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Thursday, March 24, 2011

3 Lessons of Love

With over three and a half decades of bachelorhood under my belt, you’d think I’d have it completely down by now. The hook-ups, the break-ups, and all the other ups (and downs) in between. But no matter how many times I’ve been down the road (which seems to be more of a circle), there are still lessons to be learned. Interestingly enough, however, while I take great pride in my ability to learn just about anything (outside of foreign language, chronological histories or any type of cooking that doesn’t involve a microwave), I seem to know only marginally more about relationships with the opposite sex than when I started. For every mistake I commit to avoiding, there are countless others lying in wait; and every can’t-miss strategy I come up with seems as doomed as anything dreamed up by Wile E. Coyote and the ACME Company. But despite my inexplicable amateurism and the wasteland that is my love life - hope springs eternal as winter slowly gives way to warmer weather. So, with Valentine’s Day safely behind us and the next big sucks-to-be-lonely holiday a solid nine months out, now seems an opportune time to pass on a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way, in the hopes and that you and I, both, can make much more interesting mistakes in the future. Here are 3 lessons of love:

1. The Six Month Rule. You know in six months. You might know in less than six months, but anyone who tells that you don’t know in six months, knows but just doesn’t want to tell you (or is hoping to change their mind). What do you know in six months? You know if it’s serious, if there might be jewelry or children involved, etc. Or more to the point, you know if it’s not any of those things. Because in six months time, you’ve seen a person on their good days, their bad days, and their really, really bad days - and they've seen you on yours. You’ve seen their morning face (and hair), their hangover, and discovered all of their gastrointestinal habits - and they’ve seen and discovered yours. You’ve seen them naked (well, if you haven’t after six months, you should have left a while ago anyways), and every kind of naked - sitting naked, standing naked, scrubbing naked, etc. - as they’ve seen you. You know about their family (including crazy parents, siblings, etc.), their job, and their luggage - and they know about yours. And all along, you’ve had a lot of laughs, cries and generally good times. But in this time, consciously or not, you’ve determined whether your future could involve that person as a permanent fixture. This is true for all ages - the only difference being, the older you get, the less likely you are to want to or be able to stick around once you know and the knowing isn’t good.

2. The Good Break-Up Fantasy. There is no such thing as a good break up. If things were good, you wouldn’t be breaking up. You’re more likely to ride a unicorn to work on a rainbow than “stay friends” with your ex. Spare me your anecdotes - I know that after time exes can be amicable, and even something that looks a whole lot like friends. But there’s always something a little bit different, a little bit weird, etc. Once you’ve slept with someone, there’s something chemically different about how you respond to them - no matter how advanced or mature you are emotionally. If you want to be friends with someone forever, you’ve got two choices: marry them, or don’t ever be intimate with them - and only the second one is foolproof. Outside of Tea Party rallies, mosh pits and Justin Bieber ticket lines, it’s hard to imagine anything more chaotic and utterly without direction as a breakup. No matter how smart you are - a break up will make you retarded. You’ll say things you’d never say; you’ll do things you’d never do. It’s the closest thing to an out-of-body experience you can have without chemical assistance or dying. Break ups are like band-aid removals - they’re going to suck, so just know that and get it over as quickly as possible.

3. Sexy Isn't As Sexy Doesn't. I consider myself, on a very basic level, an intellectual. I’ve always identified myself as more cerebral than physical and I’ve a lifetime of math grades vs. PE grades to prove it. But no matter how much my mind likes someone, if my body doesn’t want them, there’s no point in going any further. I don’t necessarily like this about myself - but I’ve tried it enough times to know: if you don’t want to see your partner naked on a regular basis, you are just friends. The problem is, my mind seems to have a lot easier of a time falling in love than my body. I know, I know, my body should be able to fall in love every 10 yards in places like Los Angeles and Las Vegas - but if you look closely it’s not so easy. You see in the “pretty” capitals of the world, there’s “pretty” everywhere - but it’s the same kind of pretty, and it feels about as genuine as “reality” television does real. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for dying your hair, shooting some Botox or getting a little work done - provided you’re doing it to be a better you. But, I can’t imagine the level of self-loathing required to go to a doctor and pay to actually look like someone else. I’m pretty sure, however, it’s the kind that doesn’t mix well with healthy interpersonal relationships. You can intellectualize it all you want - but if you get to a point with someone that you want to do everything with them except have sex - there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just not really in love.

