Category Archives: Serious

The DOs and DON’Ts of I LOVE YOU

Look, if nothing else, it’s always great when someone tells you they love you.
–Ross, Friends, “The One with All the Kissing”

I’m not particularly fond of Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had anyone to enjoy it with. Maybe I just think it’s a commercial holiday that says, “This is when you should love each other the most.” I dunno.

Maybe it’s because I think it emphasizes romance a bit too much. There are all kinds of love. There’s the love that parents (should) feel for their children, that siblings share, that friends share. And I don’t think people express it enough.

My whole life, one thing my parents have always said to me is “I love you.” Multiple times per day.         My dad is a very masculine guy – he’s a carpenter, bricklayer, concrete finisher, and he served in Vietnam. But he tells me he loves me every day, unless it’s a day that we don’t see or talk to each other. I get the feeling it’s not something he heard from my grandfather very often, and he wants to make sure it’s abundantly clear to me. It seems like fathers often don’t say that to their sons, especially as they get older. Sons seem to not want to hear it. Which is sad.

And you shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed to say it to your friends, either. I have no problem telling my friends that I love them, though I just realized I rarely hear it back. But it doesn’t matter. I know they do, too. Or I assume they do. 🙂

Conversely, some people use it entirely too much. Teenagers say it, often before they realize what it means. Some people say it to get others into bed. Some people say it because they want it so badly that they think, by saying it, they can will it to be true, or just to get someone to say it back because they want to hear it so desperately.

And that’s really just as bad as not saying it at all. When you actually love someone, you can’t overuse “I love you,” but when you don’t and say it anyway, it loses all meaning.

So here are my rules.

  • DO say “I love you” to your children. And mean it. Seriously. Let your kids know all the time that they’re loved and accepted.
  • DON’T say “I love you” to someone you’ve been dating for a week, especially when you’re a teenager and everyone else is pairing off and you just feel left behind.
  • DO say “I love you” to your partner, as long as you really do love them.
  • DON’T say “I love you” to your partner out of some sense of obligation. That degrades it.
  • DO tell your friends (and cousins and siblings, etc.) you love them. Even if they don’t say it back, they’ll like knowing how you feel. Sometimes, they may need to hear it, even if they don’t realize it.
  • DON’T tell someone “I love you” out of pity or guilt or just to reciprocate. Just because they say it doesn’t mean you have to say it back. And it doesn’t mean they necessarily want to hear it. If you feel like you have to say it, you probably shouldn’t be saying it.

Life screwed me up a lot as a child, and I’m still working on unscrewing it. It’s not anyone’s fault, really, but a combination of a variety of factors that I just wasn’t wired to deal with. But one thing I’ve never felt is unloved. I’ve felt unliked, unappreciated, unrespected, unencouraged. But I’ve never felt unloved. And I owe that to my family. No one has ever told me that they loved me without meaning it. I’m grateful for that.

“I love you” isn’t masculine or feminine. It’s a unisex term. It transcends culture and ethnicity and religion and sexual orientation. And when used correctly, it’s the most powerful phrase human beings are capable of uttering.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you should let everyone you love know it, instead of just reserving it for your partner. Make your kids heart-shaped pancakes. Send your friends an e-card. Whatever. Let’s make Valentine’s Day about all kinds of love, not just one specific type.

And let me know your “I Love You” rules, too. If I like them, I’ll add them in.

And if you like this post, you might also like my earlier post, What is Love (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me).

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A Mate for My Soul

(I apologize in advance for this. I wrote it at 12:30 at night and it’s a bit more scattered than I’d like, but…)

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I have amazing friends and relatives. Jaime, you were the first friend I ever had, and the only one I’ve ever gone on a road trip with. We know we get punchy after 11 hours in a car. Jena, there are very few people with whom I can talk about absolutely nothing for hours on end, starting out the conversation talking about phone poles and somehow ending up talking about soft pretzels. Stacey, we spent one day together in like ’97, and then I didn’t see you for years, but when you moved back we clicked in a second. I thank God for each and every one of you on a daily basis. I know no matter what I go through, you all have my back.

That said, I’ve still never found that one friend, the one who is as healthily crazy as I am, who shares all my interests, who truly, 1,000% gets me. And I’m starting to wonder if I ever will.

For some people, this friend is a sibling. For others, it’s a boyfriend or girlfriend. For still others, it’s that best friend from high school or college or work or wherever. The best term I’ve come across for this is “soul mate.” A soul mate isn’t necessarily romantic. It’s just that one person with whom you share a certain connection that can’t easily be explained, but you know you’d travel this world and others if they asked you to.

