“I love you.”
When people say these words, they make so many mistakes. The first is that they emphasize the first two words, “I love”, far too much. People think their love means something, that they should be awarded because they love you. They think it is such a great accomplishment and everyone should rejoice and pat them on the back. Some people make the mistake of thinking because they love you they own you. But Audrey Hepburn is right: “People don’t belong to people.” They make the mistake of thinking they are entitled to a certain piece of you or to more of your time and energy. But they’re wrong. The egotistical “I” and self-aggrandizing “love” should not be emphasized; only the last word should be emphasized: “you”.
“You” should be raised from its grammatical subjugation as the object of the sentence and should overwhelm the subject and verb, “I love.” When you say, “I love you,” what you should really be saying is “I love who you are.” This way, “you” is given more words and more dimensions. The identity and significance of the one being loved is emphasized so much so that the subject and verb fall apart. It’s a way of saying you love them separate from yourself, separate from the obligations that are often concomitant with declarations of love. It’s about loving someone because of how they approach an obstacle or read a book or look at the world. You love them wholly in and of themselves and that’s all there is to it. “You are loved” can accomplish the same goal, making “you” the subject of the sentence rather than “I”.
The first two words are responsible for so many mistakes that they should be removed entirely from the sentence. They are unnecessary. All you need is “you;” the love is implied. You, as we walk through Central Park. You, as we stumble down Broadway. You, as we both buy the same book for each other and laugh at the coincidence. You, at 11pm, getting ready for bed. You, at 2am, when your favorite character dies. You. I want you. I choose you. I love you.
The second mistake is perhaps the saddest: they think this love will last. We are sometimes forced to make this mistake, for how could we find the energy to love when we know it’s just going to end? It is more than naiveté; it is the human condition of hope, the hope that we won’t have to go home alone, eat dinner alone, and sleep alone. It is the hope that we are not unlovable. We see this mistake made countless times when a couple holds hands or wedding vows are exchanged at the altar. When people say, “I love you,” they think it’s forever. How else could they promise to be faithful to one person for the rest of their life? But love is not static; love is not forever.
The third mistake is that they think love is the most important thing in the world and that everything should revolve around it. Plans should be put on halt, promotions that would move us across the country should be declined, and planes should not be boarded if we are met at the gate with some cinematic outpouring of love. People think love is the key to life, a sort of panacea that will cure depression, loneliness, and despair. But they put too much emphasis on it. It is just one emotion among many, and there is no guarantee it will end with anything good. I would rather laugh with you than love you; I’d rather be your friend than your lover.
There are other mistakes: they think it won’t hurt, and if it does, the pain will be worth it. Too often, love swings like a pendulum between two great extremes. On one hand, love is pain, loss, jealousy, and heartache. On the other, love is a blinding passion of feverish desire and lust that distorts the truth and reality. It entails a relationship that is dangerously dependent on another human being.
But I believe there is a right way, an intelligent way, to love. If I do end up loving someone, I would want it to be a simple and mature love. I want it to be a love that is balanced, patient, and sophisticated, one that is immune to the despair, jealousy, and feverish passions that plague an ordinary love. I want it to be sensible and realistic and strong, not clouded by fantasy. I want it to be rich with conversation and I want honesty and mutual happiness to be the pillars our love is built on. I want our passion to be subtle, but strong, reserved, and deep. I want her first and foremost to be my best friend and I want our friendship to be a lifelong story.