What Is Love? Tell Me, Tell Me, If You Think You Know

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 16.884% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I fall in love easily.  But I do not think that word means what you think it means.
For me, “love” is an inefficient word, like “Democrat” or “Polyamory” – sure, it contains a loose definition, but when you scratch the surface you’ll find the only people who definitively know what it means are the people who know the least about it at all.
By which I mean that the only people who know for sure what polyamory is are the people who want nothing to do with it because they saw a poly guy once and he was scum and ugh I know all about it.  Whereas those who are polyamorous know there are so many ways to be poly that the only thing it really means is “You can date more than one person.”  And sometimes, like bisexuality, the accent’s on the “can,” not the “you actually are.”
So love.  What’s that mean?
I dunno.  I love a lot of people I’ve never even met.  To me, love is a form of concern – if they were in trouble and I’d be distressed about that and want to help, to me that’s a sign that I love them on some level.  Their happiness has become integral to my own.
Now, it’s not like if an email pal of mine loses his job, I won’t be able to function until he’s re-employed.  I’ll just fret about him at times until he manages to get picked back up.  But to me, that’s a love.
Which means that friendship is love to me, even weak friendships.  I love a lot more of my friends’ list than I think they’d ever suspect.
Sex is love, to me.  I mean, it doesn’t have to be, but at one point I was talking to a friend of mine who was having problems connecting with some of her sexual partners, and what I told her is that the way I do things, I have to like the person I’m with before we can have sex.  And in that moment of intimacy, when we’re trusting each other enough to do all of the foolish things that sex consists of, all the goofy faces and fear of being bad and exploring pleasure honestly, I have to fall a little in love.
We’re sharing something that’s an act of trust, and the fact that they are trusting me in this moment of literal nakedness means something, and so I let the love flow for this hour that we’re together, feel that flow through me, and accept it.  And when it’s done, it’s not necessarily a deep romantic love (though it can be), but is usually the sort of friendship-bonding that we’ve had a moment together that can’t be shared effectively with anyone else.
I can do sex without love.  I just find it unsatisfying.  Always have.
Yet that love is not the love that swells in my heart when I think of my girlfriends or my wife.  It’s a tiny love, but that makes it no less real, any more than large sunflowers are better than a small cluster of baby’s breath.  The love I feel for Gini means more, but that doesn’t mean I can entirely discount what happened.
I dunno.  Gini says that my love is so wide as to be meaningless at times – what I call “love,” others would call “friendship.”  And I can’t debate that.  But to me friendship is love, just a different flavor of it, and love permeates so much of what we do that it’s hard for me to distinguish it on any meaningful level.
If I were to measure love it’d be distinguished by not how I feel, but by what I would do, and that’s a tricky thing.  Obviously, I’d do anything to ensure Gini’s happiness, whereas maybe I’ll see if I know anyone in the area for my out-of-work friend.  But even then, it doesn’t mean I don’t love them both, it just means that my love has practical limits thanks to time.  Or maybe that difference is how it’s measured for everyone.
It’s simpler for other people, I guess.  Some people dole out love like it’s an award you’ve unlocked on the X-Box, giving it to three or four people in their lifetime after a certain emotional catharsis has been reached – and that’s not bad, but it just strikes me as being limiting in some way, because I think they feel the same emotions as I do, they just don’t want to admit it until they’re absolutely convinced the other person won’t hurt them.  Or maybe they do feel it differently, and I’m a free-loving freak.
I dunno.  Love is a universal, for me; I’m lucky enough to be swimming in a wash of love from friends and lovers and families, and I find when I hand it out it tends to come back.  But there are times when Gini’s words nag at me and I wonder whether I’m misusing the word “love,” and whether it means anything real.
I feel it does.  But there’s no way of knowing.  Because everyone measures it so damn differently.


  1. Skennedy
    Dec 1, 2011

    For at least a decade, I have settled on this: Love, to me, means that I feel joy at someone else’s existence in the world. There are many other emotions and descriptions that can fit atop that, but that is where love begins, and what is true for all people that I love.

  2. Miranda
    Dec 1, 2011

    One of my constant refrains is “Love is love is love is love.” By which I mean that the love I feel for my fellow man, for my friends and family, for my lovers and for my wife all spring from the same well — are made from the same emotions. But the things I do with the emotions make them feel differently to me and to other people.
    It’s like bacon, ham, pork chops and pickled pigs’ feet. They can all come from the same pig but the part of the pig and the way you prepare make them taste very different. They nourish you differently but at the end of the day they share some basic qualities that make them more closely related than any of them are to broccoli. 🙂
    To continue the metaphor past the point of ridiculousness: When you say you ate pig for dinner, it is technically true and tells you some information. It means something. It just isn’t overly specific about what it means and anyone who wants to know the full details of your dietary habits would have to ask a lot more questions to get a full understanding of your dinner.

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