So Ferocious (2016)
Hot Night
Vim & Vigor
So Ferocious
Lovin is Easy
Ravenous
Fat & Happy
Scoundrel
To Be Known
The Animal I Am
Fever Dream
Azalea
Laziest Gal in Town
Heavenly Thing
Two Sleepy People
You Don't Know What Love Is
What Is This Thing Called Love?
Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?
Sweet Lorraine
Don't Come Too Soon
I'll Be Seeing You
Not Old, Not New
Under Your Thumb
Trigger Finger
Backbone
Smoke Alarm
Together Too Long
Backseat
Little Death
Lonely No More
Backbone
Idiot Heart
Chicken
All We Got
Honest Truth
Buoy
Itches and Tugs
Please
O, Gabriella
Money in the Bank
Two at a Time
Every Punch You Throw
Baby Can Dance
Crazy for Love
Promise
Anything At All
Ain't So Green
Don't Wanna Know
Everybody's All Alone
Take Me Along
Lovesick
Temporary Lapse
Time
Wedding Song
Willing To Fall
Redemption Blues
thoughts on love, sex, music and ferocity
tagged: sexuality
Blog Navigation

How Not To Be A Nice Girl

Something about me is perpetually sweet. Despite the tattoos, the songs about sex and whiskey and meanness, and the ferocity bubbling just beneath the surface, I seem to strike the average stranger as some breed of twee little big-eyed mammal. Every waitress over 22 calls me “sweetie”, every Petco employee insists on carrying my dog food to my car, and everybody’s grandmother wishes I would wear a dollbaby dress with sailboats on it. People I just met tend to describe me as “sweet” or “cute” or “so nice”.

I am resigned to being sweet, and cute doesn’t rankle me like it used to (usually). But here’s the thing: I’m not nice. Niceness is not something I’m into. I try to be kind, and thoughtful; I hold doors open, I give rides to the airport, I take my friends out for waffles when they get broken up with. But to me, “being nice” involves clamming up, putting on a happy face, and forgoing one’s own convictions and desires to avoid rocking the boat. 

I am no clam, people. I love to rock the boat. 

Let me rephrase that, actually. Rocking the boat is incredibly uncomfortable for me - it gives me stress dreams and sweaty hands - but I was born to rock the boat. Making other people uncomfortable is one of the byproducts of my best and most satisfying work, including many of the thoughts and feelings I have every day. Anything inside me that says otherwise is usually not me, but the years of be-a-good-little-girl conditioning that I accidentally absorbed from the air around me (in spite of my parents’ best intentions), like most women, in most of the world. 

If you’ve been smoking what I’ve been smoking (sugar and spice and everything nice, Disney Princesses, rom coms, etcetera), you may be asking the same question. What do we do about all the bullshit we’ve inadvertently inhaled? 

I think the antidote to this variety of bullshit includes a lot of real-world, large scale, external changes (like access to education and birth control for women everywhere, equal pay for equal work, and for people to stop acting like douche bags (and for that matter, selling them)). But I also think that we have opportunities to combat bullshit with the magic of our own minds. 

So ladies (and gents… but mostly ladies), I hereby invite you to make yourself comfortable in your own life. I want us all to feel that there is no need to apologize for the size or intensity of our bodies, our minds, our feelings, or our choices. 

I have a few ideas about how to implement this. We all got different bullshit cocktails, growing up, and we’re all equipped with different bullshit-filtration devices, so I don’t expect that everything in this post applies to everybody. Here’s some of what I’m grappling with, and how. 

1) Cultivate a healthy sense of entitlement. 

Entitlement has a bad reputation, and it’s mostly well deserved. I don’t enjoy being shoulder-checked by a trustfund dudebro (stumbling down the middle of Royal street texting, like a blind yeti) any more than the next gal. But there are some things we are entitled to: 

We are each entitled to our bodies, our experiences, and the choices we make about our own lives. 

When I say, “I’m entitled to my life”, I mean that I hold the title: I am the captain, the President, the head honcho, and the sole stockholder. Nobody else holds even one share. 

