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"I love you" [Written 04/11]

Possibly the three most over-used words in the English language. To the point where they almost don't mean anything. The word "love" is easy and meaningless. We use the same words to describe our desire for eternal companionship that we do to express our feelings for monkeys or blueberry pancakes. I love you. But I also love taking a really satisfying dump. Y'know, the kind where you've been backed up for days and it all comes out and there's this intense feeling of relief? Yeah, I love that feeling.


English is a ridiculous language. Why can't we differentiate between types or levels of love? When I tell people, "I love you," I try to say it with every fiber of my being. Tangible and intangible. My mouth is forming the words as my fingers are drawing them invisibly. My blood is singing my feelings through my veins. My love flows out from my eyes, my pores, my hair.

But I am just as guilty as every other native English speaker of uttering "I love you"s that don't reflect how I feel at the time I say them. I love my parents very much, but when we finish our weekly conversation on the phone and I echo their "I love you" with one of my own, I don't always feel complete conviction. That's not to say that I don't love my parents at the time I'm saying it, but I'm also not saying it with my whole self. It's just what we say at the end of our conversations. I mean it, but I don't MEAN it. There isn't something screaming within me when I say the words. And when there IS something crying out from inside me, there's no way for me to express it. What more can I say than "I love you"? I could of course elaborate, but the simplest choice phrase has already been taken and cheapened. I love you. I love my hamster. I could say, "I love you more than my hamster," but without an explanation in my logic, you would probably think I've gone insane. "I love you more than the taste of autumn," is poetic, but, again, it only makes sense in my head. If you knew that autumn was my favorite time of the year, or that the smell of dying leaves and crisp air makes me happy, then you'd understand a level of what I'm trying to say. Which I suppose means that if I love someone enough and they know me well enough, then I can find ways to get beyond the deficiencies of my mother tongue.

But I don't think that's the only answer.

Everyone knows that rare things are worth more than common things. It's a ridiculous way to define value, but it has worked since the beginning of civilization and it works now. Diamonds are worth more than coal because they are rarer.

So why can't the same theory apply to words?

Before I get into recounting the recent experience I had that this essay hinges on, let me explain that I ran out of anti-anxiety medication several weeks ago. I am on pins and needles. Everything is hyper-real. And the fact that I'm on a stimulant doesn't help much. I am wired in the worst way. Thoughts alone send jolts through me. So it's not surprising that my body sounded back the way it did last night.

Let me also explain that Shinya has only said, "I love you," to me once. It was a half-remark in half-whisper and I pretended to not have heard him so I could hear him say it again and again. "Huh?" "Because I love you." "What?" "Because I love you." "I can't hear what you're saying!" "Because I love you." ::happy sigh:: I finally gave him a break and moved on, but it was a wonderful moment. I know that traditionally most Japanese men never say, "I love you," to their wives/girlfriends/anybody. Americans jump the guns to say those three words, but some Japanese never do. I know it's different because it's not his native language--maybe it's easier--but I don't know that I could ever say 愛してる to him in Japanese, no matter how much I meant it. It's just that those words seem to weigh so much more than their American counterparts.

So it is no wonder that electricity traveled from the ear pressed against my cellphone to my brain to my neck to my heart to my arms to my fingers back to my spine to my back to my legs to my toes and back up to my head again. It was a sudden and violent SHOCK of energy, a shock of shock, that jolted through my body. I couldn't speak. What could I say back to him to mean what what he said meant to me? Our conversation had been slowly meandering to a close when he said in a sudden, loud, confident voice, "I love you." Remembering it knocks me back. I got lost in the moment, in the feeling, in his feelings, and I wish he had been there with me because he could have seen me fall back happy and silent into the pillows on my bed. He could have seen the expression on my face, the crease in my brow, the twin curves of my lips. My eyes alone speak in ways my tongue, my fingers, my conscious mind cannot.

I knew I had to say something so he'd know I was still there, but the time-expanding part of my brain chopped and stretched the few seconds of silence until I felt like I'd been reveling for hours. I didn't breathe, I didn't think. I just lived that one moment. Every time I replayed those words, the same shock traveled the length of my body (ooooh, electro-sex, I get it now). Then when I had lived my fill of the moment, I opened my mouth to speak and I couldn't think of the right thing to say. Which wasn't a problem because the only sound I could make was exactly the sound I needed to. A tiny stream of air escaped through my throat in a quiet, "oh.........." Lower-cased and slight. As soon as I said it, I was happy I had. I could have racked my brain for hours and never thought to say that.

And yet I'm sure he doesn't understand what those words mean to me, coming from him, or what I wish I could say back. After "oh.........." and a bit of silence, I said, "I love you," and I meant it, but it paled in the face of what he had said. Before, I always used pretty words to express my feelings, but I can't really do that with him. Pretty poems don't spell the same words when he reads them.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 16th, 2005 11:04 pm (UTC)
"I love you more than the taste of autumn." This is a great post. I love reading it more than reading Slashdot.

Apr. 17th, 2005 10:04 pm (UTC)
Wow! I don't even know what that means, but I'll take it as a compliment! ^_^
Apr. 17th, 2005 03:35 am (UTC)
Reading that, I had to pause and count every variation of the word 'love' in Arabic. 9, so far. I guess it depends on the person as to how to convery it, though :)
Apr. 17th, 2005 05:05 am (UTC)
^_^ I've always thought Arabic seemed like a cool language! ^_^
Apr. 18th, 2005 01:34 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's quite expressive as well :D
Apr. 17th, 2005 10:46 am (UTC)
You know how some people sign their letters with "love," ? I never have been able to do it. But, if I don't say I love you to my parents at the end of a call, or if they don't say it, I can't help but feel a little disappointed. As if you should take every chance to tell someone how you feel about them, even if it's not what you feel at the moment.

I know I've overused the word "love" before, but Alex and I had been dating for over 6 months before we said it to each other.
Apr. 19th, 2005 07:26 pm (UTC)
Sometimes it depends on the person, too. I've always been a little wary of people who say things like "I love monkeys" regularly, since "I love you" from them seems to only really elevate you to monkey status in their minds.

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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