Saturday, July 3, 2010

True--or False--Love

This is all hypothetical, mind you. I have been considering the idea of love, as a subject for scientific study, and find myself curious as to what others have found in their experience. Like, is it ever real?

The princess story is a potent one in the life of a little girl. She will find, or be found by, her prince. And then the adventure ends. The story ends. Life basically ends. But it's all good, because, after all, life is hard. With the prince, another plateau is reached. Heaven, let's call it. Up there in the clouds, there's nothing much to do but roll around in the warm goo of mutual love.

It can be that way, can't it? For the first year, I mean.

Then, inevitably and always, reality strews its nails and glass shards in the roadway. The smooth and elevated ride goes bump, bang, down. [True or False?]

I see them now, the women who are approaching forty and who have not yet found their prince, or even any kind of regular guy who does not have an addiction to liquor, poverty, or an endless series of six-week relationships. I can almost see it in their bodies: the hopefulness, tensing under their skin, pulling them along by a certain belief that if only they find a man to marry, they will finally be happy. It becomes, in fact, the driving feature of their lives: they are looking, furtively, anywhere and at every moment, for a possibility. He just might be at the dinner party tomorrow night. And then he isn't, and you see them sag, see the impatience to get out of there--you mean I have to sit here, captive, for three whole hours, wasting time I could better use in the search of a lifetime?

I see them, because I was once one of these hungry women. I haunted the streets and the clubs, a desperate look in my darting eye. The more that people told me I needed to stop being desperate, that it alone would prevent that which I desired most (they were right), the more unhappily heartsick I became (I was right too, inasmuch as I never did learn the trick of not feeling what I felt).

There are only two options then: either you finally give up, realize you're never going to meet anyone, get on with your life, and then meet someone because of it. (The Zen of Marriage, this is called.) Or--in the happy ending that invariably turns sad--you attract the kind of man who could really, really use a desperate woman. [True or False?]

Funny, now, though. After much of a lifetime spent yearning for just one thing as if it were everything [True or False?], now it's the one thing I don't really want. I feel pretty much the same way toward marriage that I feel toward being bitten by a rabid dog.

Marriage: it can't end well. [True or False?]

It so often ends in contempt, over-familiarity, at best the death of the floaty, ecstatic dreamworld of first love.

But tell me different. Go ahead, tell me. Love--is it true?


ren said...

Sure, love is true, but it's not always what one thinks it should be. It is it's own thing, and it is unrecognizable beforehand, before it becomes the truth that it is. It cannot be found; it can only be recognized. Or so I have found.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...


Now that I think of it, making it fit the Disney factory mold--blech, anyway. Who wants that?

Actually, I don't know what I want. Perhaps *that* will make it recognizable. Or not.

Just hope it waves at me as it goes past.

jeff said...

you bet it is. either you get lucky (I mean that in the nice way) or you put yourself in a position to get lucky and make the right choice. I always thought you couldn't find real happiness with someone until you understood that it was ok to be alone.

if you are fortunate enough to find it (and it might take some effort after 40), real love is out there. It was for me. A day doesn't go by when I don't take a second to appreciate how happy I am -- happier than I've ever been, and it's not even close.

Steve said...

The question made me want to look it up, maybe the technical part of me wanted to know the exact meaning of the word. Although I found some meanings to be true, like "passionate attraction and desire", "very strong affection" and, of course, "score of zero", I'm not sure that the term can even be defined in the way that we use it. It is something different for everyone, isn't it?

I'd like to think that my version (mutual respect, affection, emotional support, mental stimulation, and passion) is also true for someone else. I don't think that it is impossible, just difficult to distinguish.

So "Love--is it true?": In my experience, no. In my universe of possibilities (which also includes intelligent life on other planets, the end of religion based warfare and equality across racial and gender lines), yes. I think. Maybe.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

"Yes, I think. Maybe." Ha-ha. But true--maybe the only thing that is.

I used to hate that line, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." Sort of Buddhist love, in the moment. And if you feel it at the moment, then that is true love.

Because it's going to change.

Perhaps the biggest fairy tale of all, which I previously used to believe and now blessedly do not, is that it *shouldn't* change. And if it does, it's not "real." But life, and all of us in it, change. Why (and how) couldn't love change, too?

I am OK with this now. And also the role of luck in all of it. Because I too am damn, damn lucky. (To have all of you friends out there, for one thing.) Shoot.

David said...

I think one's viewpoint on this is inevitably colored by where one is at when one writes it, no? The human spirit is to get all downhearted and let go and then be surprised. Some people rebound more quickly than others, some can will it to happen, some step in it accidentally, the varieties are as infinite as the types of people.

I think your observation about a certain kind of person attracting a certain needy kind of person is true, but doesn't absolve either side -- it takes two to tango.

I think your own true or falses sprinkled throughout acknowledge all of this, BTW.

tim said...

Sorry to use this comment field to ask you something off-topic, but is there anyway to send you an email? I'd like to, after reading one of your books.
kind regards,

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Tim, sent you an address. Alternatively, use Facebook.

Dave Pollard said...

Nature uses the Chemistry of Love to get us to do what most effectively propagates the species. Not romantic, and not meant to last. But when it takes hold of us, it has its own unarguable logic, and we are helpless to defy its power, and its bittersweet grace.

Asking for one person to be all things to another for a lifetime is, I think, asking for disillusionment. In my disillusionment, I've decided that I'm meant to be poly . It just seems to work better, despite its social unacceptability, at filling those empty, aching spaces inside.

Thanks for your amazing writing.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Dave, a lot of food for thought . . .

In reading what you wrote about polyamory, I suspect you have attained a far higher level of emotional evolution than I ever will.

I wonder, though, if "society" constructs anything, much less rules on relationships. Society, rather, is constructed by biology, psychology, and history acting in fluid concert. The rules can change, though usually not quickly enough.

I think most people, deep down, do not frown on polyamory: they would love to get there, but simply do not, since most were raised in a dual-parent world, and thus are forced to mirror that when their time comes. (As well as the shock and trauma of divorce, which they will also mirror.)

Anyway, I learned all I need to know of our conflicted behavior when I looked at the lineup of celebrity magazines at the grocery checkout the other day: cover after cover blaring nothing but the heartache of who was stepping out on whom.

That's the rule of relationships, it seems. And society didn't make that one.

Or did it?

Kent said...

Just found this post...

Fairy tale characters find true love. Hollywood couples break up. Another example of life miserably failing to imitate art!

I watch a lot of movies and read a lot of fiction, and everything seems to have a ridiculously happy ending. I keep coming back for more. And I suck at love.

Which is why I just ride my 1980 Yamaha SR500. A very simple motorcycle, with just one cylinder needed to keep it moving along.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Kent, I guess we continue to read on because we want the happy ending for once to belong to us--I believe this sort of hopeless repetition forms the definition of insanity.

I, too, suck as love. Which is why I wrote this.

Tell me different!