In addition to being a shoe addict (5 pairs in Italia and counting), I am also a hopeless Love junkie. I love a lot of things. There is no real happy-medium for me-- I either love it, or I hate it. Ambiguity is not really my thing. I try to hide it underneath the beer talk and the football game scores, but no matter how hard I try, sometimes it’s just obvious. My roommate Raquel had me pegged by the second night we spent in the Hotel Baglione in Florence. “You’re so into the idea of Love,” she said to me.
Maybe it’s because I can’t understand it. I have never said it. I have never had it said to me. I’ve felt it, but I’ve remained silent, which, in hindsight, was probably the best thing. Just like Carrie in SATC, I’m looking for crazy, outrageous, inconvenient Love. Love that leaves no room for anything else—no doubts, no fears, just firm knowledge.
I listened to one of my roommates one night as she stood in the hallway outside my door, crying. “Love is a fairytale,” she said. “It doesn’t exist.” As I listened to her, I felt my heartbeat shudder a bit. Not because of the fact that she was obviously upset, but because of the fact that she didn’t believe. It pains me, deep down, when people profess that they don’t believe in Love. What, then, do you really have to live for? ‘What does that mean for me?’ I remember thinking. ‘That’s sad and all that she doesn’t have faith for herself, in herself, but what does it mean for me that there are other people out there who don’t believe in Love like I believe?’
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, a young teenage girl traveled down to Florida with her family. While she was there, she met a dashing young yacht captain on the docks one night. They went out to dinner the very night they met, and by the time they kissed goodnight and the room spun as she saw fireworks, she was sure that she wanted to be with that man forever. Fate intervened. They both happened to be from New Jersey. He quit his job on the yacht after the last trip, moved back to New Jersey, and two years later, they were married, two days after she graduated high school. About another seventeen years later, pretty much unplanned, they had a child. 35 years later, they are still together, still very much in love. These people are my parents.
This is not to say it is always perfect. As the child of the union, I can tell you—there are fights and disagreements and disappointments. As my mother explained to me, it’s not so much of a constant state of Love—it’s more of an “I will always love you, but I don’t always have to like you.” It is not a ‘happily-ever-after’ fairytale all of the time. Sometimes, it is shoveling the snow off the deck and balancing the familial checkbook and swapping cars to get oil changed. Sometimes, it is planning your life around someone else’s and deferring to their hopes and dreams and aspirations because you love someone enough to know that they need to take a chance and that your own hopes and dreams and aspirations can be put on hold for a moment in order to support theirs. Sometimes, it is putting up with the mundane and the tedious and the frustrating. But, other times, it’s just—it. A sure feeling. Love. Bliss. As easy to love someone else as it is to breathe.
I used to think that this sort of perfect fairytale ending was not achievable for me, based merely on the fact that if my parents were so lucky, how could I ever be doubly lucky as well? Between Disney, the rigors of our societal traditional roles on young women, and growing up around two people so obviously in love, I started to feel jaded. Once, I told a guy I was dating this fear—that because my parents got this, that I never would. He looked at me from the passenger seat as I drove, horrified. “Why would you ever think that way?” he asked me. “Why don’t you think about how that’s what you’re supposed to find, instead?” Even if the relationship was caput, the advice was sound. After all, as a long-time family friend told me, “It wasn’t always a fairytale, after all. The first few years were downright nasty.” As it can be. Love isn’t just a fairytale, as my roommate was finding out. It’s fickle, and it’s difficult, and yes, it will make your cry sometimes. It’s not for the faint of heart, or for those who don’t like getting back up again, dusting themselves off, gluing the pieces of their heart back together, and trying again. It’s not for those who can’t speak their mind, or don’t know yet what they want. It’s not for those who don’t believe they want to find it.
The more I see of this world, the more sure I become that there’s some sort of equation to love. The amount of effort you put into finding it, cultivating it, and maintaining it is directly proportional to the amount you get from it. As my own mother, she of the 35 year+ relationship says, relationships aren’t two people each putting in 50%. A real relationship is two people both putting in 100% of their effort, while at the same time, not feeling like it’s an effort. As I have found, sometimes it even requires 110, or 115.5%, without even realizing it, just because that’s what you want to put into it. There is no Golden Rule to love and relationships. You just need to know that you are doing everything possible to find it, make it work, or to move it forward in order to know that you should be getting something out of it.
If you are a Disciple of Love, does it make you one of the chosen few more apt to find it? If you really believe in it, can you make it come true? If you are a true romantic, no matter how closeted, does that make you more entitled to your own Happy Ending? Are there really any promises?
I have met Romantics off all different shapes and sizes—the Single Girls who are doing their damnedest just searching high and low for Love. The guy who wants both the physical and mental connection. The military couple who doesn’t let distance, jobs, and danger get in their way of always, always thinking about a ‘tomorrow.’ And those eternal ponderers, always questioning if Love is really for them while just hoping to get an answer back from the great void that is the rest of the world’s dating population. Patience. Perseverance. A perverse sense of humor. If not today, then maybe tomorrow. The one thing that all these people have in common is the fact that just like my parents, they believed that they were supposed to find Love; that Love was something that they are entitled to, if not owed. There is no settling; there is no giving up. And when it comes down to it, that’s exactly what you have to remember—you are, in fact, Loveable. Guaranteed, there is someone out there who will find your quirks and idiosyncrasies—the way your voice register drops when you’re asking for a favor, how everything laid on a flat surface has to be diagonal, how your peas and your carrots must never touch—helplessly loveable. There will be someone who will care for you enough to forgive most every mistake you can make. There will be someone who can think of nothing better to do than just sit and breathe with you; just stand still with you. The trick is being patient, waiting, and keeping an open heart of your own. Don’t miss that knock. And once you find it, don’t let it go so easily. All good things are worth working for—and not just 50%. Give it 110%.