Mincing Love


What is a word but merely a definition of terms as explained by association to objects or ideas; conditioned over time through repeated exposure and experience? What is a definition but merely a gathering of terms collectively agreed upon to infer meaning and imbue characteristics to words?

When we are children we are shown round objects and told “ball”, blocks are “square” and when looking at a clear summer’s day sky, we marvel in the “blueness” of the atmosphere.  But if grass was purple and the ocean was gold, would we inherently experience them differently? Would wavelengths of light suddenly refract or absorb differently off blades of grass to suit our definition of “purple”?

Probably not.

The grass would look as grass always does, and we would think nothing of describing the grass as purple because that’s what we have always been told the color of grass to be.

For the longest time, I was looking for “Love”. Love as defined by conquers-all slogans and happily-ever-after epitaphs. Love as defined by grand romantic gestures, passionate embraces; rom-coms, stories and fairy tales.

I never found it, of course.  Sure, there was innocence and magic, high-hopes and butterflies but always the rose-tinted veneer soon faded and I was inevitably left a little disenchanted.

If we imbue meaning into words with repeated conditioning and exposure, then “Love” by that rationale included a divorce before I was two, followed by a custody battle that was ugly and tense years after the judge finally slammed down his gavel. Both my parents’ second marriages failed, and even though my mom knocked it out of the ballpark with the third, still in love after 26 years, the groove had already been carved; the etch honed and definition ingrained.

“Love” was not all it was cracked up to be.

And now, having been in a relationship for just over a year, I find myself having to reexamine definitions. Because I feel more regarded, listened to and cared for than in any other relationship I have ever been. And yet, we don’t talk about love.

Like, EVER.

He doesn’t hold my face in his hands or gaze dreamily into my eyes while whispering sweet nothings of adoration into my ears, but he puts lasers on the walls and plays punk-rock to set the mood. He doesn’t weep with gratitude or tremble in anticipation at the sight of me, but he does my laundry and he spoons me when I can’t sleep.  And though he may never blast Peter Gabriel out of a boom box over his head outside my bedroom window, he did once play music through the door of a Porta-Potty while I peed at a rock concert.

I know that I will probably never get a love-letter, or even a hand-written card for that matter, but I get his sense of humor when not everyone else does and it is dry, witty, hilarious and just enough raunchy.  He upholds a moral code that is refreshingly innocent in its ideals, although he is certainly no saint, and I’m not sure I’ve seen anything sexier than watching him make popcorn.

We don’t talk about the future, but still we like to build things like furniture, zip-lines and comfortable places in which to call home. He makes no demands and is patient when I struggle, supportive when I am insecure and kind even when I am ugly. He is honest and sometimes brutally so, and though there are a lot of previously acquired, deeply ingrained “man grooves” that usually play a tune of abandonment and infidelity; against all odds, I trust him.

Sometimes, when I cannot find a better substitute, or the emotion wells up to a breaking point, I blurt out “I love you.” It makes him uncomfortable and he usually deflects with a joke or a fart or an incredulous “really?”  Rarely will he reply, “love you too” but never preceded with the pronoun “I”. As if he cannot posses or own his emotion, but allows it to exist somewhere outside himself.

And almost never does this bother me. For I am so happy to finally bask in action instead of longing in pools of false promises. But occasionally, in the absence of words, I wonder what actually exists? Is love there even if it lacks definition in vernacular form?

Definitions confine us.  Words trap us into expectation and disappointment.  And when I sometimes contemplate whether Harry and Sally are out there frolicking in greener (or purple-er) grasses, I remind myself that I would rather be wrapped up in his arms than stuck in semantic squares.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. michael reed
    Sep 11, 2015 @ 19:40:12

    Maybe the grass is supposed to be purple after all




  2. shannonmaclaggan
    Sep 12, 2015 @ 07:38:58

    I love your writing so much, Jen. This is beautiful. And I’m so, SO happy for you. xo


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