I don’t know why I find that word sad, deliciously sad.
I had just wrapped up a French animation flick, “J’ai perdu mon corps (I Lost My Body),” on Netflix when I thought of writing this piece on sad words.
The 81-minute film won accolades at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It also earned a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, where it lost to Toy Story 4.But tender, that’s how the film feels to me and that is exactly how I would describe it in a word. Not sad, but tender, which is not the same thing.
The word is the offspring of the Anglo-French adjective tendre that denotes softness or delicacy. There is a neediness to tender that reminds me of such delicate or sensitive matters as people in the tender ageor the sick and the elderly, who need loving care, or moments you need to be more caring or careful about, lest you lose them.
You’re thinking, nothing’s wrong, you string along, boy, then snap. Those eyes, those sighs, they’re part of the tender trap.The Tender Trap, 1954
In most writing courses, however, the imperative always is to “Show, Don’t Tell.” And so, in a book, I don’t want to see the word tender as much as I want to sense it—to hear it in the ripple on the surface of a lake, to feel it in intertwining fingers, to hold it in my arms like a newborn in his father’s care, to savor it in soft, lingering, tentative kisses. On the contrary, it called my name on the cover of Tender Is the Night, the last of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s completed novels, which caused him grief because he considered it to be his masterwork, but it was met with mixed reviews and lukewarm sales. It was a tender moment that in 1998, 58 years after his death,Tender Is the Night tookthe 28th slot on Modern Library’s list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
This week I asked some of the most beautiful women I know for their version of tender or a sad word that they find so beautiful.
It’s a bit overused, but I’ve always liked it. It reminds me of the smell of paint. You know I used to paint only when I was sad. That emotion used to be a requirement. It was melancholy thatreally got me to paint in earnest, so the word reminds me of the first time I painted for a season. I remember a nice glass of wine and music too. —Love Marie Ongpauco Escudero
The word carries the longing, the hopelessness, the despair. Is there an end to it? Here’s where your faith steps in and you hope it’s enough to see you through. —Hindy Weber
It contains intent, desire, yearning, or a wish and wraps it with within melancholy. It’s tied to the past through nostalgia and sometimes regret, reflections on what could have been. Just one letter differentiates it from the more optimistic wishful, which I can’t help but associate right now with trauma and tragedy. —Jae de Veyra-Pickrell
The word reminds me of an intense longing, of something that could have been but never was. —Apples Aberin
Because of how melodic it sounds when it rolls off your tongue. —Stephanie Kienle Gonzalez
I always find the word crestfallen a romantic way to describe feeling dejected.Maybe it is because the first time I read the word was in the novel Emma by Jane Austen when I was a teenager. —Rocio Olbes-Ressano
It pulls up a memory of significant hurt and successfully refreshes the experience anew. And it provides a pragmatic air to the feeling or emotion. Which is sad, to be honest. —Tweetie de Leon Gonzalez
In his book Ignorance, Milan Kundera explained the meaning of nostalgia: “The Greek word for return is nostos. Algos means ‘suffering.’” I remember being a melancholic nomad, fresh out of high school, brooding in Parisian cafés, happy at having left the past behind. I hadn’t quite understood its meaning but yet it had struck a chord. Could I possibly be nostalgic for what had not yet happened? An “unappeased yearning to return” to something I had not yet experienced? It seemed like a premonition for the many upheavals in my life, the loves and lives lived and lost, until finally discovering the most precious of all kinds of love, the one for myself. Time and again, particularly now in this strange and uncertain new world, that nostalgia creeps up from behind, startling me. I embrace it like an old friend, then release it into the ether. —Stephanie Zubiri