“There’s a difference between like and love. I mean I like my Sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack.” – Bianca, Ten Things I Hate About You
Today, dear readers, you’re in for a treat. Instead of me going on and on and ON about politics, I’m instead going to ramble on about my other passion: The English Language.
How I do adore the English Language. I’m not saying this because I’m one of those “let’s make English the national language!” people (actually, to be quite honest, I don’t have an opinion on the matter, but that’s another entry for another day), but because I really am amazed by the structure of the language itself. It is beautiful in both its simplicity and its complexity. It is amazing how you can use 100 words to describe something small, and yet at the same time use only a handful to describe something overwhelming. It is even more amazing how some people have captured the art of finding the perfect balance of this in each sentence they write.
However, there is one thing I simply cannot stand about the English language – or, for that matter, a number of languages – love.
In a word, it’s not just a word. It’s a loaded gun. It means a million different things to a million different people, and it cannot be defined in four letters. In fact, the closest anyone has ever come to defining it is in poetry and other art forms – and even that is vague at best.
Wikipedia does a good job of describing the mechanics of this complicated, frightening word. To love can mean a million things. Just like Bianca loves her Prada backpack, I can say I love the English language. A good friend of mine said this to me once, shortly after she began dating someone: “I love my dog. I love Beverly Hills, 90210. I mean, of course I love my boyfriend.”
They had been dating for about a week.
Of course, we have found different ways to define love, to categorize it. There’s “like,” there’s “adore,” “cherish,” “care for” etc. However, none of them ever seem to quite fit what we mean. Adore implies worship, and cherish implies a possession. “Like” is my least favorite. I find the term to be trite and childish. It describes an emotion of flirting 10-year-olds on a playground, and I find the term to be more confusing than “love.” Of course, one could say, “I like you like that,” but that’s even worse.
Then there are the different dimensions: love, falling in love, being in love, caring for, etc. I find “to care for” to be somewhat disappointing. It often is used to describe an emotion you feel for someone that you do not love. “Well, I care very much for you, but …” as in, “I don’t want to see you get hit by a bus, but I’d rather clip my toenails than spend five more minutes with you.”
Perhaps that’s a little bit extreme. But for a language I … like? love? care for? … I am very, very frustrated with it’s lack of expression on this topic.
The Greeks have made a little bit of headway on this. There are four words: eros, which is erotic love, philia, which is friendship love, storge, or familial love and agape, the all-purpose term. However, it still barely scratches the surface of the different levels of love one can feel. Nor does it define the myriad of unique emotions that each person feels toward each person he loves. Perhaps it is so difficult to define because we all love each person that we love in a different, unique way. With so many billions of emotions, there are hardly enough words to describe how we feel.
Although, I do think we could try a little harder. We could start by not confusing the Love Triumverate: To Love, To Fall in Love, and To Be in Love. It seems that people confuse the three all the time. The biggest myth going is that you cannot “fall in love” with someone that you hardly know. This is untrue. It is in fact, often the only time you DO fall in love with someone. LOVE grows and changes over time, yes, this is true, but this does not mean that it cannot happen quickly and violently. Falling in love implies exactly that – falling. It catches you off guard. You don’t fall forever, or at least, most people don’t. You can fall again, but that usually involves a myriad of other complicated emotions and scenarios.
To be in love with someone is far different than falling in love with someone. Often, it happens after you’re done falling, though not always. You can be in a suspended state, too. That is, you can be in love with someone and not even know it, and then you begin to fall further, and that’s when you realize that you are already in big trouble. Because falling in love and being in love is scary. It’s big trouble. It shakes your entire existence to the core. It forces you to re-evaluate everything you once thought was true, and everything you are doing. Sometimes this makes you a better person, and sometimes it makes you worse. However, it does change you, and when it’s over with, you’re a different person.
If it doesn’t change you, even for a short time, then you didn’t fall in love. You might have almost fell in love but stopped yourself because you got scared. You might have thought you fell in love, or convinced yourself you fell in love, because this one wasn’t scary, and isn’t it a good thing if it isn’t scary? You could, in fact, love the person but not be IN love with the person.
Are you confused yet? I know I am. It almost makes me cringe when I hear the word, because I never quite know what it means.
That only scratches the surface of why love is a four letter word.