Because I’m not.
I ask this question every time I see a certain friend of mine who got married two years ago. She always happily affirms that she is, indeed, still in love, and I roll my eyes. At our most recent coffee-date, however, we got down to brass tacks. What exactly do we mean when we say that we are – or are not – in love?
When I am in love, I experience the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite. I can eat if I have to, but I never want to. This symptom lasts anywhere from three to six months, and is my favourite weight-loss plan. (The Divorce Diet is equally effective, but not nearly as fun.)
- Inability to be away from the loved one. Circumstances usually dictate that separations must occur, but these feel unnatural and wrong, as if I’m walking around with a bloody stump where my arm used to be, and bystanders are getting dripped on.
- Waves of euphoria when I am with the loved one. Better than chocolate. (This symptom applies only to requited love.)
- Instant, effortless memorization of every word that passes the loved one’s lips. (This symptom is especially true for unrequited love.)
- Total loss of objectivity and rational thought as regards the merits and personality of the loved one (though these faculties remain mostly operational in regard to other matters).
- A propensity to sing the following song, out loud, where people can hear me: “I hear singing and there’s no one there / I smell blossoms and the trees are bare / All day long, I seem to walk on air! / I wonder why? I wonder why?” (There are more verses. I could go on.)
I am keenly aware of how insufferable these symptoms make me to ordinary people, but I’ve been told that my attempts at concealment are quite effective. The above-mentioned friend (she of the never-ending honeymoon) swears that I was quite tolerable company when the two of us shared a research trip to England a few months after now-husband and I began dating. I feel a sharp pang of nostalgia when I remember that trip – mornings spent in the British Library, sandwiches from Prêt-à-Manger for lunch, afternoons devoted to visiting the National Portrait Gallery or browsing in the bookstores on Charing Cross Road. Tarnishing all these experiences, though, was my constant, painful longing, as if I were being slowly suffocated for lack of the essential oxygen of communication with the one I loved. The day before we flew home, while my friend sadly bade farewell to Hampstead Heath and Madame Tussaud’s, I mentally clicked my heels and sang “I’m leaving on a jet plane!”
That is what it is to be in love.
Make no mistake: I enjoy being in love. But there’s no denying that it is a debilitating condition, one that I would never want to prolong beyond the requisite two-year endorphin rush. It was a relief for me to get married, to settle into the comfort of a relationship that felt less like a medical condition and more like real life. These days, marriage is no longer about being in love. It’s about feeling that I have a partner, someone who stands beside me, sharing the load. It’s about taking turns staying home so that the other person can go out and eat ice cream or play D&D on games night. It is, as Her Bad Mother once said, a pillow fort of shared jokes, mutual liking and hard-won trust.
I put on what is probably my last bridesmaid’s dress last weekend, standing up for another idealistic, madly-in-love friend of mine (one who always looks aghast when hubby and I cheerfully announce that we’re no longer in love). The bouquet of pink roses I carried down the aisle is blooming cheekily on the piano, as radiant as the 26-year-old bride herself. Just for fun, I put my own seven-year-old bridal bouquet beside it:
It is gnarled and brown – but there is something in the spicy aroma that lingers in the faded leaves that I like better than the scent of fresh roses.