Saturday, September 19, 2009

#52: What is Love (Baby Don't Hurt We)

This week’s post about the second-first date with former-almost-fiance Alex raised a lot of questions with both you brilliant bloggers and myself. The big ones were: Is the drug high “pitter-patter” of hearts a sign you’ve found THE ONE, or a short-term side effect of infatuation, i.e. limerence? Since you always hear adorable old couples talking about “feeling the same today as the day they met,” does that mean limerence can be sustainable? If one does not feel that pitter-patter, does that mean they aren’t really in love? And where the Hell do you meet an Asian woman with a goatee trying to sell you a turtle (answer: on the streets of Brooklyn, near a farmer’s market by the M train)?   

I’ve always assumed that TRUE love (or, for Princess Bride fans, “TWOO wuuv”) is exclusionary, meaning that when you’ve found the real thing, nothing else can encroach (for long) on its glowing, sweet-smelling chunk of emotional real estate. If you’re honestly IN LOVE with THE ONE, nothing--not the advances of a sexy renegade suitor, not the cancerous influence of doubt, not the opinions of outsiders, nada--can pull up in a U-haul and gentrify the ‘hood you, your lover and your  shared passion have created, right?  (Right? Buehler?)  

This thesis was taken directly from The Disney School of Love and Relationships. It has been the compass of my, and many peoples, relationships for years. It’s a black and white doctrine to live by, and therefore appealing, because you can self-righteously use it to solve almost any love equation in .5 seconds when employing it as your North Star. 


  1. You are a frog. I am a princess. If you are THE ONE, you will turn into a prince when I kiss you. (I will then bear you many non-amphibious children.) If you do not change into a prince, you are not THE ONE. 

  1. We are in love. We hit a snag. If you are THE ONE, you will stand outside my window blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (on cassette) through a boom box or perform some equal demonstration of your love to win me back. If you are not motivated to violate residential sound ordinances in the name of our love, you are not THE ONE.

  1. We are in love. The blinding light of our atomic love burns so brightly it makes the glow of those two amateurs from Nicholas Sparks’ "The Notebook” look like a car’s cigarette lighter by comparison. It's so fulfilling that I will never want to have sexual or emotional intercourse with anyone else but you for all eternity, no matter how sexy, interesting or complimentary he/she might be. If I (or you) can even think of probing someone else in body or mind, you are not THE ONE.


  1. You are THE ONE. We are so stupid, butt-crazy in love that after 80 years, I can look at the hairy, wrinkled prune your once noble nutsack has become (and you at my originally perky pair of funbags, now hanging like flesh-colored windsocks on a quiet morning) and still be so aroused by the pitter-pat of our everlasting attraction that we will ravage each other like opposing viking armies. If I do not look at you and have the urge to bang you like a plywood door in a hurricane, you are not THE ONE and I must move on.

See? Easy, right? I’ll bet at least 90% of you have based a least ONE major relationship decision on this logic in the past.

Except, DUH, love isn’t black and white. It is definitively grey, with an LSD trip’s worth of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet throwing a goddamned rave in the foreground.    

Look, I know--the revelation that love is more like a Timothy Leary hallucination than an Oreo cookie on a plate isn’t groundbreaking. But the science and nature of love fascinates me, and since half of my Hitch List and its purpose is rooted in The Disney School of Love and Relationships, I feel obligated to do the research and adjust my personal thesis accordingly. Otherwise, who knows what stupid bullshit I’ll pull in the future.

Also, as per my original itemized list, I must:

“#14: Do a postmortem on past relationships for evidence of MY insanity [read: ignorance] at work.”


“#47: Read at least two books on the world history of marriage,” in order to better understand that thing which I fear so entirely.

So doing some research on the nature of love, limerence, infatuation and long term relationships can only help my cause (and life),  knocking a few items off the list in the process.

Thus, I’m adding a new number onto the active Hitch List, with a little inspiration from 90s-club-and-roller-skating-rink-divo Haddaway:

#52: Answer Haddaway’s iconic question, “What is love?”

I currently have historian Stephanie Coontz’s succinctly-titled book “Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage,” a brilliant analysis of the checkered past of marriage and the history of human relationships, in my hands as a jump-off. I’ve also got about 50 pages of research and criticisms surrounding Dorothy Tennov’s theory of limerence to go through as well. 

I’ll be periodically posting highlights from my research--also, if anyone has strong feelings or information about any of this, I’m seeking guest-bloggers, as well as opinions, to feature here, since this topic and conversation is far bigger than myself. Drop me a comment or email at, and I’ll make sure your voice is heard. 

