Nobody Knows How Love Works
I am not married. I have never, to the best of my knowledge, been married. But of course, I love men. So, before you read this, I want to give you notice, I am normal.
I do not have any children of which I am right now aware. I am, in fact, recently single again right now. Also: no mortgage. No debt. No jobless. No daily array of behavioral meds (yet). No significant or particularly dangerous skeletons – none that can speak or call the CIA or reveal the location of the photographs buried on my hard drive, anyway.
This is a weirdly fascinating position to be in, and not only because many of my long-coupled friends think I must’ve won some sort of amazing social lottery, with the prize being a debauched free-for-all of our adventure. No, when you’re single and you’ve finally made it past the age when you’ve felt both love’s deepest tongue probings and also its most random horror-flick slashings, what it means, at least for me, is that you get to become this odd sort of sounding board – a blank slate for love’s warped potential, a reason for others to extrapolate on the nature of love and life and how difficult/wonderful/impossible it all really is.
Which is merely another way of saying, I am learning something. Or rather, relearning. Or rather, knowing something everyone sort of knows but no one really talks all that much about because it’s so damn obvious and also painful and fraught and wonderful, pounded back into my thick skull in a delightfully unexpected way.
Here is the big lesson, the thing that keeps coming at me, again and again and again: No one has the slightest clue how to make love work.
I know. Shocking. But truly, it’s weirder that you might think.
See, singlehood at ‘my pseudo-mature’ zone can enjoying the moment as you ready for the new, of trying to figure out just what you’re all about and what you really want and how to go about getting it, or not getting it, or letting it all go and not attaching to it so that it may find you, in the healthiest and sexiest and most honest way possible. And so, you look around. And you ask. And you get feedback, comments, perspectives from all those in various stages of lovedom around you.
(Very few of my circle are single, and if they are, they’re almost certainly seeking that special one to make it all make sense) And that feedback ain’t what it used to be. If it ever was.
For every happily married couple I know (and I do know a few), there are three more who are confused and tense and battling all sorts of doubt and crisis and regret. For every wedding announcement, there are two more separations. For every guy I know who’s tremendously happy to be settled, there’s another who wishes he could’ve had “just one more year” of unbridled freedom. It goes on. For every woman I know who simply can’t wait to have kids and who tears up in front of a newborn and whose biological clock is ticking like Dick Cheney’s pacemaker in a gay fetish dungeon, there’s another who has quietly realized that she should maybe never have become a mother.
Couples you think were rock solid and perfect have fallen apart, screamingly. Couples you thought wouldn’t last a year have made it to 10 and show no signs of slowing. Couples who got together in college and were miserably mismatched took a decade off and had lots of sex with other people and then got back together and it’s now the perfect, true thing. More or less. Unless it’s not.
See, at a certain point, all the variants become so astounding, so dizzying, so universal, that you finally realize (yes, for the 1.000th time) there is no rule. There is no pattern. The exceptions are the rule. There is no approach that, overall, seems to work for most people most of the time. There’s not even a hint of a possibility of a whisper of a rule, and anyone who tries to tell you differently, be it a church or a parent or a relationship guru, is, to put it gently, astoundingly full of it.
This is why God laughs. This is why the Fates roll their eyes and belch.
Because you think you have this crude set of boundaries and guidelines that you insist you will live by as you head into the uncharted waters of love and these silly notions grow and thrive and breed like drunken Mormons all through your 20s and 30s, when all your friends are hooking up and all the marriages are as fresh as squirted mother’s milk and all the love is sweet and skittering and hot and everything seems aimed toward the positive, the right.
And then, time happens. Fights. Breakdowns. Crisis. Fertility issues. Financial stress. Loveless marriages. Second marriages. Unwanted kids. Wanted kids who end up being the repository of all the angst of the loveless marriage. Divorce. Stepchildren. Open relationships. Closed relationships. Experimentation. Sperm donation. Therapy. Also: Cancer Come Back. Disease. Accidents. Death.
Rebirth. Morning breath.
Oh, and one more: infidelity. Oh yes. Here is perhaps the most fascinating topic of all, the soul’s dirty little secret. Because maybe you used to look at adultery and say, “Oh my God, no way, it’s just so wrong, horrible, hurtful, dangerous.” Maybe it was even your absolute rule. Unassailable. You simply do not cheat. Do not wander. Not ever. No no no no no.
Except, yes. Except when you get to know someone – or perhaps multiple someones – and for whatever unexpected reason and unquantifiable mutation of love and body and life, it becomes actually understandable. Justifiable. Encouraged, even. Still painful, hurtful, dangerous? Yes. But if you’re honest, your boundaries will shift. Your definitions will blur. And what’s more, you realize that this is how it has to be. Maybe it’s simply a case of the more you learn the less you understand. Maybe it’s all about the wisdom of aging.
Me, I like to think it’s simply because, for the most part, we’re still just one big gaggle of spiritual infants, trembling and jumpy and sweet and trying to work through the infinitely frustrating, cruelly painful, kissing, loving, hurting, yeah like human does. And guys, from what I can tell right now, we’ve got one hell of a long way to go.