Those Three Words
Oh, I don’t have to tell you which three words I’m talking about. This is, after all, a site for lovers of romantic fiction. And romance revolves around that magical feeling – that rush of emotion, adrenaline, endorphins, hormones, pretty much everything in the arsenal – that we call love.
I recently listened to a few of the TED talks from Helen Fisher, who has studied the neurological effects of love for years. She mentioned that love stimulates some of the same areas that are affected by a cocaine high. We can literally get addicted to love. And it’s not just the mad rush wonder we aspire to, it’s also the image of an old couple still walking hand in hand that fills us with longing for that longer-term closeness. That different kind of love which often starts with the fireworks before settling into a long-burning fire that keeps the soul warm when the world is cold out there.
Such a strong experience, one people sometimes live or die for. And yet I think for all that there are thousands of articles about love, thousands of books both fiction and non-fiction on the subject, we live love-deprived lives which can be so much richer.
The thought first surfaced in my mind when I listened for about the millionth time to Jason Mraz’s Details in the Fabric. The song starts with a phone message, whether one which a friend really left for him or something made up specially for the song, I don’t know. The words aren’t very audible, but it’s clear a friend phoned feeling very down over something in his life that had gone wrong. He ends the message with: “I love you, man. Bye.”
Just like that. Now, I know our Jason has had a few girlfriends in his time. I think if he were gay, he’d have had no qualms being open about it. No, this ‘love you’ is the kind of affection that exists between friends. He has of course also written Song for a Friend, and on one of the YouTube videos of him performing the song live, he introduces the song by referencing the kind of love that exists between ‘dudes’.
I spun a picture – perhaps a fanciful, unrealistic one – of friends who have either consciously decided to express their love for each other in words, or who have never been exposed to the strictures that rob us of the freedom with which we express our love for others as children. My little boy, Nicholas, got into the habit of saying to his friend Caolon: “I love you.” Nicholas had been home schooled, and was never exposed to peer pressure to watch his words. Sadly, I had to gently teach my noo that other people may feel uncomfortable with his relaxed outlook on love.
I’ve been privileged to befriend a wonderful guy called Lewis. If you read either of my blogs, you’re bound to have heard of him. Lewis is an artist, as I am, though his medium is sound where mine is words. We therefore have loads in common, and are often able to understand each other’s thoughts and struggles with little explanation. Either that or we’re both talking so much we leave with a sense of grasping the other’s state of mind while in reality just having talked ourselves through our own mindscapes. One day, in an email, Lewis said: “I love your work, and I love you.”
Yes, I did notice. I did hesitate, because let’s be realistic: he’s a guy, I’m a girl. While one reason our friendship could develop was because we were clear from the get-go that romance wasn’t an option, I’ve lived long enough to know people can be unpredictable even to themselves. After some thought, I replied: “I love you too.”
It was such a relief. I do love him, he’s a great friend. I loved him even more when one day he told me after discussing a personal issue: “I’d have burst if I didn’t tell some bloke. Thanks for being that bloke.” (I was quite surprised to discover Americans don’t always know what ‘bloke’ means. It would be similar to fellow, or dude. Definitely male.) It confirmed for me that we were clear on what we each wanted and needed from this friendship, and meant I could relax. I’m just one of the boys, in the unique way that only a girl can fill that role.
Since then, I have always signed my emails to Lewis: “Love you.” We joke about it, too: “Yeah, I just put up with you because I luuuuuurv you!” I said when I last visited and he slagged the living daylights out of me, as Belfasters are wont to do.
I wouldn’t take that risk with my other close male friend, Mark, as it still is a risky thing to say, bound to be misinterpreted. But wouldn’t it be great if we were allowed to freely express our feelings for the people we love in a platonic way? To say: “I love you,” and not have them run screaming from the room (all right, all right, get awkward and suddenly stop calling you, though the running screaming from the room thing might be what they want to do)? To hear two guys or two women say: “I love you,” and not assume they’re gay.
It could be argued that this free use of ‘I love you’ might cheapen the term. Perhaps we should keep those words sacred, special for the ones we bind our lives to as partners. I don’t know. I do know that it’s always nice to listen to Jason’s friend say: “I love you, man.” And that it’s really nice to be allowed to say it to my own friend.