Here’s what that means: if I have a feeling, and somebody else doesn’t like that I had that feeling, that’s tough titties for them. I should no more apologize for that feeling than a weed should apologize for growing in my garden. Maybe I don’t like the weed, maybe I wish the weed would grow somewhere else; but the weed has no responsibility for any of that. It’s there because of the sun and the wind and the bird that shat it out, and the whole course of the evolution of the universe. It’s entitled to be there. 

 Similarly, your body takes up the amount of space it does, it’s shaped how it’s shaped, and it feels how it feels. It gurgles and sweats and aches and farts. Your body is entitled to do all these things, and you, as the Chief Executive Officer of your body, are entitled to these things as well. 

Your thoughts are in there, strung about like confetti after a party, and your memories, and your feelings. You are entitled to them all. You are entitled to everything that has ever happened to you, and all of the choices you’ve made, and all of the choices in front of you. If you fuck up, it was your decision to fuck up, and nobody else’s; and now it’s your decision whether to apologize for it, or fix it, or not. 

I can remember most of this, most of the time, but occasionally I still get confused. Who decides if I should get another tattoo, for instance? I forget. Is it my husband, who’s not particularly keen on tattoos? Is it my mom, who’s acutely creeped out by them? Is it the old lady sitting next to me at this café, scowling? Is it that one loudmouthed fan of mine, who insists on airing his opinion of tattoos every time I post a picture on facebook? Well, let’s see…. my body is the one being tattooed, and I am entitled to my body. Nobody else is. 

I have brainfarts in this area professionally and artistically, too. For example, who am I to write this post? I’m writing about topics that the feminist movement has been dealing with for years, and I’m not very well educated on the history of feminism. I haven’t read Gloria Steinem. I don’t have a degree in women’s studies – in fact, I don’t have any degrees in anything. But on the other hand, I am me. I am a human woman, and I have thoughts and feelings about that, and a blog to post them on. I’m entitled to my thoughts and feelings, and nobody else is. 

A lot of people, mostly women, pick up the habit of prefacing their sentences with “well I kind of think that, like, sometimes…” or another excruciatingly long and self-immolating prefix. To me, this says, “I have a thought, but I don’t believe that I’m entitled to it.” 

I hereby invite all of us to cultivate a healthy sense of entitlement to our own bodies, experiences, and choices. For clarity’s sake, here are the things we’re not entitled to: other people’s bodies, other people’s experiences, other people’s choices, and other people. They hold the title to their lives; we hold the title to ours. 

2) If you have a problem with the way you look, find a bigger problem. 

Like most women I know, my feelings about my own appearance vary widely from day to day (and from moment to moment). Sometimes, I look in the mirror and see a total sex bomb. Other times, I see a blubberous ogre. In almost thirty years of research, I’ve only found one way to combat that Cosmo-reading, trash-talking, mean-girl demon in my head: find something more interesting to worry about. 

The way we look is probably one of the least interesting things about us, and unquestionably one of the least interesting things about the world. Your head, regardless of its shape or accoutrements, is carrying inside it the most complex phenomenon in the known universe. 

So next time you look in the mirror and scowl, or see an unflattering picture of yourself, or catch a peripheral glance of your blubberous ogre thighs, remember this: the world is chock-full of stuff that is infinitely more fascinating than the girth of your thighs. In this corner, we have AIDS and climate change and abject poverty. In this one, we have the Grand Canyon, wombats, and Mary Oliver. Pick any of these, think about them for twelve seconds, and laugh at yourself.

Let’s all begin to consciously prioritize our own pleasure, satisfaction, and self-expression over sitting and looking pretty. Here are some tricks: 

Eat what you want. 

Food is one of the primary sensual pleasures that the gods have allowed us, and if you’re reading this, you are living in a time of unprecedented culinary abundance and variety. You can very likely walk out of your house right now, and within an hour be back at home eating oysters, or chocolate ice cream, or bacon-wrapped dates, or a grapefruit the size of your head. You could be sipping a mango lassi, even though it’s February in New England. This, my friends, is a fucking miracle

If I hear one more woman making her culinary choices based on the girth of her thighs alone, I’m going to drown myself in mango lassi. Sure, eat a salad sometimes, for health reasons or cosmetic ones. But other times, eat the bacon-wrapped dates, because they are a fucking miracle. Choose joyfully from the menu of your life – it’s long, and broad, and sacred. 