In the meantime, click that Haddaway link if you haven’t already, because it's a real trip down memory lane. 


M said...

Love this post. My most recent ex-boyf and I went through a lot of these questions with each other. He believes in bona fide Disney love, and the older I get the less and less I believe in it. In fact, he BROKE UP with me because I expressed to him that I was interested in another person. Not that I cheated, or would even ever consider cheating, but just an honest expressiong of my feelings/attraction for another human being. To me, that is a reasonable confession to make to your lover; for him, it was grounds for ending a relationship with someone he once called "the love of his life." So... there's that.

You're right - love is certainly not black and white - and I look forward to reading your research and findings as you delve more into your books - and your heart - to find what *you think love really is.


Polly Syllabick said...

M, I think your honesty about being attracted to someone is what's missing in a lot of relationships. Yes, that sort of news might sting a lover momentarily, but they should recognize that your open dialogue about it means you love and prioritize THEM above anyone else.

Also, if you don't express it, if attraction to anything/anyone else is always ruled as a forbidden thing, it becomes a taboo...which makes it even sexier and more appealing, and therefore even harder to resist. It's like telling a 5-year-old boy NOT to touch THE RED BUTTON....of course he wants to push it, it's big and shiny and you told him not to.

The real love of your life won't find such a paltry excuse to end your relationship. Someone that understands and appreciates you much more is out there---find and enjoy him ;-)

The Novelista Barista said...

this is a GREAT story/post for my files!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Confessions Of My Confusion said...


Unforunately, this is what we are raised seeing. We are essentially brain-washed into seeing love as some fairy-tale perfection. When it is so plain, so simple, so easy... anything less than could in no way work. Or in contradiction we see that it is impossible to be perfect, and then we find ourselves in pattern of constantly over-looking the flaws... so much that we miss the obviously not working warning flags.

Hopefully that made sense. Either way we are doomed. LOL

coors cowgirl 21 said...

I think love is to quote Carrie Bradshaw "the za za zsu" That sort of lovey, butterflies feeling when you just want to be with someone, and while I think it may fade over time as life and everthing else happens, I think you should still be able to look at the ONE when your 80 and have the memory of the za za zsu.

Abi Grace said...

I am SOOOO glad you are looking in to this topic. This has been something that has been recently on my mind. I have a sneaking suspicion that the spark leads to dating crazy people. Like it stems from anxiety instead of anything valid.

At least I am hoping that is the case, as I just met someone awesome but don't have giddy first love feelings. I do find them attractive. I do like sex with them. I do really enjoy their company. I just don't seem to be having the chemical rush. My other theory is that perhaps in the course of dating I have used up all of my reserves for chemical limerence, or perhaps I am being more psychologically cautious because of a recent series of rejections.

Oh look, I'm rambling.


Chef Green said...

How interesting, Polly! I constantly catch myself having "Disney beliefs" about dating and love. I forcefully admonish myself against further foolishness.

Especially in the gay world, where things are strange anyway-we must realize that love is rarely easy. Perhaps it is akin to a CD account: invest now and trust its ability to mature. Expect permanence. That's the theory I'm working on these days...

Seth said...

I'm glad the Say Anything reference made it in there, because I fall into a camp which is not unduly influenced by the Disney concept so much as the emo concept. I was the guy with the boombox, several times, and my thought processes tended more along the lines of: "Eventually she'll realize that your love is pure and true and willing to endure the various other people she's sleeping with, sometimes on your couch, and decide that you're the one."

That books sounds interesting; if it needs an approving review I think I'll recommend it to a friend of mine.

inflammatory writ said...

Love is not the Disneyfied bullshit we've been spoonfed. Love is most evident when things are awful. Love is when you have the flu and your partner comes back with 5 kinds of medicine, two gallons of Gatorade, and makes you homemade chicken soup. Love is about always being on each other's side. But there's the unspoken part, to quote Rilke, "what is wholly unsayable". It's beyond description, and it's not sex or butterflies or any of that chemical we're all addicted to like a bunch of junkies. It's something in your bones, something deeper than you can express.

It's not a sandcastle, it's a fortress.

Hipstercrite said...

I just ran into the most amazing 80year-old couple in Astoria, OR who are doing a cross-country trip together. After talking to them, I became horribly depressed.

wadethetides said...

I just wrote a blurb about love and marriage. Read if inclined.