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COLUMN: Let's Talk About Love

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 23:02

What is it about being in love that makes us think in poetry? That makes us want to sing songs and dance and jump off of rooftops, grow wings, and fly to the stars? That burns holes in our hearts while simultaneously making them feel fuller and brighter? That transforms all of our rational thoughts into mush and makes us want to say "forever" over and over again like a lyric stuck repeating on a broken CD? That turns menial activities like doing homework, going to CVS, and walking to class together into grand adventures? That makes us literally feel colors when our loved one is in the same room as us? I don’t know, but it sure is weird sometimes. So, I’d like to talk about it.

I apologize in advance. Writing today’s column about any other topic besides love would seem too contrived. I know you’re trying to avoid knowing it, but today is Valentine’s Day. Not talking about it won’t make this day exist any less. It will probably just make it exist more, like that giant pink elephant in the opinions section of a student newspaper that just so happens to come out on Feb. 14 where people seem to have something to say about everything except love. Or, like the sole female opinions columnist for this particular Heights issue (me) purposely doesn’t have an opinion on love today. Don’t worry, she does.

It’s really easy to become jaded when it comes to love. Some people have had their hearts severely broken and claim never to want to get involved in another relationship ever again. Others passionately throw themselves into new relationships and find themselves completely devastated or pleasantly surprised at the outcome a few months later. Others are good at staying above the surface of extremely deep emotional waters when they enter a new partnership. Regardless of the situation, the truth is that we’re going to continue getting hurt until we don’t—that is, until we find the person who wants to spend forever with us. And even then we’ll probably still get hurt sometimes.

It is said that people’s levels of happiness remain pretty steady throughout the various happenings of their daily lives. Some events cause happiness to temporarily skyrocket, while others cause it to temporarily plummet. In the end and after a bit of time, though, a person will always level out back to their default level of happiness. I’d like to compare this to how I feel about love. Regardless of whether something devastating or beautiful happens in my love life, I will be temporarily affected but will soon level back out to my original view of love. I’m happy to say that I’ve remained un-jaded, relatively optimistic, and hopeful.

I’ve been on a Sex and the City kick lately, soaking in the love lives of four of the most fabulous women in television history. I think I’m the most like Carrie Bradshaw, weaving in and out of the Aleksandr Petrovskys and the Aidens and the Mr. Bigs and staying positive (and writing a column about it), despite the way-high ups and the way-low downs. In the final episode of Sex and the City, Carrie finally snaps at the cold and semi-heartless Petrovsky, the Russian artist with whom she flew to Paris to live and with whom she eventually has a failed romance, and says, "I am someone who is looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love." In a perfect world, I’d like that, too. I think anybody would, really. I completely admire that level of idealism and positivity, and I’m still trying to figure out how that kind of love can mutually exist between two people for forever. I am also still trying to figure out the lesson in the fact that, no matter how many times Mr. Big was a huge heart-breaking jerk, Carrie ended up with him anyway. HBO, does love really conquer everything?

While self-proclaimed idealists like myself want to believe that love is the thing, we should also appreciate the Mirandas of the world—the slightly cynical realists who keep the Carrie-type dreamers from soaring too high without a safe way down. We, the Carries, need those. It’s really easy to get caught up in a new romance or in those intensely passionate butterflies-in-your-stomach feelings and lose your ability to think about a situation rationally. Then again, "It wasn’t logic. It was love." Thank you, Carrie. I knew I could count on you.

If you think about it, love is just a series of hormones being released into our bodies one after the other after the other. Our bodies are well-oiled machines, systems of complex processes and mechanical operating systems that follow a pretty rigid set of procedures. It’s the ultimate paradox, however, how these allegedly "typical" hormonal processes cause such atypical behavior. How many of us have ever done something particularly crazy or irrational in the name of love, including but not limited to masochistic Facebook stalking, throwing our iPhones across our dorm room as if it’s the phone’s fault that our texts are going unanswered, spewing an intense drunken love confession, creating a pathetic iTunes break-up playlist and sobbing hysterically to it, or standing outside of somebody’s window in the rain (tossing pebbles not required or encouraged, Taylor Swift)? Even the strongest of strong feminists and the manliest of anti-emotional manly men go weak at the knees for their loved ones.

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Thu Feb 14 2013 18:29
To the author:
I liked your article. It got me thinking about my own perspective of what love is. I'll start by saying that I am certainly not an expert on the subject by any means whatsoever.
Without labeling myself as an idealist or a cynic, I would like to take a shot at answering some of the questions you posed at the beginning of your piece regarding what it is about love that makes people feel the way they do when they experience it. As far as I know, there is nothing in our nature as human beings that makes love a necessary part of the human experience, which is to say that at the animalistic level our species has a natural inclination to reproduce itself. However, procreation does not entail any kind of emotional connection-which is fundamentally what love is.
With that said, somewhere along the way romantic love manifested itself-for better or worse. My argument is that romantic love (i.e. the kind that valentines day is known for) is hardly anything more than a self-perpetuated social stigma coupled with one's inherent fear of being alone. Both factors are fueled by the imagination, which becomes painfully obvious when one tries to apply any kind of reason towards love (try telling a friend that he or she is in a bad relationship at a time during which they claim to be in love and see how well your "reason" is received). I think that everyone is afraid of being lonely. People inherently crave both recognition and the feelings we describe as love. Once we have a relationship with someone, the door is open to create a reflexive mode of recognition and affirmation. Just add lust, stir, and presto! Those are all the necessary ingredients for the modern conception of romantic love.
Once one has this feeling of love, or more specifically being loved, one tends to cling to the positive emotions which naturally come with that feeling. Inherently, idealistic notions of permanence arise, yet the unfortunate reality is that human beings are constantly evolving creatures. Our perspectives are constantly being shaped, reshaped, turned upside down, idealized, and crushed by our life experiences. With that changing perspective comes a natural change in our tastes and preferences. Trying to apply any idealistic notion of permanence to such a situation is an exercise in futility. So is it possible to find someone who you can share the rest of your life with? The answer is yes, but not for the reasons we might want to believe.
Romantic love that lasts a lifetime is certainly possible, but it can only happen if one's partner has a perspective which evolves in a way that remains compatible with one's own through time. But such compatibility over time is very rare indeed.
Yet I don't consider this reality to be overly pessimistic. Moreover, I don't see why "true love" must necessarily be synonymous with "everlasting love." Isn't all love true to one degree or another? I think we would all do well to stop clinging to such idealistic notions of love which do nothing but set us up to get hurt. Easier said than done? Probably. But maybe recognizing that we are individuals who are constantly changing might make it hurt a little bit less when one of our partner's perspectives evolves in a way which deviates from our own, resulting in our decent back into the realm of singleness.
Happy Valentines day

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