Wear what you love. 

Similarly, wear things that make you feel happy and wacky and soulful. Wear things that remind you of your childhood, or the beach, or mind-blowing sex. Don’t automatically resort to the thigh-fatness metric. If a dress makes you feel delighted and creative and full of magic, but your thighs look like overstuffed sausages, so be it. Now they are magic sausages. 

Don’t just sit there and look pretty. 

If someone snaps a picture of you doing something important or funny or inspiring – say, scaling a fish, or painting a house – and the demon in your head says you don’t look pretty, tell him to fuck off. Post that photo online. Instagram needs to be reminded that we are complex creatures; a woman can be pretty sometimes, and other times she can be happily (and greasily) scaling a fish. There is no law requiring perpetual prettiness, THANK GOD. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

We are entitled to our faces and bodies, however they are composed, whether anybody finds them pleasing or not. Post a picture in which you’re not pretty, but full of some other kind of light. 

 3) Become a sexual subject. 

Sexual objectification is a big, nasty, complicated problem. As women, we bear the brunt of that problem most of the time. Here are just a few of the things that suck about it: 

We objectify ourselves and each other

As alluded to above, most women (yes, even us creative, smart, professional movers and shakers and doers and thinkers) have a deep–seated conviction that we’d be better off in life if we were prettier/thinner/taller. This is maddeningly stupid, and we know it, but it’s all smashed up in our subconscious primordial ooze, with the Disney Princesses and the Nationwide Insurance jingle, and we have a very hard time rooting it out. 

We enable each other’s self-objectification by sizing up our friends (and enemies), commenting about their appearance, and complaining about our own appearance. When we say “have you lost weight?”, or “my thighs are getting so fat”, we are feeding each other’s demons. 

I’m working on this one by putting the kibosh on all appearance-monitoring of my female friends, and all discussion (complainy or otherwise) of my own appearance. If that sounds really hard (like it does to me), remember the wombats and Mary Oliver.

Self-objectification makes us dumber

Self-objectification results in a phenomenon called body monitoring, which literally makes us dumber. Body monitoring means thinking about how we look, imagining what we might look like to the other people in the room, fidgeting with our hair and clothes, and arranging our face and body in order to look more attractive. It happens so often, and takes up so much brain space, that it has a measurable effect on our ability to focus and perform

This one is tough to combat, but my current approach is this: when I’m in a public place, and I notice I’m sitting in a way that might not look cute, I bite the bullet and keep sitting that way. I’m trying to train my demons the way I train my dogs: no rewards for bad behavior.

When we objectify ourselves during sex, we don’t get to have sex.

Sexual objectification makes us feel that we are not the subjects of our sexual encounters. I’m using “subject” here in the grammatical, sentence-diagramming sense, as in “the entity that is doing or being”; as opposed to the “object”, the “entity being acted upon”. 

It’s simple grammar, folks: when we’re being sexually objectified, we’re not having sex. We are being sexed at, or in, or upon. 

So here’s my challenge: the next time you have sex, verbalize a sentence in which in which you are the subject. That sentence should probably start with the word “I”, as in, “I want you to…” or “I like that”, or “I don’t like that”. (Interestingly, it seems like the most commonly-depicted phrase of dirty talk uttered by women in movies/books/porn is “fuck me”, or some variation of it - a sentence in which the speaker is still the object).

Of course, sometimes, sexual objectification can be fun (fear not, Fifty Shades devotees). I’ve been known to enjoy a helping of it from time to time. I’d argue that if it’s something you can openly discuss and ask your partners for, you are in fact acting as a sexual subject. (When you ask to be objectified, you have to make yourself the subject of the sentence, eg: “I want you to tie me up.”).  

For extra credit: orchestrate a sexual encounter wherein you’re the subject. If someone were writing a story about the encounter, you would be the subject of most of the sentences (“she took off her dress” or “she climbed on top of him”). I am challenging us all to initiate more of the sex we have, and initiate more of the things we want during sex. 

Join me in the pursuit, ladies: we’ve been getting fucked for millennia. Let’s start fucking. 

image

Thanks to Kerry Genese and Lauren J. Andrews for co-creating and collaborating on these ideas with me. 

