Tuesday, January 07, 2014

That Word, Again

"As The Years Go By", Mashmakhan. This Canadian song from 1970 is, lyrically and musically, very much a part of its time. It is also, musically and lyrically, very interesting.  It's prompted yet another of my many musings on love and what it means when I say "I love you".

A child asks his mother do you love me
And it really means will you protect me
His mother answers him I love you
And it really means
You've been a good boy

At seventeen a girl says do you love me
And it really means will you respect me
The teenage boy answers I love you
And it really means
Can I make love to you
And as the years go by
True love will never die

I will love you forever
I will love you forever

At sixty five his wife says
Do you love me
And it means I'd like to hear it again
Her husband says to her I love you
But it really means I love you till the end
And as the years go by
True love will never die

Now you're asking me if I love you
And it really means will I marry you
And I answer yes I love you
But it really means that I won't be untrue
And as the years go by
True love will never die

I don't say "I love you" to just anyone, although sometimes it probably seems that way. Only to loveable people, and I haven't evolved spiritually enough to really believe in my heart that everyone is loveable.

It bothers me that I can't; that saying those three words, even to the loveable,  too often provokes such extreme awkwardness.

People feel they have to answer.  They don't, of course. If I say 'I love you', your feelings or lack of them for me are irrelevant. My love for you is valid because you are loveable. And, more important, I believe quite strongly that if someone only loves when they're loved back, that's not love at all. Remember Shakespeare's immortal Sonnet 116 and its lesson: real love is unconditional. Putting conditions or requirements on love makes it ersatz...depending on what those conditions are, even a gross perversion of love...something like possessiveness. That, to me, is so far from love it might as well be hate or indifference.

If you do choose to answer me, you are under absolutely no obligation to return the words. The corollary of that, which is every bit as critical, is that if you do, you need not worry that I'm going to then obsess about it. "She loves me! What does that mean?"  I was a teenager once, and did my fair share of obsessing over things a lot more innocuous than "I love you"--which I never heard back then...unsurprisingly, because if I was worthy of anything at all, it was contempt. I could perhaps aspire to pity on a good day. So I'd manufacture love out of a smile or even less. I knew I was deluding myself, of course, but I lived in those delusions anyway. They were preferable to reality.

But I think I've grown up now. "I love you" means that to you, I am loveable...which is a nice thing to hear. It means my efforts at being loveable are working, which is great, because that's pretty much at the root of everything I am trying to be in my life. But in and of itself, it doesn't mean anything else...if it does, whatever you mean by those words is probably pretty clear in context.

What do I mean when I say those three words?

The truth is, there is one woman in my life for whom the words "I love you" mean everything. That woman is Eva, and I hope she never forgets it. I certainly try to remind her of it often, in words and deeds. It was Eva I married, and I take my marriage seriously.

But of course I love others, quite a few of them. We all do--anyone who claims to only love one person is either lying or dangerous. (Try being the object of "love" that is that single-minded. It's unpleasant at best and quite often fatal.)

What does my love mean?

Different things for different people, of course. I love people I should have no business loving.  My first love, for instance...whom I've unfriended on Facebook. Other people I've dumped or who have dumped me. I'll never stop caring about any of these people (much as I admittedly sometimes wish I could)--and if that's not love, what is it, exactly? Yes, it is indeed possible to love people you don't even like. Just ask any parent with a child who has gone bad.

And there are others, people still in my life (so glad to have them!). Some people might blunt the sharp edge off the L-word with the lesser word "like"--which is hopelessly inadequate. (And I've noticed over the years a kind of love-creep where if you say "I like you a lot", it provokes almost the same squeamishness as "I love you"). Fact is, there is a sizeable set of people for whom I would do damn near anything....short of hurting my wife in any way. If one of you loses your house, we'll make it so you can share ours if need be. That's one small example, but I mean it and I don't think 'like' suffices to describe it.

The things "I love you" doesn't mean, and never has for me, are referenced in that song above. One: "you've been a good boy". That REEKS of condition. If we'd had children, they'd have learned that we we'd have always loved them...but certainly reserve the right to hate something they did.
Two--and I say it often, but it must be repeated over and over--"can I make love to you". I detest that phrase (say it with me now, "isn't the love already made?" and would never use such a strong word as love to describe mere lust. Women who are not my wife need not fear I have carnal designs on them.

I'd like to start saying "I love you" more often, to more people. I'm hope this helps them understand just how much I mean by it -- and how little they need read into it.

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