“You almost feel ashamed. That someone could be that important that without them you feel like nothing.”
The first time I watched Rihanna’s “We Found Love” was like staring in a mirror watching my life with an ex sans smoking 20 cigarettes at once or sitting in a tub full of water fully clothed. The lead single from Rihanna’s sixth album, Talk that Talk, has generated quite the buzz for one reason or another. From speculations to the leading male model Dudley O’Shaughnessy portraying Chris Brown to the chatter about the videos interpretation to anti-rape campaigners enraged by what they see as Rihanna portraying herself “an object to be possessed by men,” her latest video has everyone talking that talk.
Outside of being cinematically and thematically one of the best videos I’ve seen this year, “We Found Love” taps into a feeling so real it’s eery. Drugs symbolizing toxic love isn’t exactly a brand new concept. But Riri captures it like no other. When I heard the monologue at the beginning of the video I remember feeling: when it’s over and it’s gone you almost wish you could have all that bad stuff back so you can have the good. More than anything her latest video is about an addictive, dysfunctional relationship that has both parties involved so high off love (or the obsession with each other) they’d rather have the toxicity than be without each other.
Prior to this year I had never written about my own domestic violence experience, but I had written lots about my disgust for Chris Brown’s actions and the women who still supported him. It wasn’t until Rihanna’s infamous 20/20 interview with Dianne Sawyers that I realized why their situation in particular was such a touchy topic for me. Listening to Rihanna speak about the two of them becoming “dangerous for one another because it was sort of an obsession” was like reliving my own hurtful relationship from when I was 20-21-years-old. I saw myself in Rihanna. Every word she spoke about being embarrassed by what happened to her, being embarrassed by falling so deep in love with that type of person and loving that person so unconditionally that she went back even after he beat her, could have been my own. It was my story except I had no fame, riches or PR team. I could visualize Rihanna and Chris’ situation when she said, “He had no soul in his eyes, just blank” because I’d seen firsthand what she described.
What’s more unfortunate than the abuse (both physical and verbal, and I’d argue verbal abuse is far worse) is that like Rihanna, I went back. That type of love was intoxicating. I can hear the ‘that’s not real love,’ chatter now, but until you are in a relationship where you feel what it is like to think you can’t live or breathe without a person, you may not understand. “We Found Love” is only a four minute glimpse of the highs and lows of addiction to toxic love. You live to fight. And then make up. There’s an intensity of highs and lows. The highs are so high you hope they don’t end. Realistically you know they will. Your entire life becomes this bubble where that love and relationship are the only things that matter. And the lows? They’re the lowest of the low. Gut-wrenching pain and confusion. Getting through one day without an argument is a victory. And through it all you both convince yourself that as much as it hurts you need each other like you need air to breathe.
I adore Rihanna because of the her transparency in this video. She bares her soul through her art. For people like me, the authenticity of it makes it relatable. Each time I watch the video I remember how a love so toxic can be so alluring. But as hard as it is to imagine that I was once in something so destructive, I’m also reminded that I’ve never treaded remotely close to anything that toxic since. Growth is a beautiful thing.