Thanks to Caroline Heldman for her work on objectification and body monitoring. Watch her brilliant TED talk for more. 



……..

If you love this post (and my other creations), subscribe to me on Patreon.

My Kind of Feminism

I am a feminist.

I thought this would be an appropriate time to jump on the bandwagon, along with Taylor Swift and Beyonce (heck, I’ll jump on any bandwagon Beyonce’s on). That said, I notice that my personal take on feminism does not seem to be the flavor of the month, so I want to take a minute to explain it.

I consider myself a feminist because I support the feminist ‘party line’: equal rights and opportunities for women and girls the world over. But also, I consider myself a feminist because I value femininity. I value my own femininity, and I value feminine thought and action wherever I see it, whether performed by female or male actors.

For the record, I also value masculinity. I believe there is power in balancing the two. When used in concert, masculinity and femininity have a good shot of resolving conflict and creating harmony – a better shot than either quality on its own. Thus, I believe that seeking a balance of masculinity and femininity is a worthy activity for individuals, partnerships, families, organizations, belief systems, governments and societies.

To me, balancing masculinity and femininity has little to do with gender “presentation”. By that, I mean that wearing clothes or performing behaviors that we associate with women (or with men) does not create the kind of balance I’m talking about. A woman can wear lipstick and still be masculine, or fix a car and still be feminine. A man can wear a suit in a feminine way, or kiss another man in a masculine way. 

Let me explain.

This is Not About Women and Men

Women are not always feminine, and men are not always masculine. Masculinity and femininity are qualities which can be expressed in infinite ways, and by all people (thus, transgender people, same-sex couples, and organizations or communities who happen to be comprised primarily of a single gender are at least as equipped to find “balance” as anybody else).

So here’s the rub: in the society where I grew up, and in most human societies at this moment in history, masculine qualities are generally considered to be of higher value than feminine qualities. Masculinity is associated with power and success, and femininity with weakness and ineptitude, to such a degree that we experience outrage, shock or disgust when power and success are projected by feminine actors, or in feminine ways. In other words: this psychological hiccup makes it so that we don’t like to see women in power, and we don’t like to see powerful men acting feminine.

I think that one little misjudgment is at the root of a lot of big problems. Luckily, I don’t happen to think that masculinity has anything to do with power, or that femininity has anything to do with weakness. Those associations are worse than useless: they hurt us, and they hurt our kids. 

What is Femininity?

That said, I don’t think it serves us, as a society, to seek gender homogeny; that is, to do away with all associations surrounding femininity and masculinity. I believe that the words “masculine” and “feminine” ought to mean something, and that we ought to come to broader (and more thoughtful) agreement about what they mean. So, here’s what they mean to me.

In my estimation, femininity has to do with openness, possibility, and connectivity. To be feminine is to acknowledge complexity and relatedness. Feminine thought makes connections between diverse ideas, and explores the “gray area” between distinctions. Feminine thought is nonlinear and inclusive: it is uninterested in boundaries, it leaps from topic to topic, it speaks in metaphor and symbolism, and it rarely (if ever) arrives at a completion point. Feminine thought is sourced primarily from the invisible world – that is, the world of thoughts, feelings, relationships, and the unknown.

Masculinity is about depth, finality, and division. To be masculine is to seek completion by eliminating possibilities. Masculine thought makes clear distinctions between concepts, in the interest of drawing a final conclusion. Masculine thought is linear: it establishes rules of engagement, proceeds logically from point A to point B, eliminates possible conflicts, and reaches a conclusion. Masculine thought is sourced primarily from the physical world – the world of facts, quantitative evidence, the objective, and the known.

Since I see sex in everything (and vice versa), it’s easy for me to think of masculinity and femininity in terms of male and female sexuality. Because of how vaginas work, female sexuality tends to be broad, fluid (hehe), and infinite. Because of how penises work, male sexuality tends to be focused, pointed (teehee), and finite. (Again, these are not “rules” but “tendencies”.)

(Tangent: There is a body of evidence that suggests that the qualities I’m associating with masculinity are side effects of testosterone. I do think there is some biological basis for the fact that we associate these qualities with men, and I find that interesting, but I think it’s counterproductive to get hung up on the issue. For one, women also have testosterone, and some of us have lots. For two, we humans have many biological tendencies that it does not work in our interest to indulge at this moment in history, such as war, eating raw meat, and having babies every two years from puberty until menopause.)

