It’s this great, mythic obsession within our culture, finding the One, your dream happy ending, the absolute pinnacle and aim and scope of your life – Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, any film involving Colin Firth, most films today that aren’t about killing things with other things, it’s all about Love. Love, with a capital L. As if one day you’ll meet someone and just know that they are the one. As if you’ll get into a relationship with someone and be able to pinpoint a moment when things crossed over from merely liking them to knowing you were going to Love that person until the day you died. But, really, does it actually work like that?
I don’t think it does. Have you ever thought you were in love with someone? Have you then looked back, a few months or a year later and realised (or maybe even decided) that you were clearly mistaken? If anyone had suggested you were wrong at the time, would you have been pretty cross? Some people among my friends seem to ‘fall in love’ every few months; others claim they never have been in love, and as for me, I skirt the issue, avoid the question, but would probably if pressed hazard ‘no’, but mainly because I’m not sure (and don’t laugh me out of court here, this isn’t some ‘I Am Sixteen And Very Cynical And I Like To Wear Black Berets And Mourn The Death Of Feminism’ thing) I believe in love, at least not in the terms in which we’re expected to believe in it.
I think it’s kind of on a spectrum of feeling – of ‘liking’ if you will that extends from falling for strangers on a bus (we’ve all done it) to (perhaps) the kind of mythic Tristan and Isolde movie-tagline stuff we read and dream about – although I’m not necessarily sure that line does extend that far. Who knows. Anyway, I think we all stick a pin into that line at some point and that’s our benchmark, the plimsoll line for where we say that we ‘love’ someone rather than ‘really like’ them; and personally, I’m sticking my pin into the line quite far along to the right – I don’t want to say ‘I love you’ unless I know I damn well can’t live without you…
…except that everyone knows that most of us lose someone at some point, a lot of people lose someone they would have said they couldn’t live without, and by and large, we carry on – because we have to. So, I can’t mean ‘I can’t live without you’ when I say ‘I love you’; perhaps I can say I damn well know that you, dear Someone, are the person I want to wake up beside every morning until one or other of us kicks the bucket. But then who knows – tomorrow I might meet someone for whom my feelings are different but no less strong, and I throw a dart at that line and it lands just further to the right than it did for the person before, it’s not likely, perhaps, but it isn’t impossible and, well, surely, asking what Love is is like asking, how long is a piece of string, and personally I’m not sure that I want to buy into that.
I suppose someday that I’ll say it as a shorthand for ‘I like you enough that I very much doubt I’ll meet someone I’d reather be with and I want to build a whole life with you, assuming I don’t meet someone for whom I would jsut destroy that whole together-built life for a new, different, but probably no happier one. You make me grin, you make my heart stop, just by walking through the door sometimes, and if I was delusional I’d hear violins and stuff, and we’re looking at probably the most rightwards point that I have yet encountered on this spectrum of ‘liking’, so if that’s enough, here I am, and I am yours’ – I suppose at that point ‘I love you’ is so much simpler. Anyway, none of this crazy legendary do-or-die capital L stuff, I think that’s quite enough.
I mean, there’s room in my viewpoint for those moments where you meet the eye of a total stranger and suddenly feel completely exposed, completely comfortable in that, and bizarrely as if you’ve known one another forever. There’s room for grief and power and there’s the stuff of books and stories and a billion good and bad songs and ballads in that; it’s powerful stuff and it leads people to do some crazy, noble and beautiful things, but I think we tend to mythologise it and assume it’s so significantly different from merely ‘liking someone lots’ that we assume that it’ll hit us like a hammer between the eyes when essentialy ‘liking someone lots’ is exactly what it means. It’s up to you what you call that. I don’t think Love is significantly different, it’s just more, and I don’t know, still, when I’d switch from saying that I like and miss someone, to saying that I love them, but I don’t think there’s really a point where you know these things. I guess you just have to take the plunge at some point and say it becuase you think things aren’t going to significantly change for you and emotionally, this is probably as big as it gets. It strikes me that it’s a bit like climbing a hill in the mist – you never will know when you’ve reached the top, and you’ll probably keep thinking you have, before realising it was just a subsidiary, probably, but perhaps not.
Anyway, I’m not sure about where all this came from. Merlin, I guess (catch it on BBC iPlayer, it’s a bundle more laughs than I am today, although feel free to laugh at these crazy ranty sleep-deprived Jenny-ramblings because I know full well that I probably sound like one of those super-loquacious local-character pub drunks), and also Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body which you should definitely read. I am re-reading it now (Sorry M, it will get back to you soon, I promise, although I’ve been saying that for months – I do mean it this time) and I don’t re-read anything often, so it must be good and I strongly recommend that you look it out.
Next up, Jenny theorises about men. That’ll be fun! It involves one of my sister’s all-time favourite phrases, although I’ll try to leave it out for her sake (yep, you know what I’m talking about…).