I rant a lot about sex, and I make loads (hah, loads) of lewd remarks, and I am so pro-slut it may seem like I’m all about casual sex. While I think casual sex can be great for those who enjoy it, I actually hate casual sex. Okay, sorry. I dislike casual sex. Hate is for Hitler. I don’t dislike the idea of it, I dislike the physical act of it. It makes me uncomfy, and as a result, I have never really had good casual sex. Sorry if we bumped drunk uglies and you’re reading this and thinking “awww, shit.” I promise, it wasn’t you, it was me. I much prefer stinking up my sheets with a regular, consistent partner. And even more so, I prefer gettin’ it on with someone I love, all Percy Sledge style.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about love. Specifically, I have been thinking about love versus its sneaky doppelganger, attachment. What is the difference between love and attachment? How can we differentiate between the two feelings, which often become entangled faster than two teens with the lights off.
Love, to me, is a feeling of deep trust and connection. It also produces the type of endorphin induced high that makes me grin like an asshole for no reason at all. (Do assholes grin? There’s a thought.) I love the feeling of love; I want to roll around in it like catnip and then wear it to bed like my boyfriend’s stinky t-shirt. Love is flexible, and grows with you and around you and even if you have been together forever, love can feel exciting.
Attachment is that angsty feeling you get about someone. Attachment is the feeling of need. Love and attachment are often entangled because they can go hand in hand. You can be in loved and also be attached—most are, which is why we hate being away from those we love. But you don’t have to be in love to be attached. Often we confuse attachment for love, and the easiest way that I can differentiate between the two is this: When you’re in love, you want the other person to be happy. When you’re attached, you want the other person to make YOU happy. Attachment is not really about the other person, but the way that other person makes YOU feel. That’s where that corny saying “If you truly love someone, let them go,” comes from. “But what? I LOVE them. I don’t want to let them go!” says the ego. Echoed behind this is mine mine mine mine.
Defining love is extremely difficult, if not impossible, because it’s a feeling, and how do you define a feeling? Poets have spent centuries trying to define love—some more successfully than others. Whenever I think about trying to put this short-bus-special feeling into words, I am usually reminded of an extremely charged scene in that deliciously dramatic Mike Nichols film, Closer. I love this movie because it only has four cast members—Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and…gasm..gasm…Clive Owen—and I want to bathe each and every one of them with my tongue, all careful and cat-like. The movie is all about sex and love, and yet shows more of the latter and none of the former (aside from an awk cyber-sex scene between Owen and Law). I am completely enamored with this movie, because of its raw characters and sloppy, real life scenarios. Everyone in it is an asshole, and all of them are likable. Anyway, at one point, Portman’s character says to Law, “Where is this love? I can’t see it, I can’t touch it. I can’t feel it. I can hear it. I can hear some words, but I can’t do anything with your easy words.” Ooooph.
During my last Big Breakup, my ex and I sat arguing about The End. He kept repeating (much like Law’s character in the aforementioned scene) the big L word. Finally, channeling my inner Portman, I asked if he could please specifically pinpoint what this feeling of Love is, and why it is so important to him.
After a long pause, he uttered a word that sent my inner-hopeless romantic screaming out of the room, tearing at her hair and slamming the door—and our relationship—shut behind her. Comfortable. “You’re comfortable,” was what he said.
Comfortable? My bed is comfortable. I look forward to lying down in my bed. I would prefer my bed over the cold floor. If my bed was gone, I would miss it. I enjoy my comfy, comfy bed. But that, my friend, is not love. That is attachment. Attachment is wanting what is comfortable, what is convenient. Love is not always so.
Not that love cannot be comfortable. Love should be comfortable. When we are truly connected to someone else, we should feel comfortable with them. And sometimes, when you have been together a long, long time, that excited In Love feeling may—after the golden retriever and the kids and the second mortgage—turn into a comfortable partnership. Sure, that happens. There are more important things in a functioning relationship than feeling so excited about someone that the majority of your orifices begin to salivate when they walk into a room. But the sheer feeling of comfort should never ever be mistaken for love.
Personally, I know I am in love when I find myself wanting to share things that are special to me with that other person. It’s a way of opening myself emotionally, and I often notice it most with places and people that are special to me. My sleepy southern college town nestled in the blue ridge mountains, for instance. I’ve been itching to take my boyfriend there for a reason that is hard to verbalize. This is special to me, this is a part of who I am. Here. You have it. Or friends who have made a significant impact on my life; I want my partner to meet them. And when something good happens, that other person is the first I want to tell. I have been in non-loving relationships with people that I want to separate from things that are sacred to me. I remember dating a guy and realizing I wasn’t into him when I noticed I never, ever wanted him to come to my house. I liked going to his place so I could leave when I wanted and not feel like he was invading my space. When I love some, I want my space to be their space, too. Get in me!
So what is love to you? How do you differentiate between love and attachment? Have you seen the movie Closer? Do you not want to breathe Natalie Portman’s heavenly pink-wigged stripper scent?