I am always talking to Wancy, secretly and openly, of the nature of things on which I think and rarely speak. Universes, and possibilities, and love, and mysteries. In the course of our last conversation, he asked whether or not I thought it a wrong thing to love and choose to continue loving when there is nothing to be done, and no evidence that that love would alter anything, let alone be returned. My immediate reaction was to protest the idea that love is a choice at all. If you can consciously alter it, it isn’t love, as far as I can tell. But definitions of abstract emotions are transient things, not objective at all. I never expect congruence with another person when it comes to these things.
I told him that what I believe is that love is self-sustaining. It doesn’t require anything from the outside to exist–not acknowledgment, and not reciprocation–which is one of its most terrible aspects. It’s awesome, in the strictest sense, inspiring both worship and terror. But if I love someone, I love them for the what and the who that they are, and it is not dependent on how they respond to the what and who of me. That feeling, based primarily on another person’s response to you, would be something else–mutual appreciation, something born of comfort and compatibility. I don’t want to downplay those aspects of a partnership. They are, of course, hugely important for the long haul, but love itself is not comfortable. It exists in total indifference to how you feel about it, or how anyone else feels about it.
The last time we spoke about this in depth, it was summer a few years ago, and he was here, in the dining room. We were eating pie. Dutch apple. I told him the story of the pie, which had an absurdly heartbreaking history for an inanimate object. We had our laptops set up on the table, and I idly searched Wikipedia for “unrequited love,” and read him this from the article: “. . . modern culture does not support the nobility of suffering for love, and the advice from most people would be to move on.” (That’s not in the article for “unrequited love” currently–I just checked to get the quote, saw it’d been edited, and instead found where I wrote it into a story I was writing at the time, the beginning of which I amazingly never deleted from my hard drive. I kind of love this sentence in the new article though: “Unfortunately; movies, books and songs often portray the would-be lover’s persistence as paying off when the rejector comes to his or her senses.” While the semi-colon makes no sense there, it’s hilarious that the article’s author points out that unrequited love being resolved is basically a fiction.)
We also found something Joey Comeau had written:
Man, I was thinking about unrequited love. I figure it’s best to just walk that shit off. Find someone else to be excited about. It’s like if you love ice cream but your ice cream man friend won’t give you any. Maybe he’s got a good reason. It cuts into profits. Who knows? But he likes you as a friend and wants to hang out anyway. It just drives you crazy to hang out with that dude, even if he’s being reasonable from his point of view. So don’t hang out with him. What, you ONLY like ice cream? It’s ice cream or nothing? Don’t be an asshole. Learn to love donuts.
I remember thinking how very pragmatic that was, how completely current. And how incredibly appealing the idea of being able to see people as interchangeable is, if you aren’t getting what you want from someone. And isn’t that largely how people operate? I think that most people date and partner up and marry or whatever almost entirely based on comfort, and compatibility, and friendship, which is love too. But it just doesn’t sit right with me. Because sometimes it is ice cream or nothing.
So no, I didn’t think it was wrong to love without reciprocation. Love is terrible, as much as it is wonderful, because it will exist whether it makes you sick inside or makes you better. One hopes for the latter, of course.