“Why is the measure of love loss?” (Winterson 1993, 9)
Reading this quote in the beginning of Written on the Body I didn’t understand what Winterson meant by this. As I read further in the book I began to understand what she meant. When the narrator was breaking up with one person to get with another, they were seeking love by leaving what they thought love could be (with that person), but realized was not. With each person that the narrator broke up with, they were entranced by someone new. Each time that they moved on from someone they felt pain from the messy breakup before. This is how they knew that at one point they had loved; the feeling of pain told them that they had loved. They were confused with themselves, knowing that the relationship that they left was no longer love, but also uncertain about finding love with the next person.
Another time in the book where I saw a connection to this quote was when the narrator left Louise. They claim that they left out of an “act of love” for Louise’s health and wellbeing, but she had no input in their decision to leave. All the narrator ended up with was pain and longing to be reunited with her.
When reflecting on what this all means, the “so what,” I found that for the narrator, pain is the measurement of love. Consistently throughout the book the author recognizes their love through pain, and in the end pain was the only way that the narrator could feel, remember and relive their love. In the first example they couldn’t measure the love that they had so they jumped from relationship to relationship quickly, hurting after each breakup. In the second example they realized that leaving Louise was as mistake when they could no longer bear the pain of being separate from her. Pain gave clarity to love that the narrator could not previously identify.