PQ 16.4 — What do I value most in each of my relationships?
The World’s Worst Quiz Show
“Do you love me?” I ask him.
“Of course,” he says.
“How much?” I ask.
“A lottle,” he says. It’s something he says sometimes. That he doesn’t love me a little, he loves me a lot — or a “lottle.” It’s like a little but a lot. I’m not sure where he first learned the word, whether it was a greeting card or a meme or just something he heard other people saying. But wherever it came from, it’s been a staple of our relationship ever since.
I smile. It’s a good moment. He seems to be happy, too. But then I make the fatal mistake that sours the whole thing. One word too many. “Why?”
He frowns. “Because I love you. I just do. Because you’re awesome.”
“But what does that mean, awesome? Is there anything in particular?”
And he’s done. “I hate when you put me on the spot like this.”
And his body language is so tense that I go cold. Shut down. I obviously can’t read his mind, but I imagine anyway, what he must be feeling. Invaded. Tested. Like he’s appearing on the world’s worst quiz show. One where the winners don’t necessarily have any fabulous cash and prizes to look forward to. But the losers certainly face punishment.
Later I’m thinking back on this interaction and feeling especially bad about it. Since he never does it to me. Ask me for the secret recipe to my love for him. The spy plans of my heart’s layout. Any sort of proof that I care about him.
He just believes me. He takes my words at face value.
After all, I know how hard it is sometimes when a friend asks me what I ever saw in a certain ex. I basically have to respond in an essay form to begin to even outline the rough edges of it. And even then, the friend is rarely satisfied by what I say, blinded by my ex’s larger flaws in a similar way to how I can’t see anything beyond my own.
I have the hardest time seeing the goodness in my own heart because I’ve been so close to my own shortcomings. And I’ve hurt myself more than anyone else has.
The Danger of Pat Answers to Complicated Questions
I could probably sit down here and produce a list of everyone I’ve ever loved and why. A mix of past and present objects of affection. What I’ve valued the most in each of those relationships.
But what good would that do? What I’d say would be a mere shadow of what I actually feel for them. Far from the whole picture. A meme that summarizes a series of books. Sure, it’d make an impression, but I would know the difference.
When I look back at my own life, the times where I’ve made the largest mistakes have been when I’ve mistaken the summary for what’s being summarized. When I take other people’s statements out of their intended context. Paint over the rest of the scenery with a single unflattering snapshot. Or a filtered selfie.
We’re not like that. We’re far more complicated than that.
He loves me. I either believe it or I don’t. I’m choosing to believe it.