I love you.

Yup, those three little crazy words. The ones that can make you happy, make you freak out, make you run for the hills, or make you feel safe and warm.

The ones that can cause you to make fun of someone for saying I love you after one month, but that you find yourself one day saying to someone after a month.

I always wondered about how the same word ‘love’ can be used for so many different things. How can one single word encompass all the subtleties of such a broad range of emotions… How we feel about coffee, how we feel about our parents, how we feel about Amelie Nothomb’s books, how we feel about the new Titanium song, and how we feel about the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with. One word? For all those things?

Makes me want to invent a hundred different words that would include the nuances of taste buds, lust, craziness, passion, preference…

Saying ‘I love you’ to my dog is easy. In romantic interactions, it’s complicated. Timing and even form plays in- isn’t it funny how saying or writing ‘love you’ or ‘love ya’ or ‘luv u’ is so much easier than ‘I love you’?

And it’s different in different languages too. For me saying ‘je t’aime’ is a lot lighter than ‘I love you’. I’ve been wondering why and I think it’s because the words for ‘like’ and ‘love’ are the same in French.

And as in English, the more letters you remove the lighter it becomes. ‘J’t’aime’, ‘je t’m’, and even ‘jtm’ :-)

I once heard that Spanish is the most honest language when it comes to love because ‘love’ is the same as ‘want’. ‘Te quiero’.  And maybe love is just that. Wanting something or someone.

The three words are intricate because the emotions they attempt to reflect are intricate. I wonder about them and question them because I also wonder about and question love.

I’m the girl who always made fun of the ‘invention’ of romantic love’, citing articles that proved its foundation in chemistry, mythology, biology and the urge to reproduce, media brainwashing and romantic-comedy ‘gavage’ (don’t know what the word is in English, but it is what they do to poor geese to make fois gras). And saying that if we look back some years or look far enough away from our little so-called globalized bubble with an anthropological lens, we’d see that romantic love is very much time- and culture-based.

And evolutionary studies have shown bizarre facts about attraction that are kind of sad to think about, including how men are attracted to women of a certain hip-to-waist ratio and symmetrical faces, all in the unconscious name of ensuring healthy offspring and strong DNA. In case you’re wondering, women were shown to partially base their attraction on a man’s height and income. Income because it represents the man’s ability to take care of his woman. In the stone age it would have been represented by a man’s ability to kill an animal with a club and drag it back home (that is, cave).

Scientists have even come up with mathematical formulas of facial beauty and created a computer software that can beautify people in pictures (have a look at whether you prefer the before or after pictures).

In the brain, being in love is akin to being crazy, quite literally (read more), and I used to tell my friends: those butterflies you’re feeling are chemicals designed to make you stay with a person long enough to get your ‘progeniture’ past infancy (according to the science, a maximum of 18 months to 2 years), thereafter to be replaced by either a boredom-induced breakup or attachment/habit/dependency.

Add to all this the fact that our views of what is beautiful and what is desirable are programed by how and where we grew up, it really gives the lie to all our conceptions of freely ‘choosing’ who we love.  And don’t get me started on men looking for their mothers and all that. At the height of my meditation-Buddhist-retreats phase, I even considered celibacy. ‘None of that syrupy fake opium love illusion for me thank you very much’ I thought. ‘I want to view the real meaning of life and tackle truth head on’.

But as I’ve grown older the truth-truth is that I have realized what love can be. Beyond any cynicism. And I don’t care what any of the studies show. You don’t fall in love with someone just because of hormones. You fall in love with them because you love all those little crazy things about them. Their smile, their ears, the way they make you laugh.

And I want to be in love. I want the butterflies even if they are chemicals.

Sometimes, after falling in love, if you’re lucky, you get to experience true love: The difficult process of truthfully knowing someone, with every single one of their flaws and the things that drive you up the wall, and staying through painful conversations and still ‘loving’ the person even when you hate them. It’s not easy, but it’s beautiful. And then, if you’re really really really lucky, you get to fall in love with them again and again.

So love. That word, that feeling. So what if it’s the same word for so many different things? Even Juliet said: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. So the name of love might not matter, and maybe its combined complexity and simplicity is its charm… Because in the end, isn’t the whole point that whatever it is alluding to is beyond words and names?

* Aside from all the linked articles, some interesting books on the science behind attraction and love are The Evolution Of Desire, by David Buss, and Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience? by William Jankowiak.

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21 thoughts on “I love you.

  1. I LOVE your writing style! it’s playful, emotional and mind-blowing, but definitely to the point! you are super talented! Keep up the great work!

  2. You have a great writing style, i got hooked after reading your “Unwrap me” post.
    I went through the “who needs love anyway…” phase, and then with no pump or circumstance, comes that guy from the backdoor, who seduces with his his normalcy :) yes, because this is a rare attribute these days lol. (But that’s not it, he’s truly special) And before you know it, you’re back to that state you swore you would never feel again. Aaaaaaa l’amour! You make me want to write again…Hi My name is Carla, and i haven’t touched my blog in 2 years!
    I am suscribing to your page, because i LOVE IT!

