For the most part, love has always been a secret thing to me. Part of this is my selfish nature; if I love you, that love is mine, and I don’t want anyone to touch it–they don’t have the right even to speak of it. Partly it’s that love is so incredibly important, and I feel that people use the word carelessly to mean the more pedestrian forms of affection, which is an offense. You ought not call a piece of glass a diamond. A darker part of it is that love is a tool that can easily be used against you. This sheltering fear, that love is a means of control, was fostered in me at a very early age, most likely unconsciously, by watching my extended family dynamic. I was observant, and understood things innately without much effort, so even when very young and otherwise stupid, I understood the power and damage of “You love me, so you will do this for me,” and “I know I can do this to you, because you love me and will let me,” as well as, “I will not love you if you are not this,” and “You are not this way, and so do not deserve to be loved.”
I am forever grateful that from my immediate family, I was never in want of love. I grew up watching how destructive love can be when it’s subverted into something manipulative and controlling, but I have never doubted, for example, my parents’ love for me. I struggled and still struggle with the awful effects of a narcissistic and desperate matriarch’s thoughtless cruelty, which sounds melodramatic, but when her actions are still informing my thoughts and actions well after childhood and her own death, I can’t think of it as being theater dressing.
So I was steeped in a weird contradiction. I felt very loved, and for the most part have always been secure in loving them back, and at the same time, I learned how to see love as something that cuts and rots. Basically where that’s left me is I don’t feel like I have any emptiness inside which needs love to fill it, and I am alarmed by the idea that anyone should know what or who I love.
I’ve gotten better about this. Today I talked with a friend who said he frequently tells his friends he loves them. I joked that I never say that to my friends. That wasn’t entirely true. I do say it, and I mean it wholly when I say it, but I say it reluctantly. It’s easier with some, but even with Wancy and Ian, both of whom I’ve known the longest of all my friends, it took years for me to say it without immediately wishing I could take it back and hide it away. My friend also said he hugs his friends all the time, and I had to think about it before sort of half-heartedly protesting that I hug my friends too. Do I? Yes, of course. I hug Tom and Ian all the time, even when they are disgusting with stage sweat and their slimy unwashed band shirts. I hug Wancy and Alyssa, I do hug my friends, but oh, it takes some time, doesn’t it?
I’m going out with my friends tonight, to see my other friends do the things that they love to do. And I’m going to hug the bejesus out of them, because I love them terribly, even if I don’t want to say it. I think they probably know.