Love is like a fight between a kangaroo and a crazy coked-up Mike Tyson held on a pimped-up submarine. Nobody ever saw it in real life but everybody expects that it should be entertaining for at least 25 years.
With Valentine’s Day upon us once again, love is in the air. If only we could define what the heck “love” is. When I asked a random sampling of people to finish the sentence, “Love is…” the answers proved that when it comes to defining love, love is...pretty much indefinable. Attempts to define it ranged from the predictably cynical – “Love is…a four letter word.” – the unabashedly optimistic – “Love is…perfect.” – to the, um, creative -- “Love is like a fight between a kangaroo and a crazy coked-up Mike Tyson held on a pimped-up submarine. Nobody ever saw it in real life but everybody expects that it should be entertaining for at least 25 years.”
Love, is no doubt so difficult to define in part, because it is so loaded with contradiction. According to the answers I got, love is “a gift,” “a blessing,” and “a curse.”
It is without expectations but also too needy. Love is unconditional and selfish.
Love makes your heart beat madly. Love makes your heart stop.
Dictionary definitions aren’t much help:
“An intense feeling of deep attraction” or “A deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.” Not exactly poetry. And more than a little general, because, clearly, love is often in the details: “Love is…the warm, tender, fuzzy feeling I get from swiping the drool off my boyfriend’s cheek in his sleep.”
Love can be kind: “…wanting the other's happiness.”
Quiet: “…remembering that sometimes, the best thing you can say is nothing.”
Trusting: “…allowing myself to really be myself with someone and not having them run away screaming.”
Accepting: “…when you accept the person as she is without wanting changing her.”
Altruistic: “…when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”
And forgiving: “…when you recommend your ex-wife for a job because you think she'd be good for it, even though your break-up has been beastly, and even though you know that getting back together isn't in the cards and wouldn't be a good idea anyway.”
With all that going for it, it’s no wonder we imbue love with such extraordinary powers.
Love conquers all, as we say. And sometimes it clobbers us. “Being is love was like running barefoot along a street covered in broken bottles,” says Canadian author Margaret Atwood. It’s blind, addictive (“Love is…the drug”) and makes us mentally ill (“crazy in love”).
It means everything. It means nothing (“it stands for zero in tennis”).
Perhaps some of us are better at defining love than others, or, perhaps, as essayist Nora Ephron suspects, “everyone is faking it.” Then again, defining love is perhaps a useless exercise because, as American writer and social active Rita Mae Brown puts it: “What we say about love and what we do about love are generally two different things.” Which is why I agree with one person I asked who simply said that, “Love is... what you want it to be.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.