* * *

Being a romantic is like being a Cubs fan; in that there will be heart-wrenching disappointment so regularly that you’ll begin to wonder if that’s all there is to it. But then there are those sweet, pure moments of jubilation so profound that they make every bit of the heartbreak suddenly and completely worth it. And even if you later lose a great love, you’ll still have that feeling to carry you through it all again, just to have another shot. For what it’s worth, I am actually a Cubs fan and feel fairly confident that I’ll be married with kids before they win the Series again. But in end, as with baseball, our failures in love serve only to make our successes that much sweeter. After all, anyone who plays the game for real knows that you can’t win ‘em all, and no one remembers the ones you lost once you win the big one. Here’s to opening day, on the season of love.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen!

Anonymous said...

Love this......"anyone who plays the game for real knows that you can’t win ‘em all, and no one remembers the ones you lost once you win the big one."

Eric said...

"...I don't necessarily like this about myself..."

Well I hope you don't particularly dis-like it either. I think we're just socialized by 50 years of backlash against Barbie, Playboy, Hollywood Gossip Sheets and post-Hays Code movies to be suspicious of a sexual attraction, no matter what else is there.

Most people would probably agree that relationships based purely upon sexual attraction simply don't have the same role in our lives as ones based upon more complete and diverse attractions, and that treating either type of relationship as if it were the other type isn't going to bring results anybody would want.

That said, I'm betting that if you were to reject a suitor because she were EITHER only sexually interesting, or only emotionally/intellectually interesting, you'd probably find her about as dis-satisfied with either. What we want from all of our relationships, apparently, is for them to want us for more or less the same reasons we want them. So long as the cuffs and collars match, no problem.

SavageLettuce said...

Honestly and truly, this is your best piece to date. I have nothing pithy to say except bravo, Glenn.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to look for a long term relationship (the complete attraction package you talk about above) by starting on the short term relationship road (sex) then you'll throw a lot of dice before you win... I think there is a more assured way but its harder. But i know you... so I know you don't think you are muddled. :) HIYA!

Anonymous said...

Love on the deepest level takes time and it grows as you face lifes challenges I don't believe that 6 mos is long enough. Also the whole passion for sex and physical intimacy is great in the beginning but true love starts as a friendship and that relationship is what endures and sustains you when life knocks you down. The real gift of love is just that a gift. (married 14 years)
Love you brother I hope someday you are fortunate enough to find it.

Kristina said...

I liked it and some of it I agree with and some of it not, but on the whole. It's pretty solid :):)

Azadeh said...

Great piece. And I'm proud of your optimism. No doubt, you will be happily married one of these days -- and then you can start working on the 3 things you miss from your bachelor days.

OZ101 said...

It's a small world...

Anonymous said...

I agree with your perspective on Love. I was single for a long time before Matt. I ended up making a wish list and a list of unacceptables for my desired mate. I ended up meeting Matt 4 years later and we knew within the first 2 months that we would marry and live the dream together. Everyone is different and has their own ideas. I believe you will find her too, just be patient. : )

Nick said...

"But in end, as with baseball" Should be "but in THE end" .. Outside your typo ... that was a really good read. I agree with just about everything, but, I have had some pretty amicable break ups .. and I am still friends with a few exes and have remained that way for quite some time. I guess in the end it all depends on the person and the nature and depth of the relationship before it ends. That aside ... great read brother ..

Angie said...

I knew you only briefly a lifetime ago, but when I read the things you post, I find myself wishing that I knew you now. Like all your readers, I always appreciate your candid approach to everything you write. I may not always agree with everything you say, but I do love the fact that you make no apologies for how you think and feel. As for this episode, just keep in mind that everything happens for a reason. We may not always know the why, but in the end, it will all work out. Until then, keep smiling, keep inspiring, keep writing! =)

Anonymous said...

I've been in more relationships than I can shake a stick at... and I agree. You know pretty quickly if they are the type of person you'd want to be with forever. And I completely agree with "no good breakups". I've had friends prolong the inevitable for months just trying to find the right way to do it... there is no right way. (Ironically enough there is no "right" way but there are a million "wrong" ways...) Anyway - I liked this article a lot.

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