At what point does it become meaningful to tell someone that you love them? (Note: ‘meaningful’ rather than ‘appropriate’ – I’ll get on to that later).
Whenever I feel a degree of emotional confusion, I turn to a dictionary. If you’re confused about love, ambition, loneliness, friendship… I highly recommend looking up what these words mean to check you have have correctly diagnosed the problem. Compare and contrast love with obsession, infatuation, or just plain lust; compare ambition with greed, pride and vanity… and so on. It brings a certain painful clarity.
So, I looked up love. It means “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person”. And 27 other slightly different things. It can be used as a noun, verb or idiom. No wonder we find it hard to verbalise our emotions, we have ONE word to describe our warm feelings for anything from fish and chips to our children.
We have to infer the true meaning from the context… which is what had me trawling through pages and pages of love quotes. Often it becomes easier to express ourselves if we are surrounded by the attempts of others to do the same. My favourite was from Hawkeye in “Love Story”, an episode of M*A*S*H first aired 7 January 1973 (script written by Laurence Marks): “Without love, what are we worth? Eighty-nine cents! Eighty-nine cents worth of chemicals walking around lonely.” Or in my own words, love gives us worth because we are worth something to someone else.
It follows, for me at least, that “I love you” is a meaningful thing to say to anyone in your life whose very presence in your world gives your existence significance, who consequently stirs in you warm feelings much closer to the children end of the spectrum than the fish and chips end. I also stumbled across a quote attributed simply to ‘Jessica (age 8)’, which said: “You really shouldn’t say “I love you” unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” What wonderful advice! How many of us wander around thinking no-one cares simply because no-one has said so recently?
Armed with with the wisdom of Hawkeye and Jessica, I was ready to make declarations of love to every significant other in my life. But then I hit the whole “appropriateness” problem. How many of my close friends – particularly the male, married ones – would be comfortable with that, never mind treasured work colleagues? The fall-out doesn’t bear thinking about. I am resigned to keeping those three little explosive words for close family and even closer friends.
But if you’re wondering if I do love you, consider the wise words of the dictionary, and of Hawkeye and Jessica… and if you want me to, I will tell you. A lot. I wouldn’t want you forgetting.