And I’d really like to find that person, the one who will drop everything if I need something, the one who will not only support my insane ideas but will even encourage them, the one who wants to go to plays and movies all the time, who reads fantasy and sci-fi. The one who, when a movie featuring some of our favorite actors is filming in town, will ride all over the city and countryside for days trying to find them, just for that hope of meeting them for 30 seconds and getting an autograph. The one who watches TV and gets as into it as I do. The one who thinks my ideas – no matter how crazy, stupid, immature, or strange – sound like a heckuva good time.  The one who hangs out with me almost every weekend, even if all we do is watch movies or TV on DVD and pig out on candy and popcorn. But, most importantly, the one for whom I can return the favor.

In Jena, Jaime, Stacey, and others, I have people who understand me. We love to be around each other and can complete each other’s sentences and practically read each other’s thoughts. But even though I understand them and they me, that doesn’t mean we get each other all the time.

Maybe I’m just too old to hope for such a thing. But I’d like to think that someday I might find mine.


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What Is Love? (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me)

“Love doesn’t make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I’ve never been in love. Well, with one possible exception, but that’s a very long, complicated story that’s best left unspoken.

I’m 26 years old, and I’ve never dated. And by that, I mean I’ve never been on a single date. Which I suppose has a few advantages. I’ve never had to experience an awkward, uncomfortable first date. I’ve never had to worry about whether or not I should kiss my date at the end of the night or if we’ll both tilt our heads in the same direction, resulting in a devastating nose bump from which there’s no recovery. I’ve never had to worry about meeting anyone’s parents or that I might say something to embarrass myself – well, okay, that one’s pretty much inevitable.

But I’ve also never even experienced my first kiss. How very Drew Barrymore of me. (Side note: I kinda like her and her many quirks.) And at this rate, one day it’ll also be very Steve Carell of me.

And though I go back and forth on how I feel about this, I think I’m actually kind of okay with it. Because while it sucks to never experience mankind’s deepest, most important, and most powerful emotion, I’d rather never experience it than experience the twisted version many people nowadays seem to have.

Yes, just because I’ve never been in love doesn’t mean I don’t understand the emotion. Which is more than I can say for most people.

First and foremost, people are so afraid of not being in a relationship. Why? For one thing, because they define themselves by their relationship status. If they’re not dating someone, people wonder why. “Is there something wrong with her?” “Is he gay?” “Does she drive people away?” “Is he secretly seeing a married woman?” “Is she an alien from the planet Flaflooga?” Well, maybe not that last one. But many people are driven to be in a relationship just because of public appearance.

And, of course, there’s the introverted factor, as well. They’re afraid of being alone. Which is understandable, but not being in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re alone. But it makes people ask themselves, “Why doesn’t anyone want to date me? Is there something wrong with me? Do I drive people away? Am I actually an ali—” Well, you get the idea. Which motivates people to look even harder.

And one thing I’ve definitely figured out from observation is that you cannot go searching for love. When you do, you settle for something that merely resembles it. Love isn’t something you can make happen. It’s something that you have to allow to take its own course. It’s a force unto itself, more powerful, perhaps, than gravity.

But people try to force it anyway, and we hear more all-too-familiar quotes – “He’s not too bad. I can change him.” “Her quirks don’t bother me that much.” “Once he settles down with me, he’ll grow up.” “Once she and I start living together, I’ll get used to it.” After all, this is what we’re “supposed to do.”

And this, friends, can be summed up in one very simple word: “Settling.” And settling is fine, if you’re picking a laundry detergent or a restaurant or an internet provider or which candy bar you’re having on your lunch break. But when you’re talking about the person with whom you plan to spend the rest of your life – well, I’d say that’s one time you should never settle.

Piece of advice: If you feel like you have to change the person you’re with, or if you feel you have to change against your will in order to make a relationship work, you’re probably not in love. When you’re in love, there’s no doubt. There’s no question. You look at them and there’s nothing you care about changing. Does that mean they’re perfect? Of course not. No one is. But you love them despite their flaws – or possibly because of them. And if they never change, you just don’t care.

They say relationships take work. And I’m sure that’s true. Sometimes you’ll have to do things you don’t want to do. But there’s a rather significant line between “work” and “This is driving me crazy!” Learn to recognize that line.

Honestly, I’d much rather be single for the rest of my life than experience some cheap imitation of love. Because even though I’m single, I’m not alone. I do have friends and family who care about me, who spend time with me, and with whom I can enjoy life. And that is what’s truly important in life.

I just refuse to settle when it comes to love.

Or what candy bar I’m having on my lunch break. It’s gotta be the Milky Way.


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