Do you believe in love?

As a young person, I’ve talked myself out of it: I’ve seen way too many teenage couples who profess their undying adoration and then break up after a month or so, and all is tears and recrimination. I think a lot of people my age tend to confuse love with lust, and I like to think that I’m wiser because I don’t make that mistake.

But I don’t think that’s quite true.

I love certain of my friends, for one thing, and I don’t really see a problem with that. It’s not like saying you love the person who you’re really dating just for the sex, only you won’t admit it. I rarely have the opportunity to say “I love you” when I mean it: it usually comes in jest, or in drunkenness, or in thanks for a favour done. If I said a serious “I love you” to a friend, they probably wouldn’t know how to respond, and it would be weird, because it’s just not done (there is one notable exception to this pattern in my life, but it is very much an exception).

My ex-boyfriend told me he loved me a few times, and one of the stupidest things I ever did was that one time I said, “I love you too.” I didn’t really know what else to say. I hate that I said it, because it was false, and I can’t stand when people profess false love. So I don’t want to put anyone else in that position, by saying it when it’s clear it’s not mutual (though my ex seemed to think it was, anyway). But I was with that guy for the same reasons that I think a lot of people are, at my age: at the time he was nice to spend a lot of time with, we shared interests, he was okay to make out with, and most importantly, he was there. That really is the largest consideration when you’re a desperate 16-year-old, as I was at the time. I most certainly didn’t love him, though — and when the whole idea turned out to be a relative disaster for various reasons, I was glad that I was never under that illusion.

Since then, of course, I’ve had innumerable “crushes” and infatuations. There are multiple people who I wish would think of me in the same way. I think up excuses to be physically close to them. I fantasize about them. In some cases these people are good friends who I’m reasonably close to. If it weren’t for the whole sexual desire thing, I’d be lumping them in with the same group of friends to whom I wish I could say “I love you”. But I think to myself, “I can’t possibly ‘love’ them; this is just a silly adolescent crush.” It seems okay in my head to love folks in a Platonic way, but the instant lust gets tossed in there as well, it starts to turn into the way I think a lot of clichéd adolescent relationships turn out: that fake rendition of adult behaviours that I absolutely cannot stand.

This is veering off-topic a bit, but one of the reasons I’m wary about dating guys, and dating in general really, is I don’t want to be The Girlfriend. This is particularly true about the concept of being a guy’s Girlfriend (I’m using the capital “G” to denote this concept). Guys have a tendency to objectify girls — I don’t mind so much; it’s only natural — but in my long experience of being the almost-as-good-as-a-guy with whom The Girlfriend gets talked about, I know that I don’t want to be The Girlfriend. The Girlfriend never seems to realize that her boyfriend is only in it for the sex. The Girlfriend has no clue that the guy really thinks she’s stupid. She’s madly in love with the guy and cries for days when he finally breaks up with her when he gets tired of this sham. I don’t want to be talked about in that way by my significant other. I don’t want to be stupid enough to think I matter that much. I don’t want to be bought off with a three-month “anniversary” present. You know? Believe me, I know that not all adolescent relationships function like this, and fewer adult relationships do. But I’ve seen enough of things like these to think that not “falling in love” is the best way to guard against becoming The Girlfriend.

But I’m sort of starting to think that there’s a difference between love in general and falling in it. If love can, as I believe, be Platonic, I don’t see why it can’t occur within a monagamous (or otherwise) romantic and/or sexual partnership. Right? And maybe it’s not fair of me to judge other people’s relationships on the validity of the love they profess. I’m not inside that situation; I don’t really know what’s going on.

But after my experience with my ex-boyfriend in particular, in which I discovered how easy it is to turn into a romantic cliché regardless of love, I got turned off the whole idea, and very dubious indeed.

But here’s another thought: this whole “falling in love”, monogamous, heterosexual structure thingy is, well, monogamous, heterosexual, vanilla, traditionalist. It’s outdated to think that we have to subscribe to patterns like that; there are so many other ways to structure a romantic/sexual relationship, or even a friendship (friendships and “relationships” aren’t that disparate, I maintain). I look at the categories that I could file this post in, or the posts I’ve made on this blog: there is no way I have to fill the role of The Girlfriend; there are so many other roles to play.

Problem is, I just doubt I could find a significant other who sees it that way.

My god, what an appallingly vanilla ramble.

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