To illustrate that these ways of thinking are not ‘owned’ by men or women, let me point out that Einstein was an extremely feminine thinker. His genius was in drawing connections, and in describing the inter-relatedness of the world (e.g.: space and time influence each other). Ayn Rand, on the other hand, was an extremely masculine thinker. Her genius was in making clear divisions, and defining a strict moral code (e.g.: rational self-interest). Note that Einstein’s masterwork was called relativity, and Rand’s objectivism.

A big advantage of masculine thought is that it is a strong motivator for action. Before you build a building, you have to reach a conclusion about the “best” way to build it. If you’re thinking femininely, you have to acknowledge that there is no “best” way to build a building - the possibilities are endless and thus, choosing one is somewhat arbitrary.

A big disadvantage of masculine thought is that it has tunnel vision. It gets fixated on one thing at a time, and it’s not very good at adjusting for complexity and change. Feminine thought is extremely flexible; the instant that the current assumptions become obsolete, feminine thought is happy to discard them and move on to the next possibility.

So, a society that over-values masculine thought might, for example, be really good at building cities or increasing GDP, but not very good at handling complex “surprises”, like global climate change or impending economic collapse.

Sound familiar?

Seeking Balance

I am biologically female. I happen to enjoy many of the trappings of traditional feminine presentation (high heels, nail polish, rom coms), and I happen to have lots of qualities that I consider feminine (for example, I prefer to spend several hours every day thinking aimlessly about nothing in particular (songs are one of the byproducts of this activity).

I also have qualities that I consider masculine: I’m very ambitious and goal-oriented, I’m competitive, and I value (probably overly much) external achievement. When I care about something, I get fixated to the point of obsession. When I’m in charge of something, I am controlling and stubborn. I value quantitative evidence, and I believe that many kinds of decisions (in my own life and in public policy) ought to be based on the scientific method.

I tend to think that certain activities are best served by my feminine qualities (e.g.: songwriting, choosing friends and partners) and others by my masculine qualities (e.g.: balancing my checkbook, voting). When I’m in a masculine frame of mind, I am a terrible songwriter, because I’m too judgmental and narrow-minded to be experimental. When I’m in a feminine state of mind, I don’t attempt to balance my checkbook, because I lack focus, and get easily overwhelmed by competing thoughts and feelings.

So, I find that I’m most effective in the world when I have all of these characteristics available to me, and can choose which to apply to a given situation. I think that we’d all be better off if this was true of more people: e.g., if our world leaders could summon their feminine qualities when handling things like international diplomacy (which calls for an appreciation of relationship and complexity), and their masculine qualities when handling things like Ebola (which calls for planning and precision).

My Kind of Feminism

Here are some qualities that are nongendered: creativity, intelligence, confidence, power, charisma, strength, grace, beauty, imagination, joy, sensitivity, playfulness, sexiness, leadership, genius, anger, empathy, humor, kindness. These are human qualities, and associating them with a gender works in no one’s interest.

You can apply gender to these qualities; that is, you can be creative in a feminine way, or beautiful in a masculine way. But if any of us feels excluded from expressing these qualities because of our gender (or because of our race, or age, or any other reason), we all suffer.

So, like I said, I’m a feminist. This means that I support the pursuit of political, social and economic equality for women. But my kind of feminism also means that I support the pursuit of feminine thinking. I would like to see more women in politics; but I would also like to see politicians (of any gender) who are willing to acknowledge the complexity and relatedness of the problems we face. I would like to see a world where every child is afforded an education; but I’d also like to see a world where education is considered a lifelong experience that is intimately connected to home life, work life, and the livelihood of future generations. I’d like to see every woman have the right to make decisions about her reproductive health; but I’d also like to see a global conversation about sex, pregnancy, and parenthood that acknowledges the nuance of these issues, and the many complicated ways that they affect our society.

