I can remember being a little girl and dreaming about what it would be like to have romantic relationships.
I was that kind of little girl. I longed to have someone with me at all times, who was deeply interested in me, what I had to say, what was going on in my life and in my heart (and I, deeply interested in them in turn).
Someone that I could laugh with, have private jokes with.
A person. My person.
Okay, that’s possessive or whatever. I was a kid though. And as a kid in a large family, I was tired of sharing everything. Tired of feeling like nothing was truly mine. Tired of cutting everything into little slivers and the interminable accounting procedures that would take place to determine were the slices exactly equal?
I opted out of family competitions. Spent a lot of time in my room. Writing stories. Talking to my stuffed animals. Envisioning being part of a partnership in which I was the sole focus of attention.
And as part of this, I deeply fetishized “I love you.”
Those three words were magic to me. When someone spoke them to me, that’s how I’d know it was true love. Because that’s what your true love said — it was just that simple.
I would know.
And I wouldn’t say those three little words until I felt the same way. That they were The One.
I Heard “I Love You” A Lot, and It Rarely Meant the Same Thing Twice
As it turned out, those words were said to me pretty young. And then again. And again. Over and over again.
I’ve had a lot of people say those words to me over the years. They’ve been part of the most meaningful connections of my life, it’s true. But they’ve also been uttered by people who weren’t honest with me or themselves. And by people who actually didn’t care about me (because they didn’t really know me) but wanted to. Or wanted me to be part of some vision they had for their life, a preordained role that they’d cast long before they knew me.
I’ve also had it pledged by friends who were more committed to me than any fairy tale prince or princess ever could be.
Even If the Words “I Love You” Are Magic, It’s Unclear Which Spell Is Being Cast
I still run into people who think the words “I love you” are magic. That they mean something, and that they mean something powerful.
And you know, that’s fine. You do you, I guess.
I’m willing to concede that maybe they’re partly right. Maybe “I love you” is a magic incantation. Maybe those words have power and heft. But even if “I love you” are magic words, it’s not certain which spell is being cast.
Because while the Greeks had many words for different kinds of love (from four to eight, depending on which expert you ask), and a popular research model argues for eight kinds of love, in everyday use we just have the one word that’s supposed to cover everything.
And a cultural expectation that the present tense implies the future. That “I love you” also means “I will love you.”
Maybe it would be easier if everything worked that way, but I’ve seen too much to think that the same spells are cast all the time everywhere using those same three words.