Monday July 2, 2012
What’s love got to do with it?
But Then Again by MARY SCHNEIDER
These days everybody says ‘I love you’ to everybody. What do the three immortal words even mean anymore?
WHEN I was a child my mother never told me she loved me. Parents were just not that demonstrative way back then. If your mother wasn’t abusing you in some way, you just assumed that she loved you. These days, if a child is not told that they are loved by their parents, they might grow up to be dysfunctional and have to undergo years of psychotherapy to compensate for perceived hurt.
How come we’re all getting so soft?
I remember the first time anyone told me they loved me. I’d been dating him for about four weeks (but it felt like four minutes) when he blurted it out at the end of a night out on the town. Although part of me felt all warm and fuzzy at the mere thought of someone being in love with me, another part of me was thinking that his declaration was a bit premature.
If I added up the time we’d spent together, it would amount to less than 12 hours. In between dates, there were no telephone calls, or text messages, or Skype sessions, or Facebook comments to help us get to know each other better. So I did wonder if it was possible for someone to fall in love so quickly.
I also remembered the words of advice a girlfriend had given me before I started dating: “Be wary of guys who declare their love very early in your relationship. Sometimes it is nothing more than a ploy to get into your knickers.”
“Ooh, he loves me,” a naďve girl might think. “That means we’re going to be together forever. So it’s probably OK to sleep with him.” BIG mistake. If a guy really loves you, he won’t pressure you into having sex with him ... well, perhaps he might still be tempted. As all these thoughts were running through my head, my date was looking at me expectantly.
He didn’t look like he was manipulating me, but who could tell? Maybe he did love me. Maybe he’d misread me and was expecting his feelings to be reciprocated. I mean to say, you’re not going to rip your heart out of your chest and lay it at someone’s feet if you have even the teensiest suspicion that they’re going to stomp all over it, or give it the silent treatment. Hearts are delicate things that need to be protected.
I wanted to say something to fill up the silence, but I didn’t just want to meekly capitulate and say something like, “Me too.” Especially since I really wasn’t in love with him. So being ever so polite, I said, “Thank you.” His disappointment was palpable. He looked miserable and although I’d done nothing wrong, I felt like a real jerk.
“Thank you! Is that all you can say? I open up and make myself vulnerable, and you respond as if I’ve just offered you a square of chocolate,” he probably wanted to shout but didn’t.
That was our last date. I guess he was either disappointed about the lack of love or his inability to get me into bed, but I never figured it out.
Fast-forward 35 years and things are even more confusing, with many people declaring their love to almost complete strangers.
For example, I attended a charity dinner the other evening, where the organiser stood up to thank everyone for their contributions. Then he looked out at the sea of diners and said: “I love you all.”
I felt like vomiting at his insincerity. Like, who did he think he was? Justin Bieber?
Even when someone like Justin Bieber tells his millions of fans that he loves them, he doesn’t really have that depth of emotion for that many people. He’s grateful for the adoration, and the huge bank account, and the fame, but he can’t possibly love millions of people.
As I write this, millions of Facebook messages and text messages are whizzing around with “Love you lots!” or some such closing comment tagged onto them. People are telling each other that they love them, without even stopping to think about the truth of their feelings. Indeed, “I love you” is fast becoming so diluted that it wouldn’t surprise me one day to have a supermarket cashier shout out “luv you!” instead of the standard “have a nice day!” as I depart with my groceries.
Perhaps we need to come up with another word to describe our intense feelings for someone special. Alternatively, we can ask everyone to stop abusing the L word. Maybe Justin can find another word to describe his feelings for his fans.