Jackson Bliss explains why love is beautiful precisely because it’s irrational
I met LB on MySpace (yeah, I said MySpace), back when I was getting my first Masters degree. I was spending close to twelve hours a day working on my thesis and I needed a way to get away without leaving my apartment, so I let one of my friends talk me into joining MySpace. During my breaks, I’d occasionally look up women in Chicago and read their profiles. When I sent LB a message, I never expected her to write back since reaching out to her was mostly for me. But she did write back. Six months later, we were good friends. In February of 2007, on the same day I had an interview for the JET program, I met LB for the first time in the flesh. I was dressed in a new suit and Kenneth Cole shoes I’d bought seconds before our first date (they were for her, not the job interview). By June, I knew we had something special. By August, I was totally in love with her for reals. By October, I moved in with her. In February of 2008, we visited her family in Lima. And in July of 2008, we moved to Buenos Aires together, just to do something different. Just for quality of life.
Ever since we started dating, my life has gotten better. That’s not hyperbole, by the way. And yet, a big part of me knows that we almost missed each other. You see, I wasn’t her type and she wasn’t mine. Years before LB and I got married, I’d dated a number of awesome women with impressive and contradictory creds. My list of desired qualities for my type could—and did—go on and on, and yet this list ultimately failed me. Yes, I met amazing women, but I didn’t fall in love the way I did with my wife. Not even close.
Conventional wisdom encourages us to find people who are scrambled images of ourselves. The standard paradigm for relationships claims we date people who make us feel a certain way about ourselves. And popular culture pushes the construct of the “perfect partner.” Our type, that person who is supposedly hidden somewhere in the ether, waiting to unlock the latent happiness inside us with a mysterious skeleton key, is treated like our great savior. The perfect partner is supposed to save us from our drab, familiar life. But this notion of the perfect partner, what we commonly refer to as our type, is actually a narcissistic invention of personal entitlement. When we say someone is our type, we’re not actually saying that person is gonna make us happy, we’re just articulating a specific set of qualities that we find uniquely attractive in the abstract. In fact, happiness is only implied in this articulation because we assume that we’ll be happy once we find the person we want. Counterintuitively, though, the people we seek out may not even be the people we fall in love with. They’re often just the people we think we deserve, the people we like the idea of. Our romantic instincts can mislead us even though everything about them makes sense. Maybe that’s the problem.
When you get down to it, love doesn’t make any damn sense at all. When people list all the reasons they love someone, they’re usually the reasons they like someone. With love, you find yourself loving things about that person you don’t even like in the abstract, things you don’t even want sometimes. Love is like a secret passageway that goes through places you’re completely familiar with and other places you’ve never seen before, some of which you’re afraid of and others you simply avoided. Like, on the other hand is like a browsing history of all the places you’ve already seen, all the pages you’ve read before, things you find comforting and reassuring because you know exactly where you are. There’s something intrinsically irrational about love. We can’t fake love or force love, we can’t persuade love or build a case for love. We can’t write out a big list and say: see, these are all the reasons you should love her. If you do love her, much of it has nothing to do with that list. And if you don’t love him, that list won’t make you change your mind either.
Contrary to the false epistemology of social conservatives, people just love because they can’t fucking help it. Sometimes, we even love people we don’t wanna love, which shows that volition and reasoning can’t prevent or create love. Love is fluid and difficult to control. It’s hard to manipulate and even harder to predict. It’s no one’s fault that love is this way. At the same time, you’ll never bully love. It’s always the other way around.
In the alternative world of being in love, things that usually annoy the shit out of us suddenly delight us. Things we swore to our friends we would never do, we end up doing (often by accident) with the people we’re in love with, and even stranger, we’re happy doing them too because being crazy in love feels better than being cool (or just crazy). Of course, it’s extremely important for couples to have things in common with each other. It’s important for them to be able to share and communicate common interests and experiences together. That’s crucial. But love is like a big, clumsy rocket detonating inside us without any warning.
If my wife and I had joined OK Cupid or Match.com instead of signing up for MySpace (both of us were peer-pressurized, by the way), we would never have found each other. The truth is, we weren’t looking for each other, we were looking for people more like us, or at least, more like our type. In other words, we were both looking for people we wanted because we assumed the people we wanted would make us happy. But a big part of being human includes a deficient knowledge of true happiness, not because humans are delusional but because they can never be omniscient. As humans, we know what we want, but what we want doesn’t necessarily make us happy.
Even though I would never have asked for these things, I love it when LB invents new words or combines two languages together. I love the way she yells at me in telenovela Spanish when she’s pissed off. I love the way she sighs in her sleep when I kiss her forehead. I love that when she’s stressed out, she asks me to play with her hair. I love the way she takes care of sick and wounded children at the hospital, risking her own health each and every day to make the world a better place. I love that she makes me dance to crappy top-40 music in our underwear, cry to sentimental love ballads in Spanish, and give her a million hugs a day. I love that I now watch TV shows I didn’t even know I liked (e.g. CSI, Bones, ANTM). I love that she eats arroz con palta between paychecks, gives me pathophysiology lectures against my will and always wants to “detangle” my shaved head and groom my eyebrows like I’m a bonobo. I love that sometimes we play Supermario Brothers together on our Wii and we’re both obsessed with traveling. I love that my wife went through a phase where she sent me videos of baby elephants for a whole month. I love that she brings me home beanie babies I don’t want, blueberry muffins I didn’t ask for and threatens me when I pretend to eat all the chocolate. I even love the fact she cleverly talked (bribed) me into leaving Argentina in 2009 because we ended up traveling through Western Europe and Morocco instead.
In so many ways, LB is different than what I was looking for and I know for a fact that she wasn’t looking for a hapa fiction writer with a shaved head and a Buddha tat. But instead of traveling to the emotional places we’ve already known, LB and I have opened up entirely new worlds to each other we didn’t even know we loved. For me, that’s what love is supposed to do, if in fact love is supposed to do anything at all. Ultimately, joy isn’t an equation and love isn’t a set of rules. With LB, I found love in the last place I expected. And though our friendship is a crucial part of our love (always and forever), friendship and rationality aren’t a substitute for our madcrazybeautiful love. Friendship and rationality don’t even come close, man.
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image credit: Flickr/istolethetv