“Baby don’t hurt me” has always been my standard reply (because who doesn’t love Haddaway). But recent personal events and a delightful documentary about American hate preachers has stirred my inner psychology nerd. The generic definition of love is, affectionate feelings towards another person sometimes as a by-product of close friendship or sexual attraction. For me love is not just affectionate feelings for another person. On a personal level it is about who would I not be able to live my life without? Who occupies most of my thoughts? At a wider level it is a mutual respect and acceptance of all those we come into contact with in our daily lives.
If we boil love down to its biological roots it is a mixture of neurochemicals and brain structures, telling us this person deserves our time and affection. Some researchers suggest these neurochemicals are constructed during our time in the womb (so now if someone says they have mommy issues you know why). But the most important neurochemical I am aware of is Oxytocin. Oxytocin is said to be the neurochemical that encourages trust and bonding between individuals (hint the main activation site is located in the nipples), not that I’m advocating finding the object of your affection and tweaking their nipples (at least buy them a drink first). However for me the biological explanation is a difficult way to assess whether you love someone or whether someone loves you. I can imagine how that conversation would go:
“Hi, would you like to go on a date with me?”
“Sure, what do you want to do?”
“Well I was hoping I could carry out a PET scan on you to see if your levels of Oxytocin are high enough”
I have the distinct feeling they would run away faster than if they had just bumped into a killer clown (current topical humour). But what biology does suggest is that love is fundamental to our core.
Of course we must not forget about what our environment can teach us (not that I’m trying to kick off a nature vs. nurture debate). Growing up we take so much from those around us, such as family and friends, that we probably don’t even realise on a conscious level. I consider myself to be such a fortunate person that I have a mother and father who, not only support everything I do, but also set the best example of what a loving relationship should involve. They have shown all those that say young parents are irresponsible and ill-equipped to handle children completely and utterly wrong. While working full-time they have raised 4 outstanding children (myself included, of course), while still supporting each other through good times and bad times (usually when dad has done something wrong). If I am lucky enough to have a relationship that reaches anywhere near the standard they have instilled in me I will be the happiest person on earth.
Which brings us nicely to how we identify whether we love someone. I am sure like myself most of you have a check-list in the back of your mind which we check off when we meet new people. (WARNING HONESTY ALERT) This happened to me recently whereby you meet someone new and instantly they check quite a few boxes; intelligent, funny, handsome, pretty similar interests. I am talking about when most of the time you are not able to stop thinking about said individual, but you don’t know if they are on the same page or even remotely interested (this is where the PET scan would be useful or telepathy). I suppose we all have different way of approaching situations like this. If your like me, then you will play it so cool you could pass for a corpse on the walking dead or you hit them with Salt-N-Pepa’s Let’s Talk About Sex. But like everyone seems to say ‘if it is meant to be it will happen in time’, well hopefully they are right.
Okay. Enough of the personal relationship stuff. At the beginning I mentioned a delightful hate preacher documentary that I stupidly watched. I feel in today’s climate there is a lot of hate (mainly media generated) towards those who are different, whether that be different in religion, race, gender, sexuality (I draw your attention to my wonderful supervisor’s blog thefreefrommama.wordpress.com, who has outlined it way more eloquently than I ever could). The format for this so called ‘documentary’ gave a platform to 2 of America’s most idiotic preachers, which actually left me lost for words throughout the entire hour (which for those of you who know me is pretty difficult to accomplish). But what shocked me was not what they were saying, because I’ve heard all that before, but it was those whom they loved (wives, children, admirers). Their wives seemed pretty complacent, although they did not convince me that they held the same views. Is this what ‘love is blind’ means, we turn our backs on personal beliefs and the rest of the world (Hmm, I think not).
On the other hand I suppose they have opinions on what is right and what is wrong, much like ar**holes everyone has one. What concerns me is that, if love is a product of our environment? It means that the next generation will be conditioned to try and force their ideologies and opinions on others, thus continuing the never ending cycle. What is important to me above all else is acceptance, don’t get me wrong there was a point in my life when I would naturally dismiss others based on first impressions or media generated bull, but I have learned to understand people. Where they come from, what they have experienced and ultimately that they still respect themselves (in the immortal words of Ru Paul, ‘if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are going to love someone else’).
So what is love? I believe love is a subjective concept. We each have our own different ways of identifying and expressing love for one another. Ultimately I feel love takes time (even The Supremes said You Can’t Hurry Love) and I want you to just take a moment to think about those whom you love, and what they mean to you? You may notice I have left out sex, this is because I am a good catholic boy (Ha, not). I have deliberately excluded it from this post as I feel it encapsulates a whole range of complex emotions, which deserves an entire piece of its own.
Watch this space!