You see, Millat did not love her. And she thought Millat didn’t love her because he couldn’t. She thought he was so damaged, he couldn’t love anybody any more. She wanted to find whoever had damaged him like this, damaged him so terribly; she wanted to find whoever had made him unable to love her.

It’s a funny thing about the modern world. You hear girls in the toilets of clubs saying, “Yeah, he fucked off and left me. He didn’t love me. He just couldn’t deal with love. He was too fucked up to know how to love me.” Now, how did that happen? What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? […] We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greetings cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.

– Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)

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