“Recording this episode helped me challenge a lot of my assumptions about people who choose singlehood! If you’ve inherited the narrative that being single is a ‘temporary stop’ on someone’s life journey, then this one will open up your mind and your heart!” -Anita Rao
If the sight of pink teddy bears and bouquets of roses this time of the year starts to give you the ick… I’m with you. We’re inundated with messages about what our love should look like and how we should feel about them. But if I’ve learned anything in my years of talking to people about intimacy and relationships for my award-winning podcast Embodied, it’s that love doesn’t always look the way it’s presented in pop culture—or marketing.
Love isn’t about teddy bears. It’s about showing up and doing the work, even when it’s uncomfortable. So with that, I offer you a ‘Month Of Love’ reframe! What if Valentine's Day was less about performing your love and more about learning how to love yourself—and other people—better?
Here are some of the stories, insights, resources, and pieces of art that have helped me complicate my understanding of love and relationships. They’ve taught me how to better care for myself and the people I hold close. I hope they’ll help you do the same!
“We heard a lot about AI in 2023. But (IMHO) we didn’t hear enough about the deep, emotional relationships people are already forming with certain forms of AI technology and what that means for our human connections. That’s the gap this episode (and the other two in this series) filled for me. They helped me understand how new technology can be a tool for bettering my relationships…if I recognize its limits and have a clear understanding of when we need to put the chatbots away.”
AR: “This is a podcast that reminds me why I love podcasts—the intimacy you can feel with someone you don’t know… is unmatched! In taking you into their own story of embracing asexuality, Alene will get you to question your definitions of sex, romance, and attraction.”
AR: “It took the end of an eight-year relationship for me to realize that before I started dating someone seriously again, I needed to figure out how I want to be loved. Note To Reader: Don’t wait eight years to figure this out! I love that this comic so quickly gets to the core of this big and profound question: How do you want to be loved?”
AR: “Loving yourself well is all about making space to feel your feelings. So this one falls in the category of: Just Trust Me! Press play. Close your eyes. And I promise that you’ll be feeling something when you come out the other side.”
AR: “I aspire to be the friend/sister/ partner/boss who knows exactly what you need if you’re navigating heartbreak or hardship, but sometimes it’s hard to know! Enter: This incredible resource that you can ask your community to fill out (and that you should fill out yourself) so that we can all love each other a little better.”
And now, one last rec from Embodied’s lead producer
“As someone who has kept the spark of several long-distance relationships alive through letter writing, I loved the premise of This is How You Lose the Time War, where artfully crafted letters chronicle the love story of two would-be enemies in a different universe. The novella has a poetic beauty to it as well as sci-fi intrigue. It’s a unique and unlikely love story that will make you think about time, distance, and intimacy in a new way.” -Kaia Findlay
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of Embodied, the acclaimed weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health from North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC. Anita is passionate about exploring identity, connection and power through storytelling. She grew up in an immigrant, mixed-race family in the Midwest, and this constant straddling of multiple worlds fueled her curiosity.
She studied Women's Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and started her journalism career as an intern for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. For several years, she worked for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department. After returning to WUNC, she served as lead producer, managing editor, and guest host of the station’s flagship state-wide daily talk show, The State of Things.