My kind of feminism means that I can be a woman who is powerful and assertive and stubborn. It means that I reserve the right to post selfies in which I do not look pretty. But it also means that I am willing to start conversations, like this one, which are open-ended and complex. It means that I value the pursuit of understanding as much as I value knowledge. It means that I’m interested in your response, even if it begins with “I don’t know”. And it means that if I want to stare at a wall and think aimlessly for a few hours, or feel some feelings, or daydream: goddamnit, I’ll stare at that wall. And I’ll consider it an absolutely vital activity, and an excellent use of my time.

If I could ask one thing from the parents and teachers of today, it wouldn’t be to avoid gendered toys, or to encourage your daughters to learn math and science. It would be this: applaud your kids when they reach a goal, get a good grade, or win a contest; but applaud them too for the power and genius of their femininity, in all of its meandering, metaphorical, infinite glory.



……..

If you love this post (and my other creations), subscribe to me on Patreon.

Casual Love

Friends, put on your flak jackets. It’s time to drop some honesty on yet another uncomfortable topic: love. We use the word “love” to mean a lot of things. Throughout this post I’ll be referring to the romantic kind of love, the kind that usually involves sexual attraction, AKA “falling in love”.

Love: The Shocking Truth  

The truth about love is: it happens. A lot. It happens at appropriate times (like, when you’re in a long-term relationship with someone great), and also inappropriate ones (like, when you meet somebody at a party and have a weirdly awesome conversation and then make out in a bathroom). Love is just not all that concerned with appropriateness.   

We have a mythology surrounding romantic love that says it’s a special, rare feeling, reserved for just a few people in your whole life. It says that love takes time to develop, and that the feelings you experience at the outset of a relationship are not love, but something else (“infatuation”, “a crush”, or my favorite, “twitterpation“ (see Bambi)). It also says that love is generally constant and reliable, and that falling in love is A MAJOR LIFE EVENT, about which SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!   

In summation, the plot of every romantic comedy: if you fall in love with somebody, you better go out and get ‘em - even if they’re already married and they don’t really like you and you’re their stepsister and you’re leaving for a six-year residency in Mongolia in the morning - because you’ll probably love them forever and you might not ever love anyone else.  We are so enamored with this idea that we tend to round some feelings up to love (when you first met the person you later married), and others down to not-love (your weekend fling with a Spanish dancer). The thing is, those experiences feel remarkably similar from the inside.

That Old Feeling

Love is a feeling. It’s hot and fluttery and tingly. I get it in my guts and chest and face. The feeling is accompanied by a series of enthusiastic thoughts, such as “This person is the greatest person ever”, “I wonder how I can make this person feel good”, and/or “I want to climb onto this person and put my face close to their face and smoosh my body onto their body.”   

I have felt this way, to varying degrees, towards probably a hundred different people. Actually, that’s a lie; it is way more. When I was a teenager, I felt it towards approximately three people per day. Lately, the torrent has slowed to once every month or three (I am a bit of a love-fiend, I know. I don’t think such frequency is average.) And I’m married!    

And speaking of being married, yes, I do experience this feeling towards my husband. It feels different now than it felt when we first met: softer, warmer, with more comfort and less urgency. But the love I have for my husband is surrounded by a bunch of other feelings and thoughts that are much rarer than love, in my experience. These include: a deep mutual understanding of and appreciation for each other’s personalities, values, and quirks (e.g.: he finds my love-fiendishness endearing); years of shared experience; a lot of conversations about the kind of future we’re aiming for; and plenty of similar tastes and preferences (e.g. New Orleans, humor, dogs, dark chocolate, Ray Charles, The Daily Show, preferred frequency of house cleaning/travel/sex).    

But underneath all that is the same feeling: love.   Instead of trying to deny it, or ignore it, or call it something different in each different situation, I want to call it like I feel it: I’m in love. I’m in love with my husband, several of my friends, most of the musicians who move me (including some who are dead, such as Chet Baker, who would sympathize), and a handful of people I hardly know but have had good conversations/dances/make out sessions with. I fall in love all the time.    

And really, it’s no big deal. It’s actually kind of fun, once you get used to it.  

I love you. NBD.

