I believe in the word love. Love, I recently realized, can mean anything. It can describe an individual’s favorites: I love the color red; or it can describe an individual’s relationship with another person: I love Ben.
I loved Ben. Or at least I thought I did. But I knew when I was saying it that I wasn’t supposed to. Supposed to. As if there exists a set of rules about relationships. Rules about when to say it or how to go about saying it. The unfortunate truth is that the media has established a set of “rules” regarding the utterance ‘I love you.’
Frankly, I love a lot of people.
In a get-to-know my friend situation, my mom takes me and my friend Katherine out to dinner. As we sit eating our pasta and breadsticks, my mom ventures to ask Katherine, “What do you like to do?” Katherine replies, “I play the piano. I’m Asian.” Her response leaves no room for polite inquisitiveness. She delivers her second sentence right after the first as if the two were actually one. I-play-the-piano-I’m-Asian. While my mom stares blankly in astonishment, I smile at my friend and state, “I love you.”
I exit my room and walk deliberately down the hall to my friend’s room. At the door I inquire pleadingly, “Nick?” My computer has freaked out again, and being technologically illiterate, I am rendered helpless. Nick follows me back to my room and sits at my desk staring intently at my computer screen as I bury myself in my bed pillows. After a few minutes of fiddling, he gets up and starts for my door, apparently having solved the problem. I sit up and say gratefully, “I love you.”
Love to me does not have any traces of mushy-gushiness. Love is still being friends with someone despite that person’s quirky habits. Love is being able to make yourself vulnerable by allowing a person to constantly bail you out.
As I lay on the floor in front of the couch, Ben sits down next to me and says that we need to talk. He begins telling me about his fear that one or both of us will get hurt in the end. I assure him that I am willing to take the risk and then decide to say it. I am hesitant. I know that the words mean something different to him. It means that it is serious. So I explain. “Ben, I love my bike. I love my roommate.” I use those examples to diffuse his fear. If I can love an inanimate object, then my love cannot be that scary.
Our relationship did end. But as I look back, I don’t think that I said it too soon or that I shouldn’t have said it at all. Because the reason I loved Ben was because I was attached to him. I was attached to him because I had disclosed so much of me to him. He knew my past pains; he knew my aspirations of the future; he knew my daily ups-and-downs that made up my present. I had let him in.
Love is opening yourself up to someone and asking them to simply understand. This I believe.
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