Tag: Love,

Business or Pleasure?

Valentine’s Day can be rough as a single person, but I’ve always loved it. It is like a festival of bitterness. As a confirmed bachelorette, I’ve only had one Valentine’s Day in a couple and although it was, you know, lovely – I got a song played to me on a ukelele as a surprise and I completely freaked out and splurged on a mediocre prix fixe – it just didn’t feel like it was really in the spirit of the thing.

For me, the rule is: the bleaker, the better, and Valentine’s Day 2017 was an absolute cracker. I had just been dumped, had no job, my house was so cold it was like it was trying to attack me. Although I did get some post, it was just a letter from the NHS inviting me to book a pap smear. (It’s the thought that counts.)

true romance
My cervix brings all the boys to the yard / and they’re like / “Cervical screening is offered to women aged 25 to 49 every three years.”

Valentine’s Day 2018, though, I really wanted to treat myself. #Galentines! So I ran away from all of my problems to start a new life in Berlin.

This had started out as a Lovely Thought at some stage last year. Oh, such a Lovely Thought! The kind of thought you lovingly pore over as you go to sleep at night. The kind of thought you carry around with you like a comfort blanket. The kind of thought you imagine fixing everything – this thought will make you more beautiful, more successful, it will make all of your ex-partners and school bullies and rivals jealous and obsessed and you won’t even CARE because of how lovely the thought is.

It could have stayed a Lovely Thought, absolutely it could have done. When I die, you will find in all 15,000 of my To-Do Lists a perfect and intricate account of everything I meant to do but never got around to doing. Just ask my yoga mat.

So when all of a sudden I found myself on the 09:10 flight to Tegel on Wednesday, I was more surprised than any of you. “Aha!” I thought, “I guess I wasn’t joking.” As the plane took off, I started to giggle. Helplessly. I was wiping tears from my eyes. I don’t know what the other passengers must have thought – probably that I was drunk, or it was my first time on a plane, or I was really enjoying the Eurowings sick-bags which said “Don’t worry, we won’t take it personally” on them in English and German.

But I had to laugh, because somehow, I had gotten away with it. This ridiculous plan to just pack up and go because I fancied it. That’s not how life works, doing things because you fancy them. The structure of society, of politics, of bureaucracy, does not allow for it. Nowhere on immigration forms or job applications or marriage certificates is it acceptable to list your purpose as “Just Because I Felt Like It, Really”. And yet here I was, with my one-way ticket and a case full of weird oversized navy clothes, cackling away to myself and with no reason at all to be there besides wanting to be happy and thinking I might as well do something about it.

(Obviously, I was also giggling because of the sick-bags. That was a solid joke.)

Love (ish)

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In French, you don’t really say “I am in love”. To describe the state of loving someone, you can use an adjective, amoureux/se. You can fall into this state, same as in English (tomber amoureux). And you can be in the state of loving someone, être amoureux de quelqu’un.

But an equally valid way of expressing this, which you tend to find in old plays, is to use an intransitive verb. That means you don’t even need to say “I love so-and-so” – if you are some sort of tragic heroine in heavy stage make-up, you will probably announce at some stage, “j’aime!”, “I am in love with someone!”. It’s the same sort of phrase as “I know”, “I see”, “I dance”, or “I breathe”.

I like this facet of the language, because it makes love into an activity. The way British and American people tend to think about love is very restrictive, in my opinion – it usually has to be a mutual and considered emotion, which you can only express after a given amount of time. If you’ve been in a relationship for over six months or so, it is acceptable to say you are in love with someone. Any less, and you are looked on as, at best, a bit naive, at worst, criminally mad. Although Shakespeare was English, there’s a reason it’s Romeo and Juliet rather than Rodney and Julie. Love goes hand in hand with a clear union with another person – there must always be a subject and an object to it, and you can then be safely classified as being in that state.

But states are never fixed. You can fall in love, and fall out of love. J’aime, je n’aime pas. Sometimes, you just have an flash of love for someone. It might be someone you’re involved with romantically, it might be a stranger on the street, it might be someone you have known for years. It hits you for a moment, or you choose to indulge it for a few hours, then it passes.

I think this is a better way to think about love, today especially, as something unbridled, transient, fierce or gentle, but which certainly needs no flowers or cards or chocolate hearts. Love is one of many possible, finite actions, and you don’t need to attach an object to it. You can just feel it, enjoy it. Le week-end dernier, je suis allée au cinéma. Ce week-end, j’aime. Le week-end prochain, je jouerai au tennis avec mes amis. It’s not some terrifying, grasping, suffocating thing which upturns your whole essence, or binds you to someone else for as long as they’ll have you. I just completely love you, this morning. You be you, I’ll be I.