Love Train

Get on board for a guided tour of matters of the heart --and hormones

Remember the book and the movie Love Story?
I never read the book, never saw the movie, but Love Story was enough a part of the culture in 1970 that there were three things that stuck with me from Erich Segal's melodrama.

One: In the movie, Ali MacGraw dies and Ryan O'Neal cries.
Two: The theme song from the movie is burned into my memory because it's on the cassette tape I have of one of my favorite barbershop quartets, the Gentlemen's Agreement.

And three: The tagline from the movie was inane: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."

What the hell were they thinking? Can you imagine living in a house or a relationship where you never say, "I'm sorry"? Whoops. Maybe you do. If you do, fix it.

You see, one of the things about love is that you do say you're sorry when you've screwed up.

It just goes to show that you shouldn't look to melodramatic movies for life wisdom.

Of course, love is more than saying "I'm sorry."
Mr. Mike, having spent nearly 14 years married to the long-suffering Deb, will now be presumptuous enough to offer a guided tour of the affairs of the heart.

Let's take a trip on the love train.

First Station Stop: Lust Central
As a pubescent kid in northwest Missouri who used to take the bus to our deteriorating downtown with my buddy Moose so that we could sneak around in the old Green Cross drugstore and look for pictures of scantily clad women in the magazine aisle, I can claim years of experience in the lust department.

And by lust I'm not talking about wanting to jump in the sack with your best friend's partner. That's covetousness.

No, the kind of lust I'm talking about is a good old-fashioned sexual urge, the kind that men have about a few hundred times per day and that women, fortunately, have often enough that men stay interested in them.

This kind of lust was built right into our systems, and although I won't equate lust with love, they're a pretty good fit.

I mean, if you don't regularly lust after your lover, you're missing out on something.

The social psychologists and sociologists and anthropologists and even many religious traditions tell us that although we human beings may be at the top of the evolutionary and/or created heap, in some ways we're no different than most of the animals -- we've got a major urge to merge.

Anyway, if lust were like playing the board game of Clue, it would be some variation of Miss Scarlet does it to Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with the rope. Or maybe Mr. Green does it to Professor Plum. Or you figure out a pairing. Lust is creative.

On the other hand, unbridled lust can also turn into a game like Monopoly, where one person ends up with everything and the other is, well, a loser.

So, although lust has its place, and a starring role it is, it is still subordinate to love, which is willing to lose so that the other can win -- and in so doing wins as well.

Load up on a healthy portion of lust, and get back on board this love train.

Next Stop: Infatuation
Oh, my darling, I love you, I must see you, I must have you every moment, I can't stop thinking of you -- why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?

Enjoy infatuation while it lasts, then identify it for what it is. It is a preserver of the species.

Infatuation is like the womb in which the embryo of your potential love either develops or aborts. If you weren't so infatuated with Jack or Jill, you'd see Jack with all his warts or you'd notice Jill's annoying habits and you wouldn't have had enough time to get to know Jack or Jill's inner beauty, blah blah, blah blah, and you'd run like hell all the way down the hill with the pail of water on your head just to avoid all the inevitable pain.

Infatuation operates on the same principle as babies looking cute. One night Deb was watching the Discovery Channel and alerted me to a program on which the anthropologist was saying babies look cute because they must. If they weren't so cute, we wouldn't be willing to give them all the attention they need in order to survive.

My hunch is that the Neanderthals and other extinct precursors to Homo sapiens sapiens did not have cute babies. Only the cute-baby strains of the species survived.

And, generally, amorous relationships with at least some period of infatuation have a better chance of survival. Otherwise, although you may have inner beauty, for all intents and purposes you're just another ugly Neanderthal baby.

For most of my adolescence, I was an ugly Neanderthal baby. Perversely, I was at the same time cursed with an endless string of infatuations. The occasional astute infatuee graced me with a date, but for the most part those relationships lasted about as long as the self-destructing tape at the beginning of an episode of Mission: Impossible.

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