Brain Pickings

You Deserve a Medal: Honors on the Path to True Love

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We’ve been fans of designer Stefan G. Bucher every since his wonderful ongoing storytelling experiment, Daily Monster. This month, he’s back with what’s easily his most thoughtful project yet: You Deserve a Medal: Honors on the Path to True Love — a poetic, wonderfully illustrated homage to the many braveries of modern love, with all its romantic trials and tribulations. With 40 witty, beautifully designed medals that honor the small and significant feats of relationships, the book is an absolute gem of humor and humility.

A “love medals glossary” breaks down the design and iconography behind the insignia, and three of the medals — “The Worst-of-Days Medal for Heartbreak Survival,” “The Molten Medal for Overwhelming Sex Appeal,” and for “The One-in-a-Million Medal for True Love Recognition, Appreciation, and Reciprocation” — have actually been produced as physical medals, sculpted and stamped out of metal.

But what makes the book most fascinating and precious is that beneath the tongue-in-cheek tone lies not the usual cynicism about love but a genuine yearning for its rich complexity and its subtle manifestations.

It’s not about winning medals, it’s about doing something that will make somebody else happy, and THEN winning a medal for it. Think of the thing that makes your cynical self cringe with embarrassment, then do exactly that.” ~ Stefan G. Bucher

The project did start in the wake of a breakup. I had fallen into a difficult long-term relationship. After it ended and I got my bearings back I turned to the online personals. In the process I met a lot of amazing people who were baffled by love, too. It just became clear that we should get some damn awards for all this effort.” ~ Stefan G. Bucher

Playful as it may be, with its gamification and Foursqaurification of love, You Deserve a Medal gives us pause about the complicated dynamics of modern romance. After all, as much as we try to convince ourselves and our therapist otherwise, we all play the games of love, but we also long for that deeper connection underneath — might as well get some tangible rewards for it.

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