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Anti-romantic Analogies for Love

May 31, 2013

Some statements can only be made after a few too many beers, the precise definition of “a few too many beers” being clouded by having had a few too many beers. Such was the case the last night of my California road trip, when I stayed with a friend in L.A.

We were talking about my favorite subject in the whole wide world: dating.

“I don’t wanna do it again,” I declared.

“But you will,” my friend insisted.

“No I won’t.”

“Aw, come on. It’s been, what, less than six months since you ended your last relationship. You’ll get over it.”

I wasn’t entirely sure what this “it” was that I would soon get over, but I soldiered on anyway. “Why would I want to do that to myself? I tried being in a relationship. I hated it. It’d be like if you were telling me to try drinking expired milk again after I spent all day throwing up the last time I chugged the whole container. It was that bad.”

“Well…you sure seemed happy for a while,” she said doubtfully.

“I took acting classes in high school,” I said, crossing my arms.

In truth, there were about three years of the almost-seven in which I was genuinely happy (still not what I’d consider an ideal return on investment, however), so the more apt soured-milk analogy would be that I bought the milk when I had a nasty cold and dairy products caused me to  get even more phlegmy and feel generally worse than I already did, then the cold went away and I was able to enjoy my whitened coffee and spice-neutralizing drink, then the milk turned bad but I kept on drinking anyway because I was sentimentally attached and had to believe that either it could go back to the way it was before or I could simply get used to it in its new state.

Milk purchases, jokes about buying the cow versus getting it for free aside, aren’t perhaps the most apt likeness to how I felt about relationships, but bear in mind again that when I came up with the initial simile, my drink of choice wasn’t the wholesome, frothy product of the American heartland, but a less-wholesome yet still frothy product of the American spineland. Yeah. That’s totally what the Rocky Mountain states are being called from here on out. Because the Great Divide, both the hydrological feature and the brewing company, is the backbone of this country.

Alas, beer is too good to be a decent comparison to how I feel about love. Sure, overindulgence leads to hangovers, and the tail end of mine felt like one giant six-month-long hangover without the part where I woke up on a Vegas rooftop, but the first sip you take of a beer is always the best, and I hated the infatuation phase–the first taste–of being in a relationship.

I turn instead to a conversation I had with my Baltimore-based relationshit counselor in which he and I mused on how best to depict love to both the uninitiated and the battle-scarred alike.

“It’s like a plant,” he said. “You gotta get everything just right. You plant the seed first, then there’s this period of uncontrollable growth that you really can’t do much but stand back and watch, then green shoots start forming and seeds fly loose, and then it withers up and dies.”

“I think it’s more like a forest fire. One of the nasty ones, like when they’re making plans just in case they have to evacuate Denver. All it takes is one little spark, and then it bowls over everything in a given radius, leaving nothing but blackened hillsides and property damage in its midst.”

“Uh…”

“But it does set the stage for new growth. Ecologists think a good, rip-roaring fire is a necessity every two to three hundred years, because it clears out the old, dead wood and makes way for new trees to grow. But then all those trees die a slow, painful death, and you need to have another forest fire. Unless you just get a logging company to remove all the dead wood.”

I’m pretty sure we each walked away from that conversation feeling that, while the other person’s analogy had merits, ours was still more accurate. And both have the shared elements of helplessness at the explosive first stage and the idea that, biologically speaking, the ultimate purpose that your hindbrain wants to accomplish by trapping you in this phase is the seeding and cultivation of new life (your hindbrain, of course, being unable to comprehend that you are on birth control, and in my case, for very good reasons).

But I’m not sure whether to chalk up the differences in our analogies to geography or differing levels of pessimism. He is, after all, based in humid, bayside Baltimore, where there are more green things growing than the denizens know what to do with, and I’m based in arid, forested Colorado, where few plants grow easily and those that do are likely to get taken out by an ill-placed lightning strike or smoldering campfire.

I think I’ve got the trump card, though. The Hayman Fire, one of the largest in my state’s recent history and the cause of the aforementioned potential evacuation plans, started when forestry tech Terry Barton poured out her feelings of bitterness and resentment toward her estranged husband on paper, then used the paper as campfire fuel during an obviously necessary campfire ban. It’s still unclear whether Barton wanted to be a hero by reporting and putting the fire out or simply wanted to stay home and fight fires in Colorado rather than being sent elsewhere, but either way, Bruce Springsteen is absolutely right: “You can’t start a fire without a spark.” And the spark in this case almost literally flared from soured love.

