What is love?
"I hope that one day you will have the experience of doing something you do not understand for someone you love."
In AP literature, we recently wrapped up reading -- note the alliteration that mysteriously manifests itself in my writing the moment I start thinking about a composition class -- Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (which you should definitely check out from your local library).
That quote caught my attention and got me thinking about the nature of love. What is love? Beyond, of course, a Haddoway song whose lyrics, as far as I can tell, never answer their title's query. Is it...selflessness? Compassion muddled with adoration and taken to crazy heights?
Fourth-graders whispering "Do you think Adam likes me?" in the hallways (this actually applies to high school halls, too, though I cringe to acknowledge its presence)? Is it delusion, or an unfathomable attachment so forceful that it will inevitably be referenced in song, literature, film, talk show, theater and shoe store for all of eternity (or until shopping only takes place online)?
What could a 17-year-old Obama addict who doesn't weigh enough to give blood and randomly lapses into Spanish while text messaging know about love? Pshaw, nothing substantial, for certain. But here's what I've got so far:
Love is my family leaving a restaurant that's less than vegetarian-friendly because I can't find anything edible on the menu, without any bitterness to note; it's knowing that you've said something everyone at the lunch table is going to make fun of, but not minding because it made them all smile (I'm very familiar with this sort of love); it's friends whose bad days always seem to fall the same as yours.
Love is finding someone's faults endearing: being unable to stop yourself from grinning in adoration when she trips over absolutely empty air, or when he sings loudly and unknowingly off-key. In public.
Love is my brother letting me shower first because I have a National Honor Society meeting and couldn't pry myself out of bed before 7.
Love is silence that isn't awkward; it's doing the dishes when you don't have to and nobody's going to praise you for it; it's Mom letting me set the table backwards because it still baffles me that the forks don't go on the right if everybody at the table is right-handed (and I know it irritates her).
Love is going to the play or the game or the meet that you don't care about...because you know he does; it's telling her that she's overreacting when she can't see that she is; it's an argument that ends without knowing (or caring) how it started.
Love is hearing Grandpa's best joke or Grandma's favorite story for the umpteenth time and not minding, rolling your eyes, interrupting or pointing out inconsistencies.
Love is being thrilled to run errands because you know it's going to make somebody else's life marginally more manageable; it's a text message at 3 in the morning because she HAD to tell you right away (and true love is responding through your smeared vision and sleep deprivation and clumsy fingers and inability to fathom the workings of T-9 before having injected caffeine into your bloodstream); it's spending Sunday helping your little brother wrap presents, even though he's got weeks before Christmas and you've got a paper due Monday (I know a few saints who've done it).
Love is laughing for five minutes straight until your abs ache when it wasn't even that funny. (Note: this is doubly wonderful if you don't like sit-ups.)
Love is forgoing sleep the night before an early morning because he just needed somebody to listen; it's when hearing her say your name somehow means more than it should by any sort of logic.
Love is waiting for him to call and understanding when he doesn't.
Love is driving without having anywhere to go or anything to say -- when gas isn't cheap.
Love is letting her have the last slice of chocolate cake...and some of us reeaallly like chocolate cake...the same ones who reeaallly don't like sit-ups.
I spent Tuesday morning badgering my friends into summoning up some answers, and was ecstatic to find that a few of the kids at that high school are almost insightful sometimes.
After we got through the semi-silly "love is how I feel about you, Thressa!" responses, and Derek expounded on his "love is a government conspiracy" theory, the conversation turned to musings. Morgan finds love in warm cookies (a concept I wholeheartedly subscribe to); Bryan believes love is "whatever you want it to be." Travis, after initial suspicion, conceded that love is different for everybody, "so you have to find out what it means to you."
Understandably not a simple query, Shon started in with "Love is..." and paused. "I can't describe it," he admitted. Peter, too: "Love is when...go ask your parents." (I haven't.) Tre looked off down the hallway for a moment, then spewed his brilliance: "Love for some people is a hobby, for some it's God, and for everyone else it's somewhere in between" (I know, the boy's a poet, right?).
Chris emailed me his answer: a few goofy grin inducing words about feeling warm when someone smiles, hearing a name and looking around, hoping she's (I'm fairly confident he immediately thought of his girlfriend when I inquired) nearby, and being thrilled by a telephone's ring because it might be her. And Cassy? "Love is demonstrative adjectives." (I'm relieved to note she was doing her Spanish homework, or the response might have been cause for concern.)
Even my AP government teacher voiced in, without having been asked; during his economic ponderings for the morning, he broached the subject: "You can buy anything with a credit card...except loooove," he crooned.
And Woody Allen? Well..."To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes on unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down." So...did he prove any point whatsoever? I haven't the faintest, but words of that caliber need be read by everyone, and I like to do my part.
The Counting Crows sang some of my favorite lyrics in their song "Anna." Adam Duritz -- the singer with the dreads who likes to wear bunny suits -- inevitably gets me grinning with each vocalization of "every time she sneezes I believe it's love."
This somehow exemplifies everything that I think love should be in a few soft words. Sneezing is simple, commonplace (I've seen my buddy Rachel do it about 16 times in a row without pausing), and mayhap not an orthodox route of attraction. And he loves her for it.
If I've given you cavities with my sweetly sappy column this week, I apologize (but DL's dentists will be ecstatic). If you've got explanation for adoration, let me know. And if someday you aren't sure how to end an article...gesundheit!
Thressa Johnson is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.