I Hate the Word Love
I hate the word Love.
Let me give you an example. My step-mother, aged 98, says she loves me whenever I speak
to her, and expects me to say it back. I don't. This is partly because I don't love her – not in any real sense of the word. It also is because my real mother, who has been dead for almost 50 years, I did love very much, but we never said the word. It wasn't done in our family– but it wasn't needed. We knew we loved each other. It wasn't mentioned between my Dad or Sister and me either, but we were a close family. To say I love my step-mother would seem like a betrayal of my mother.
I know I hurt my step-mother's feelings when I say, “Thank you” or “Good Bye” or “Okay” when she wants me to say those three words. It wouldn't kill me to say them, and not mean them, and this last weekend, when her phone conversation ended with, “I love you so much,” said in a desperate voice, I found myself saying, “me too,” and then quickly hanging up before I could take it back. But it left a sour taste in my mouth.
When she chased my dad and married him within months of my mother's death, she said. “I don't want to be your mother. I just would like to be your friend.” I was okay with that, and I have kept my side of the bargain. I wrote to her regularly until her sight was too bad for her to read my letters, so now I phone her once a week. Every few years I go to visit her for a few days, as part of my trip to see other relatives. And I send her presents for her birthday and Christmas.
I think the word Love is overused by most – and as a result loses its real meaning. I also hate the kissing and hugging that seems expected and automatic with friends, and often strangers. I wonder if they see me cringe. I certainly never initiate these actions except with close family.
I know the Christian message – Love God and Love your Neighbours as you Love Yourself. I'm not sure I do very well at any of them. I try, but probably not hard enough.
I decided to make a list of things that I say I love, and analyze whether I am using the word incorrectly. I often say that I love to play bridge and scrabble. I look forward to my games each week, and usually have a good time, win or lose. I probably have a better time when I win, and when I meet up with people I enjoy being with, but for the most part, my life would be much duller without these pastimes. I really do love them.
I say I love to write, and to read stories, although both are dependent on me having the right frame of mind, and the right topic. If I lost my ability to do either, I would be devastated, so I do think Love is the right word to use.
What else do I love? A beautiful sunset, some particular pieces of music, being outside when the weather is perfect, a nice glass of wine at the end of the day, certain TV programmes that move me.
Certainly enough things to ensure that my life is for the most part a happy one. And in the end, does saying the word really matter?