    • Dear Carla, Thank you so much for taking the time to write this comment! Before November I had never really written although I’d always wanted to. Comments like yours encourage me to continue… It’s a wonderful feeling! I’ll check out your blog and I of course encourage you to get back to it! And congrats on finding Love :-)

  3. Normally I would have been repulsed to read about love, but there is something in here… besides the fact that I think I’m quite ready to fall again. Brilliant! Not just the evidence you actually present but the form you guide your reader through the article. Perfect extension, as well.
    Native Spanish speaker here, will contribute to the discussion a bit: “Te quiero” is indeed a way of telling someone you love (appreciate?) him/her -sort of. “I love you” (Te amo) and “I want you” (Te quiero) are not the same, the difference is quite similar to the French “Je t’aime” vs. “Je t’aime bien”, or what you explained about losing letters in the expression (“jtm”). You can be dating someone and tell him/her “te quiero” without compromising too much, but when that person replies “te amo”… well, it’s time to freakout.
    There’s something similar in German, too. “Ich liebe dich” is like “te amo” and “Ich hab dich lieb” (slang term, two “e” missing there; literal for “I have ove for you”) corresponds to “te quiero”.
    One more thing: I was surfing around your blog and found “Mexican in Beirut”. I don’t know you but I love you already. I’m mexican too and I’m obsessed with Beirut and Lebanon in general. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you for taking the time to write this thoughtful response… I really enjoyed reading your linguistic addition, it is so interesting how much the language says about a culture and what nuances one can find between the same words in different language. That’s why I love learning languages, I feel it expands the way you perceive things because you discover different ways of naming things, and some words that exist in one language might not even exist in another, so it enriches your lens on the world. As for ‘Mexican in Beirut’ she is a lovely friend of mine! Get in touch with us if you ever visit Beirut!

    • I really like your piece on ‘the one’! Thanks for sharing it. I actually had been thinking of writing a post about ‘the one’ and whether I believe in such a thing… As I write this reply, my preliminary thoughts on the question of the one is that there are thousands of people in the world who could be ‘the one’ for you, so it depends who you meet, but most importantly, who you love enough to decide to make them your ‘one’… I think this decision is powerful and beautiful, to pick one person to be your one, with all the joys and hardships it entails. Sometimes I also do believe that life nudges you towards a certain person… because in some instances, the way you meet or get together with someone can be extraordinary… And some people feel they’ve met and lost their one, and feel that the love(s) that follow are wonderful but not the one. So yes, sometimes the romantic in me does believe that life wants you to get together with a specific someone. But all it can do is nudge… what you do with it is up to you.

  4. My first read on your blog, got redirected by lebanon aggregator.
    I was hesitant to read this as all “love” related posts are so cliche and personal. I won’t go on with my usual never ending talk about anything and everything, but wanted to say that I like what you wrote.
    Maybe I’ll get inspired at last, “shake my ass” as in hezz tize and start my own blog.
    Thanks for that.

    • Well I am so glad that you went ahead and read despite your hesitation (which I completely understand, especially about love-related topics). I encourage you to go ahead and start your own blog! And come back and give us the link!

  5. Imagine. Your blog post. On a long piece of paper. Each word, cut out separately. All the words spread out on the floor. Imagine. I’m to pick out from these words the ones I agree with…the ideas I’ve often pondered upon…the thoughts that have crossed my mind and somehow found the way to materialize onto those small pieces of paper-in a freakishly accurate way, if I may add… Imagine I’m to pick out these words and place them all in a jar. Amelie Nothomb. David Buss. William Jankowiak. Probably the only three words left on the floor. Only because I haven’t heard of them. I’m sure they would have been in the jar if I had.

    Lovely, as always. Read with a bittersweet smile. Reminded me of the beauty of falling in love. Made me long for those butterflies. Made me anxiously await loving again. But hey, I just loved your post.

    • What a beautiful (and beautifully written) reply! The image of the bits of paper is so vivid. It made me think of writing a post, jumbling up the words, posting it, and having people rewrite it, very different versions might emerge :-) Try to read Nothomb’s books, it’s just hilarious, sharp, and strange fiction- plus her books are all short. Thank you for loving the post… and having me in your jar.

  6. To add some details into the “chemicals” part, here’s an excerpt from an old guardian article “Why women have sex”:

    “Love: an insurance policy

    And what is love? Love is apparently a form of ‘long-term commitment insurance’ that ensures your mate is less likely to leave you, should your legs fall off or your ovaries fall out. Take that, Danielle Steele – you may think you live in 2009 but your genes are still in the stone age, with only chest hair between you and a bloody death. We also get data which confirms that, due to the chemicals your brain produces – dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine – you are, when you are in love, technically what I have always suspected you to be – mad as Stalin.”

    So are the expressions “crazy in love”, “fou amoureux”, “vild med dig”, “majnoun” (RE: majnoun Layla) and others from other languages a person’s realization of this madness?

  7. Love it! This was really beautiful. You know, the Eskimos in North America have something like 100 words for snow to describe all the different kinds of snow. Why do we have just one word in English to describe love? You’re right, it’s stupid. I like the German words for love, there are so many.

    You’re going to love my blog :)

    • That’s true, I knew about the words for snow and had forgotten… when you are intimate with something as eskimos are with snow, how can one word ever be enough. Very a propos today… Am enjoying the flutter of the fluffiest snowflakes I’ve seen. Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to reading your blog!

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