“Are you engaged?” My student asked, interrupting my explanation of indefinite or nonexistent antecedents in the subjunctive.
“No,” I answered, and continued my explanation almost without skipping a beat. I hoped that my expression was as neutral as my voice, but I suspected not.
To be engaged would imply that I had experienced some notion or incarnation of the mysterious beast known as romantic love. I have not; despite my admittedly short list of ex-boyfriends. There are so many other kinds of love, though. Familial love, that one has for one’s estranged sister, for your mother, for my aunt, for my parents, for that group of relatives I see on the holidays, and with whom I can discuss nothing but the weather.
Love for friends: for the friend who calls you at 2am in a panic, so you spend an hour calming him down; for the friend who hurt you and hasn’t spoken to you in a year, but she invites you to her wedding and you show up anyway, wishing her nothing but the best; for the friend I helped move out of her apartment.
Love for your fellow man, which makes me let people into my lane during 5 o’clock traffic, or stay 10 minutes after my office hours are supposed to be over to help the student who showed up at the last minute with questions.
Romantic love is like these, and at the same time completely different.
I’ve looked for it all over the place. I thought I’d found it with each of my ex-boyfriends, but I was wrong. Some people look for it at bars and parties, but all you really find at a bar is a piece of ass, and all you find at a party is a good time. Some people look for it at church or Bible study, but all you find there are people looking for a spouse.
Love and marriage have never gone hand in hand. You’re more likely to find a person who’s after a series of traits or an ideal, and when they look at you they see boxes checked off a list or your face on the image of another person they’ve created in their mind. They don’t see you and they don’t really want you. Love isn’t here, either.
What is love, then?
For what it’s worth, I think it’s when you know someone, all of them; their dark secrets, their shameful confessions, their bad habits, their best features, their talents, the way they laugh when they mean it, the way they move through the room. When you know what you like most about them and what irritates you more than you can say. And even on days when the good you see in them doesn’t outweigh the bad, you know that you would still choose to give of yourself– time, money, talent– to make their life better, to make them better whether they like it or not.
That’s the basic definition, anyway. All love has elements of this, but romantic love has something more.
Having never experienced it, I don’t know what it is, but I’m pretty sure that whatever it is, it’s so indescribable, we’ve put romantic love on a pedestal because of it. Not even those who have experienced it can say for sure what it is; some who think they’ve experienced it, haven’t and they confuse the hell out of the rest of us when they try to explain what they think it is.
But here’s the real problem: we’ve made it too important. So important, I’m afraid to say out loud that it’s not that important to me, because every time I do, others are quick and loud to contradict me.
“You just say that because you’ve never really been in love. You’ll change your tune when you are.”
Maybe so, but if I don’t, it doesn’t make my life experience or my perspective less valid. I’m not less of a person or an incomplete person having never been in love. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll never be in love, or maybe you feel incomplete without romantic love, but I think I’m alright as I am.
There are so many other kinds of love; I’ll manage.
This little ray of sunshine was brought to you by the angsty journal entry burning a hole in my notebook. And now, something easy to love– heart-shaped sugar cookies!
(recipe courtesy my mom)
2 ¼ cups ap flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup sugar
½ cup margarine
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon Almond flavoring
1 large egg
Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Cream margarine, sugar, vanilla, almond flavoring, and egg. Add flour a little at a time to creamed sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly.
Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight for best results. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.
Eventually, I’ll get around to finishing 50 shades, but I’m so busy right now, there’s just not time.