Thursday, May 24, 2012

Have You Ever Been in Love?

A simple enough question, I guess, yes or no. Yet when I man I'd met on an online dating service asked me I was stumped for an answer.

I had never been asked that question before. I've been married three times and was what I would have called in love with all of them at the time we tied the knot. The man asking the question had been married once, for nearly 40 years, to one woman, and had been at her side every day as she suffered from Alzheimer's until she died. That was what he meant by love, and I was not one to argue. It is the stuff fairy tales are made of, and rom-coms from Hollywood, and probably a large percentage of the fiction we read. Happily ever after, and then you close the book and never ask what happens next.

It looks so easy when other people do it, but on the other hand there are many of us who struggle with the concept for our whole lives. It would be so pleasant to have a partner for life, someone to banter with over coffee every morning, some to care for us, observe our triumphs, soothe us through difficulties, be in love with us forever. In my experience marriage itself had something to do with the loss of that "in love" feeling--time, familiarity, a growing awareness of the reality of the other and knowledge that he had the same awareness of you. My dating friend told me that he had been his wife's whole world through their marriage, and in my eyes she was fortunate that he never abused that devotion. He is a wise and courageous person. How do I, who lived a rootless, sometimes reckless, often self-centered, and always questing and questioning existence, respond to a person so sincere, so profound in his conventionality? All I could say was "I've had a different sort of life."

He chooses to believe that my last husband, whom I was with for 25 years and who died of cirhossis of the liver, was the love of my life. I would not say that. So I look back--was there a love of my life at all, or am I still seeking him? There were passionate affairs, complex adjustments, and there was a layer of love over all, but is there one person I would characterize as the love of my life?

Television hotshot Piers Morgan, replacing Larry King as interviewer to the stars, has in his arsenal of pointed questions, "How many times would you say you've really been in love?" Being English, he seems to expect this to be a whammy to the hapless interviewee, and perhaps in England it would be. But in the U.S., interrogating the likes of sophisticated, sarcastic comedian Kathy Griffin, he is answered by an eye-roll and an Is-that-all-ya-got evasive comeback, as if she knows it's a canned question and she ain't gonna talk about this stuff with him. Needless to say, under the circumstances of a TV studio and a million viewers, I would like to be like Kathy and demand the next question. None of your beeswax, you remote, snobbish, self-important English guy.

But this was an intimate friend, a man I respected. How to break it to him, what my life has been, how different the experience of love itself has been from my family of origin on. It's too much to answer lightly. I was in love, but I was in another world. and I don't mean the soap opera either. I was in "The Guiding Light," and in "The Edge of Night," but when I was in love I was in another world.

7 comments:

Cheryl A. said...

I've been in love - twice. It's wonderful. But eventually the high of heady passion passes and either two people go their separate ways or it matures into a deep and committed friendship with embers of passion that flare up occasionally - if one is lucky. Regardless of the faults of the other, the little transgressions that crop up over years and years of being together you know it's still love when you look at him and it seems you see your own face reflected there too. I'm learning that it's not about who loves YOU that defines who you are it's about who YOU love that reveals so much.

jacques mullet said...

mmmmmm..interesting coming from
the 'HOPE'.Some folks get married, some don't and don't need to. Others do and shouldn't. Some don't but oughta.
If there are house pets, there is a need to care and be
cared for.
Then there are those like the
faded actress in Sweet Bird of Youth doing anything to get what once was, or get a substiture.
And, there are those like Dr.Jekyl's Hyde . Who can say for another about what's love.Maybe it's like 'art' that you just must take home
to enjoy it's beauty selfishly while yet feasting on other art
seen in public .
I have some of all above, probably, but only one devotee.
I don't really think about who might love me. I have to be told.

Benjamin Latrobe said...

Been "In Love" four times in my life...two died of AIDS, one is married to a guy in Massachusetts and the fourth lives about a mile from me and we are now friends...you never know when it will happen but when it does - WOW - is it something special.....

Mary Lois said...

You're all right, of course. Love is a very subjective thing, one we human beings yearn for and sometimes get, in lifelong doses or brief encounters. We're glad to learn of it and I'm glad so many of you have had the long-lasting variety.

SWilson said...

This was one of your best blogs. I have thought of this question and come to the same conclusion - my life has just not been like some of the marriages I look at wistfully - and think "what if".... and "why not".

Mary Lois said...

Thanks, SWilson. Some people get it, some do not, but most who are trying have to pay a terrible price to pretend it has lasted forever and spare themselves and their partner the heartbreaking difficulty of separation. I no longer yearn to be loved or in love, but, like you, I sometimes think, "What if," and "Why not?"

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