Since yesterday was Valentine’s Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. Not being in love, or all the people I love. Just as a word: “love.” The word love fails me. It means too much and yet too little all at the same time. It can be the heaviest word, like saying “I love you” for the first time, or it can be a weightless, useless word, like saying “I love my Prada backpack.”
So, I decided to actually look up the word love, and see what it means, officially in the dictionary:
- a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3. sexual passion or desire.
4. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
5 (used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like:)
‘Would you like to see a movie, love?’
6. a love affair; an intensely amorous incident; amour.
7. sexual intercourse; copulation.”
So. After reading that definition, I have some problems! First off, I don’t think the dictionary really gets it. These descriptions just don’t seem to get to the core depth of love. All these definitions are utterly boring. (Except for 3 and 7, which I also have a problem with. Sex is not love. Our culture gets love and lust confused all the time. I get lust and love confused all the time. But they are not the same.) When I love someone, it doesn’t feel “profoundly tender.” Stop being such a sap, dictionary.
But my biggest issue with the word love is we put too much on it. It’s just one word. One single word. And we expect it to mean too much. The word I use to describe how much like ice cream shouldn’t be the same word I use to describe the feeling of joy I get when I’m with my best friend. Also, the intense, passionate, intimate connect I feel with a boyfriend or girlfriend, really should not be the same word I say to my mom before I hang up the phone. The Inuits have 15 words for “snow,” but I only get one word for “love?”
I want a different word for all the kinds of love I feel. I want a world for family love, for friendship love, for humanity love. I want a different word for the love of things. I want a word to describe the kind of love I feel for my ex who I haven’t seen in years; a word that describes the feeling of warmth I feel when I think about the time we spent together, but also how inactive that love is, how that love morphed into something platonic, something that is there, but never gets used. I want a word to describe how much I love my mom, but can still get so annoyed with her, and want distance from her. I want a word for being inlove (really, I think in love should be a connected, compound word: “inlove.” You’re “in” it for God’s sake). And within those categories, I want more words. Because I’ve been in love and sometimes it’s cheesy, corny love, but sometimes it’s sad love, or dangerous love, or fast love, or slow love, wild and out of control love, or young love, passionate-fight-all-the-time love, or I feel like I’ve known you forever love, or unrequited love, or obsessive love.
Love never feels the same way twice. And it shouldn’t, it’s too personal. But I want language to allow for that. Words are just placeholders. Words are symbols for something much bigger, and as a word, “love” just ain’t doing it for me anymore.
Our culture is so obsessed with reasons and answers. From science to religion, we are constantly trying to answer why. But imagine, if we could let go of the word love, or even defining it at all. Imagine if love could just be what is it: connection, an emotional feeling greater than oneself. The definitions of love limit love. Love is an indescribable feeling, so let’s stop describing it.