The shape of love: why a heart and not a circle?

By Danielle Turner
Guest Writer

February 14, 2013

In high school, I drew hearts around the names of the boys I liked, just thinking it was “cute.” Then one day, a boy from one of those hearts told me that I should start circling names instead of putting hearts around them.

Shocked by a change in what I believed was a centuries-old tradition, I demanded to know why he was challenging such a beloved hobby of mine.

He told me that hearts were breakable, but circles went on forever. At the time, I thought it was adorable and followed his instructions by circling his name until he proceeded to break that allegedly “unbreakable” circle.

But, looking back, I realize what he said was very true. Why are hearts a symbol for love when there are other options?

​First of all, a heart shape is not, in fact, in the shape of a real human heart.

A human heart has no uniform symmetrical shape. It is difficult to draw, and as human beings are particularly fond of symmetry, the true shape of the human heart simply isn’t an option. Plus, the shape of a human heart is not at all suitable for fitting names into, as so many girls are fond of doing. Therefore, another shape had to be chosen to symbolize love.

​Circles are quite suitable for representing love. They are never ending, and have no clear beginning or end, much like love.

However, love, both in marriage and beyond, is rarely smooth, and does not often have a clear beginning or end. It does not work for high school love, which is often tragic and fraught with heartbreak.

And because rings, and therefore circles, are already used in marriages, no one could plagiarize the idea. Therefore, a circle was out of the question.

​I’ve heard a few times that hearts were chosen to represent love because they represent the shape of the female body. Well, I have seen many female body shapes, and very few look like a heart. Some look like an oval, some a square or a rectangle, and some even a triangle.

A triangle is similar to a heart, just with sharper edges, so why not use a triangle instead? Perhaps because a triangle was already taken to represent the Christian trinity. So that wasn’t an option either.

​Despite all of the reasons that hearts do not work to represent love, I could not imagine a world without hearts.

I would have perfected drawing some other obscure shape in high school and would now have significantly less talent in making valentines. Love can be smooth for the most part, but at times it has its curves and corners, just as a heart does.

However, with practice, we can learn to perfect these curves and corners, and can arrive at the end just the same, only to start again at the beginning, just as a heart does.

Although hearts may not be perfect for representing love, I believe they’re just as ideal as any love could be.

Danielle Turner is a junior majoring in Secondary Education English and can be contacted at dturner@lhup.edu.

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