How do you know true love?
I can feel the eyes rolling already. “Oh, puh-leeze, Unicorn. ‘True love’, really? Are we telling fairy tales today, then? Easy – it doesn’t exist. Might as well chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Might as well chase a – Oh. Right. Well, go ahead, Unicorn. I’ll bite. How DO you know true love?”
Well, I’ll give you a hint: It does exist, and while there may or may not be some rainbows involved, it probably doesn’t look the way you imagine.
(“How do you know what I imagine, Unicorn? Who made you the boss of what’s in my head?” Shut up, dear reader, or we’ll be here all night. I’ve seen the same movies you have. ‘Wuv… twooooooo wuv…’ I know the drill, and I also know bullsh*t when I see it. As someone once said, “Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”)
I believe in love. Let me get that right out front. I’ve been in it, been out of it, tried to make the wrong one fit harder than OJ and the infamous glove, and ‘gave up on it forever’ for at least a couple of weeks – more than once.
Here’s what most of us know about love:
Love is awesome: Nearly everyone wants love – particularly of the apparently-elusive True variety. We grew up watching movies where Beautiful People(tm) find it, after a modicum of trial and error and usually some amount of inconvenience, and get a Hallmark/Disney hybrid ending, where Everything is Beautiful Forever and Ever, Amen(tm). Plus -
Love is blind: When you have it, it doesn’t matter if you’re the worst slob who ever lived, with poor hygiene and questionable ethics, someone out there is looking for YOU. (Possibly on the internet, where everything everyone says is true. “Um, Bahn-JOOR!”) Unless you’re looking to wake up next to a fake French model, or get nearly-swindled by a foreign con man, I do not recommend the ‘eyes wide shut’ approach to love. Next up –
Love is fleeting: AKA “Just Dance”. As the immortal Gaga said, “I’ve had a little bit too much […] How’d I turn my shirt inside out?” Fast, informal, hopefully fully consensual – this kind of love isn’t intended to last. Short, hopefully sweet, definitely not True. Let’s move on to –
Love is just a game: I knew someone once who honestly believed that love was a fake, a scam that half the world was trying to pull on the other half. The concept of love - a feeling of affection and attraction to someone – was OK, but in real life, it didn’t happen. Basically, we each try to find someone whose co-dependencies dove-tail as neatly as possible with our own, and live out our mutually-beneficial quasi-parasitic lives trying not to make ourselves and each other too miserable. This person felt that was the best we could hope for! And if that’s the case, we’d better make sure everyone has to share this misery, so we’ll pretend to be deliriously happy and suck in some more unsuspecting fools. Which brings us at last to –
Love stinks: We’ve all felt this way at some point. Love comes, love goes, it hurts so much that it’s just not worth it. F*ck you, love, and don’t let the door hit you in the backside on the way out. Sometimes we give up on this kind of love – and sometimes we hang around, sniping and biting and generally trying to destroy each other’s self-esteem and happiness without ever making the decision to actually leave. I mean, what’s the point? If it doesn’t get any better, why should I bother starting over, right? And if we do get out, we swear never, EVER to put ourselves through this BS again. Forever Alone(tm).
Most of us have probably found ourselves in one of those at one point or another. I’m not here to judge (and I wouldn’t, even if I was! Glass houses and all that…) I’m not going to define what your love should be. That’s not the point. I’m not going to say who is right and who is wrong, or tell you who, when, where or why to love. I’m just going to say that none of the above even brushes a crumb off the real thing.
The True thing. Yeah, back to that. I’ve told you it’s real, and I’ve told you that you probably wouldn’t recognize it if it whinnied right in your face.
Part of the reason is that it’s different for everybody. (Duh.) With the amazing variety of people and tastes and interests and passions in this amazing world, love would be very boring if we all did it the same. (Get your mind out of the gutter, please darlings... Doing it is only a very small part of doing it right.)
The real reason that we don’t recognize it is simple: nearly everything we’ve ever seen, heard or done has shown us that it’s something that it’s not. Movies, books, tabloid magazines, sitcoms and reality TV, all conspire to show us love as an irreconcilable paradox – something flawless and shining that we all should aspire to, which the fabulously wealthy throw away as meaningless more often than not, and which most of us will never get. The shinier (or gaudier) the package love comes in, the more the media loves it – think Royal Family. Think Brangelina. Think Kardashians. Ok, you can stop now. Have a drink or a shower and let’s keep going.
True love isn’t shiny. It doesn’t come in a box from Jared. That’s just decoration, and if that kind of thing lifts your canary, cool, but that’s just a bonus.
Love isn’t being blind to your partner’s flaws, and – despite what some will tell you – it’s not feeling that your partner has no flaws. Everyone has flaws. Some big, some small. Anyone who tells you otherwise probably works for Hallmark. It’s not loving your partner despite their flaws, weaknesses and imperfections – it’s loving them for them, for who they really are, warts and all. (Hey, I never said love was pretty. But if you’re doing it right, it’s pretty damned great.)
So after all this ‘not’, how about what ‘is’…? I’m still not sure you’ll recognize it when you see it, despite line after line of well-meaning babble. I mean, love is something you feel, not something you can see, right?
Ok, here’s what it is. See this: Two people, living in one house. One works at home; the other is between jobs. Money is kind of tight – as money often is. Both of these people have been around the block a few times. They’re not old, they’re not young – but that part doesn’t matter. They’re literally together most of the time. They sleep together (and sometimes other things). They wake up together, they eat together, they do work or household chores; they go back to bed together, and wake up again the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Do they get in each other’s hair? Sometimes. There’s an occasional bickering, a here-and-there misunderstood intention that leads to a look, that leads to a word, that leads to a few more, some a little loud. Then there are apologies, a few tears, hugs, kisses, and vows to listen more and talk less, or talk more and assume less. There is forgiveness. Sometimes there is make-up sex. The sun comes up, the clouds blow away, and life goes on. None of this means anything – it’s just noise, not even a thing, chicken wing.
But in between all of this, hidden in the cracks between the ups and the downs, is where the important part happens. It’s where life happens. And this is where you can see it. Look: A sink, in a room with a green-and-white checkered floor. Soap, a sponge, a bunch of dishes, squeaking as they are wiped clean. At the stove nearby, something delicious sizzles softly against the hot pan as it is stirred. A question, an answer, something mundane. Yes, work was Ok. Some stress – same old, same old. Nothing special here. Then, the spoon clatters down, a hand touches an arm, and with a soft smile, they pull into the center of the room – and dance.
Swaying gently, foreheads together, hands clasped, smiling at the foolishness of it all, everything else goes on hold for a few minutes out of time. Dinner, dishes, pets, bills, worries, the future – all move into shadow as the two move slowly, together, in the pool of sun from the kitchen window. Those things are still there, absolutely – but for now, they don’t matter.
They are Kitchen Dancing.
In this brief moment, they can only see the warmth in each other’s eyes, the curve of each other’s lips, and hear the soft murmuring of breath as they find their centers in each other. Balance. Harmony. A temporary, unexpected vacation to the
before picking back up the yoke of every day. land of Joy
So, True Love. Is that it? I’ll leave that to you to decide. But for these two, who live every day without a palace, without riches, and without a scripted Hollywood ending, there is something worth more than every greeting card, country music song, and box from Jared combined: There is a treasure far greater than the sum of its parts, and all the more precious for being something in which only they can find the value. There is sunlight, and the smell of soap and tomatoes and garlic, and – best of all – there is Kitchen Dancing.