had a fantastic glamour for me. And he always retained it. Isn’t it curious that even after more than forty years of marriage, I was always slightly shy of him? I can remember his coming home in the evening—the way the door would close and the sound of his step….If I was in my bath or in my bedroom making up, I can remember always pulling myself up, thinking, “I must be at my very best.” There was never a time when I didn’t have that reaction—ever.

I have to say, this is not the attitude that I bring to my husband Jamie. It was fascinating to consider a completely different approach to a loving relationship.

This passage reminds me of another story that I discuss in A Little Happier episode, about a story that singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash told about a remark made to her by her husband, the musician, producer, songwriter, and recording engineer John Leventhal. After a recording session, she did with some other people, he told her, “I would’ve pushed you harder.”

Both these stories capture an important tension that exists within loving relationships. We want the people around us to accept us unconditionally, and we also want them to expect the best from us.

It’s one of my aphorisms: The opposite of a profound truth is also true. Love accepts you just as you are, and love insists that you live up to your potential. Love is unconditional, and love is demanding.

For Diana Vreeland, it seems, love was demanding, and that was the kind of love she valued most. I don’t think that’s true of everyone, but it was true of her.




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