I will continue to dutifully follow my state’s campfire regulations so as not to deal with more damage and destruction. I’ll also avoid applying my black thumb to gardening projects, and maybe I’ll even shy away from the dairy aisle at the grocery store, just in case. Beer lasts a lot longer anyway.

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14 Comments
  1. You’re going to date again real soon and fall in love with somebody and hate yourself for some reason or another, but the posts will no doubt be hilarious, so I’ll look forward to this ride.

    • I’d definitely hate myself for falling in love with somebody. Unless that somebody works for a brewery. Then I could dull the hatred with beer, and my posts will then be unintentionally hilarious since I’ll no longer remember how to spell!

  2. I don’t want to be in a relationship, either. I’ve never been in a real relationship, but I’ve dated, and the last one was a year and a half ago, but people still tell me I’ll find that special person and I’m like “NO.” I’ve had enough. There was too much stress trying to find a way to see him and him not helping the process. Don’t let anybody talk you into love when you don’t want to be.

    • High five! “Real” relationships aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, unless you’re looking to crack because of them. There’s always one person more invested in the relationship than the other, too, and if you’re more invested, you feel used; if you’re not as invested, you feel guilty. Either way, it causes unnecessary stress, and it’s great that you’re sure enough of yourself to stay away from it.

  3. it would be a shame to base life off one experience….then again I suppose some just aren’t cut out for monogamy. Either way, I am looking forward to seeing where your road takes you.

  4. Totally get the forest fire mentality.

  5. @“Aw, come on. It’s been, what, less than six months since you ended your last relationship. You’ll get over it.”…>> I couldn’t agree more with this comment..You’re still in the getting-over-it & through it process..Let it happen naturally cause it necessary..Then mesh/hash out the reasons for it ending, honestly, and stay busy with your life in the aftermath. Some folks feel its good to date soon after to help get over the last relationship. I no longer believe in rebound relationships. They never last! I just don’t feel its a healthy choice nor is it fair to the person one is rebounding onto. I agree with something someone said earlier; these posts are going to provide you much! laughter when you fall in love again..

    • Yeah, except it’s not so much that I want to avoid dating, it’s that I want to avoid sexual/romantic love. In my last relationship that was based entirely on that nebulous quality known as “chemistry,” there were three good years and four years at either end that sucked the life out of me for one reason or another. I don’t need that. I’m hoping this blog will serve as a reminder that, should feelings override my common sense in the future, I personally am better off on my own. I still gripe a lot, but at least it will be griping of my own making rather than someone else’s.

      I am also aware how unusual my stance is. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be in a relationship…I simply don’t, just as I didn’t the last time around.

      • You know what? You’re onto something with that last line of thought! Folks like me project! what they want or know; onto others who don’t. The nerve! Wasn’t until you spelled it out like that & I read it; that I realized it. Why that is factual I don’t know..mayhaps because we ASSume, wrongly, that everyone wants what we want…I’ve actually struggled with this topic before. I’m a practicing Catholic..I struggle from time to time; when I ponder it, which isn’t always by far…how priests and nuns can be happily NOT part of a love relationship…Or I wonder if they’re truly happy never being part of a romantic love relationship or not parents, etc etc…Not because its even MY business, cause it isn’t, but just to try to grasp how or if its possible to find happiness in such a state. That topic of course only comes to my mind; when we hear of some of the horror stories…But then I realize that are bad seed in every profession. So you see your stance isn’t as unsual as you think…I’ve heard women say before, backintheday(don’t hear it as much anymore…) say ” I can do BAD all by myself!” So they choose to be single..We all have the right to B or not B; what we choose without others projecting their ‘ish on us. I say all of that to say you’re right. @There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in a relationship NOR is that anything wrong with not wanting to be in a relationship. I stand corrected. See how I worked through that? Lol, lol I am my OWN therapist

      • Sometimes you have to be your own therapist because real therapists don’t make much sense! :p But yes, that is true–probably not being Catholic myself, I didn’t even think about the nuns/priests example. I also read that there are some Catholics who take vows of chastity while still living and working in secular society. I’m not sure how prevalent that is, but I see myself as making a similar commitment for very different reasons. I suppose it’s not that I’m totally opposed to casually dating (with the ideal goal of making new friends) again, it’s more that I see love as a painful and unnecessary distraction. Pretty strange, I know, and as with my stance on kids, I’m glad for the human race that I am in the minority on this one!

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