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I Don’t Wanna Know What Love Is, and You Can’t Make Me!

September 19, 2013

Okay, so the defiance in my title is related to absolutely nothing of late, as it’s fortunately been a while since I had any would-be Lotharios trying to whisk me away from the Denver light rail to a better place, one that involved teleportation, since there really is no blood-pressure sensitive way of getting around the Denver Metro Area during rush hour.

But it is one of those weird questions that pops in my head when I’m stuck in my car for statin-necesssitating lengths of time during trips outside of RTD’s boundaries. I usually listen to albums on my iPhone, but when those end, I often listen to the radio so I won’t endanger myself by yelling at Siri to play more of The Who, then having to flip through my albums solo while keeping half a distracted on the road because Siri apparently thinks I’m trying to set up a knock-knock joke.

So I wind up listening to the radio. Then a song like Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” comes on, and I sing along for a while, really getting into it with the chorus and making fellow road warriors think I’m having some kind of seizure.

But as soon as the song finishes, I invariably frown. “Waitaminute, Lou Gramm,” I say out loud, as though he were in the passenger seat and could maybe poke at my iTunes list until he came across Quadrophenia (which I’m sure he would really appreciate), “you say ‘in my life, there’s been heartache and pain,’ and then you say, ‘I want to know what love is,’ which shouldn’t be a surprise, seeing as how it’s the title and all, but still, you’ve already been through heartache that somehow wasn’t the result of being in love?”

Questions of my sanity aside (although at least, unlike Clint Eastwood, I do not have a live audience for my interrogation of a passable buttrest), I really don’t know the answer to that question. I know that I don’t know because when I was first in my sole long-term relationship, my mother, the occasional purveyor of practical wisdom, asked, “Do you love him?” And I stared blankly for a moment and said, “I don’t know.”

Which apparently is not the answer you’re supposed to have, at least not if you’re thinking in the long term. Apparently you’re supposed to just sorta KNOW that you’re in love with the other person, nebulous as the definition of love is–apparently love for one’s pet is different from love for one’s parents, which is different from the way one feels about one’s children, which bore very little resemblance to the way one feels about one’s life partner.

So in spite of the fact that we’re apparently (yes, this word will put in just as many appearances in this post as that awful coworker of yours who has terrible BO and doesn’t know which end of a toothbrush goes in his mouth does at office parties, in spite of him being carefully culled from the invite list and meticulously avoided by even the most motormouthed office gossips squealing about the upcoming debauchery) dealing with multiple different facets of the same feeling (although I’m still not sure how this works–I’d be devastated if something awful happened to my father, grandmother, best friend, or cat. Is it supposed to be more complicated than that?!), I’m supposed to know just what this exact facet is and know that I’m feeling it for this exact person. Riiiiiiiight.

Maybe I did have that feeling for a while. I liked spending time with my ex–for a while. I liked physical contact with him–for a while. I envisioned spending my life with him–for a while.

But even though I don’t know if I knew what love is or even if I’m capable of feeling it the same way as most other people do (another possible reason I suspect I might be a high-functioning autistic is that my sense of proportion in reaction to various events doesn’t seem typical–I cried more when the Broncos lost to the Ravens in January’s playoffs than I did when my mother died, and I was more outraged when the Kristef Brothers failed to make it to the finals in the most recent season of America’s Got Talent than I was when Bush beat Kerry in 2004), I know whatever it was felt close enough to the real thing that I can consider it checked off my bucket list. Lou Gramm doesn’t “know if [he] can face it again,” but I do know I can’t.

Because I do know the heartache is real. I know there is an actual physical response associated with that feeling, and that there is a medical term for it: acid reflux. I can still feel the gastric juices roiling around if I think about my dissolved relationship for too long. It gave a darkly comic literality to my dad looking at a heartburn-medication ad in one of his medical journals while listening to my favorite Bob Seger song and saying, “It really is the Fire Inside!”

Apparent (see!) side effects include looking like you've been bitten by a radioactive esophagus.

Apparent (see!) side effects include looking like you’ve been bitten by a radioactive esophagus.

So maybe love is nothing more than feeling like you’ve been reduced to a diagram on a now OTC medicine box, and maybe not so much medicine for the upper part of the digestive system.

Frankly, I’ve got enough shit to deal with in my life. I’ve got the 6:00 light rail to catch.


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  1. I can relate in a way. Whenever I complain about, say, my job or money or how worried I am about the future, people’s response always seems to be “Just marry a nice rich guy and you won’t have to worry about it.” First of all: NO!. Second, these same people only ever complain about their spouses. They justify it by saying things like “The good outweighs the bad” and “it’ll be worth it in the end”…but what “end” are they talking about?

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