The kids today are having a casual sex revolution. “Hookup culture” is akin to “free love”, but with more condoms and fewer hallucinogens. And I’m for it! In case you haven’t heard, I like casual sex. It’s my observation that as casual sex becomes more acceptable behavior (for men and women), it lessens the shame and anxiety associated with the sex that people are having anyway (and have been having since the dawn of time, and are going to keep having). I’m thrilled that young people are beginning to feel they have the option of exploring sex, safely and consensually, outside of the boundaries of long-term commitment.    

But why not have the option of exploring love, too, with or without a side of commitment? If we can agree that our bodies are not inherently dangerous, can’t we do the same for our hearts?   

I suggest we take a page from the casual sex book here. Let’s lift some of the weighty grandiosity off the shoulders of love, and allow it to be what it is: a sweet, ephemeral, exciting feeling to experience and share.

image

Imagine if you could say to a casual partner, “I love you. It’s no big deal. It doesn’t mean you’re The One, or even one of the ones. It doesn’t mean you have to love me back. It doesn’t mean we have to date, or marry, or even cuddle. It doesn’t mean we have to part ways dramatically in a flurry of tears and broken dishes. It doesn’t mean I’ll love you until I die, or that I’ll still love you next year, or tomorrow.”   

Then later, perhaps over brunch, you could tackle the question of whether there’s anything to do about it. All of the aforementioned - dating, marriage, cuddling, etc - are options, and there are an infinite number of other options (Skee ball, sailing around the world, double suicide). These are all things you can now choose or not choose, as two conscious, adult human beings. The important distinction is that none of them is implied just by saying the word “love”.  

The Point  

There are advantages to separating the wacky, butterflies-in-the-gut, unpredictable feeling of “love” from the ideally rational, cool-headed decisions and agreements of “commitment”. For one: love is just not a good enough reason to commit to somebody (trust me, I’ve tried). You need a few other ingredients: mutuality, compatibility, and availability, for starters.  

The big advantage for the lover

is that falling in love will feel less scary, life-threatening, and crazy-making. As long as love is theoretically reserved for people whom you want to date and possibly marry, falling in love will be confusing and dramatic. If we interpret this particular set of feelings and thoughts as an epic, life-changing event, we’ll have no choice but to get really, really attached to our beloved. We’ll throw a lot of expectations at them (“Love me back! Love me only! Love me forever!”), and feel hurt and resentful if the feeling is not mutual. We’ll imprint upon them like baby ducks, and resolve to stick with them through thick and thin, through hell or high water, through abuse and neglect and lies and bickering and frustration and mutually-assured destruction, whether or not it brings us (or anyone else) any kind of joy.   

The big advantage for the beloved

 is that being loved will feel less like an attack, and more like a gift. The little-discussed fact is that it’s super uncomfortable to be loved when the feeling is not mutual (see my song Please). So uncomfortable, in fact, that many of us would rather act like callous, cold-hearted assholes than be in the same room as the person who loves us. We panic, we get distant, we deny any interest or care for the other person, we stop returning their texts. But that’s not an aversion to love, or to the lover; it’s the attachment and expectation being hurled in our direction with such intensity. 

If love was casual, we could take it as a high compliment, say “thanks!”, and feel some warm fuzzies. We might also begin to feel some compassion for our lover (who, after all, has a stomach full of butterflies and can’t eat or sleep very well), which might allow us to make better and kinder decisions about how to respond.   

If love was casual, perhaps it wouldn’t collide into our sense of identity or our plans for the future at such high velocity. It wouldn’t feel so personal. If it’s not mutual, so what? If it doesn’t turn into a relationship, so what? I have feelings and desires all the time that go unsatisfied. Sometimes (okay, a lot of times), late at night, I want Chef’s Perfect Chocolate ice cream, but Creole Creamery closes at 10pm. Do I panic? Do I call Creole Creamery and leave a series of desperate messages? Do I curl into a ball and lament that without Chef’s Perfect Chocolate, I am a broken person who is not worthy of ice cream? 

No. I deal. I feel my feelings, whine a little if I need to, and go without. Like a grown-ass woman.  

And here’s my favorite part: if love is casual - not something rare and dramatic and potentially painful, but something common and easy and mutually enjoyable - we all get to feel more love, and share more love.   

Sounds lovely, right?   

   



……..

If you love this post (and my other creations), subscribe to me on Patreon.