Thursday, December 15, 2011

Catching Fire (stupid pun so intended)

"I feel Jesus in the clumsiness of young and awkward lovers." - The Hold Steady

The following was published in the newspaper when my English teacher was in 11th grade, and she cut it out to save in her journal. Today she passed copies out to us.
And since she's usually pretty good about copyright, I'm assuming I'm allowed to share it with you. (Sorry about the masculine pronouns--it was in an advice column addressed to a girl whose boyfriend wanted to run away with her.)

Love, or Infatuation?
Infatuation is instant desire. It is one set of glands calling to another. Love is friendship that has caught fire. It takes root and grows--one day at a time.
Infatuation is marked by a feeling of insecurity. You are excited and eager, but not genuinely happy. There are nagging doubts, unanswered questions, little bits and pieces about your beloved that you would just as soon not examine too closely. It might spoil the dream.
Love is quiet understanding and the mature acceptance of imperfection. It is real. It gives you strength and grows beyond you--to bolster your beloved. You are warmed by his presence, even when he is away. Miles do not separate you. You want him nearer. But near or far, you know he is yours and you can wait.
Infatuation says, "We must get married right away. I can't risk losing him."
Love says, "Be patient. Don't panic. He is yours. Plan your future with confidence."
Infatuation has an element of sexual excitement. If you are honest, you will admit it is difficult to be in one another's company unless you are sure it will end in intimacy. Love is the maturation of friendship. You must be friends before you can be lovers.
Infatuation lacks confidence. When he's away, you wonder if he's cheating. Sometimes you even check.
Love means trust. You are calm, secure and unthreatened. He feels that trust, and it makes him even more trustworthy.
Infatuation might lead you to do things you'll regret later, but love never will.
Love is an upper. It makes you look up. It makes you think up. It makes you a better person that you were before.

"Love is friendship that has caught fire." I love that.

The problem with our language, I think, is that no one knows what the heck "love" means in any given context. This obviously goes for "does he like you, or does he like you like you?" thing, but what about the rest of the time? What about when you're actually in a relationship? Some people throw the word around like it doesn't mean anything, and some people take forever to say it to each other. What about in relationships of the non-romantic variety?

As much as the phrase "no homo" irks me, I think there really is a need for a new word for strong yet completely platonic feelings. The Greeks had what, four words for love? I tell my best friend that I love her all the time. Because I do. And she knows exactly how I mean it, and I can do the same with many other people.

But what about guys? There are male people that I greatly respect, admire, and care about in the same way, but that would just be awkward and weird on both sides. And that seems pretty of unfair to them.

That's straying away from the topic, though. Romeo and Juliet were not in love, but that's the word they used for what they were feeling. "Infatuation" is there, of course, but it has such a negative connotation to it that people don't want to use it. And "deeply in like" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

And if Romeo and Juliet were shown this newspaper clipping, would they agree that they were infatuated? No. They would use "love" anyway. Which is a problem, for a number of reasons:

  1.  It is possible and okay to be in a happy relationship and not be in love. That's why there is "like." The whole emphasis on "he hasn't said I love you!" is ridiculous. You can be attracted to and care about each other without being in love. Or infatuated, for that matter.
  2. Glamorizing unhealthy relationships as love makes it seem like said relationships are okay and/or ideal. My sister was listening to a song yesterday about someone who was willing to jump in front of a train for the girl he likes. Risking your life for someone is one thing. I would put my life in a not-insignificant amount of danger for many people. Jumping in front of a freaking train is something else entirely, as is not physically being able to live without someone (unless you've been together for decades, of course).
  3. It makes "love" mean less. At some point in the distant future when I am in a relationship I intend to last for a good while, I want to be able to say "I love you" and be told the same thing back and have it mean without question all of the things the newspaper article says it should.
Obviously those just apply to romantic relationships-- I don't see a problem with using "love" in any which way otherwise. It's easy enough to differentiate between love for a food, love for a TV show, and love for a passion. Not to mention deep appreciation/respect/admiration/whathaveyou for a person.

But yeah, those are my thoughts for the day.


  1. I like this, and think that I am going to link to it! On a related note, I was looking at my blog stats, because I am the type of insecure person who does that ( :) ) and, even though I post links to all the posts I make that I think are worthwhile on Facebook, your blog still is the source of full 1/4 as much traffic as FB, so thanks!

    On this post, I have a female friend who would tell me she loved me and qualify it with "in a strictly Platonic fashion." Although, we did end up in a relationship, so I'm not so much advising this as putting it forward as relevant information. Other not suggested options are to call them your bromantic partners, as nothing is creepier than the word bromance, or to say something like, "love you, no hetero!" This is not to say, of course, that you are not heterosexual, but that the love you are expressing has nothing to do with heterosexuality, which I'm sure is the analogous usage of "no homo," because if they weren't homosexual, then why are they so concerned with guys (or girls if it is a girl, but I kind of only picture guys doing this) getting confused about their intentions?

  2. From childhood, I always used LYLAS - love you like a sis. I still do that with a few gal pals because, as you say, it's difficult for me to say I love you. Why? I said it to you in my comments of a blog post - I meant it. But you have more free will with your emotions that I felt comfortable saying it. But it seems weird to say it out loud to anyone outside of my family. I should change that...

  3. @Kenny I always visit your blog directly from Google Reader, so I have no idea why you're getting so much from over here, but you're very welcome. :)
    There's something on TV Tropes called "heterosexual life partners," which is like a bromance.

    @butcept I feel honored. :)
    It used to be weird for me, too. I'm not exactly sure what happened to make it not be.

  4. I would imagine it is because you link to me sometimes. Also, I have a (male) friend with whom I used to joke about us being "heterosexual life partners." It was a joke because he is gay ;) I like the term "heterosexual life partners," though, it evokes an image of two old ladies living it up together in my mind. Bromance still just sounds creepy.

  5. Thomas here. Qasima sent me to this blog after I related to her an unfortunate romantic incident that happened to me recently. Wow, this perfectly mirrors what I've been feeling the past few days, except my thoughts are rather more incoherent. I very much agree that there needs to be a word for the whole deep appreciation/respect/admiration/etc thing towards someone of opposite gender. I can think of several girls who I feel that way towards but can't really express due to an inconvenient hole in the English language. And that reminds me, there ought to be a word for the special bond between PF partners. I'll bring this up at the meeting on Monday. Anyhow, I'll definitely be back in the future.

  6. @Thomas Unfortunate romantic incidents suck. I'm sorry. :( But I'm glad this has been of value to you.
    And yes, there definitely should be a word for that!


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