I Love You, Man!

love Yesterday at Costco, a place I visit far too often, the cashier handed me the receipt and said “Love Ya..“.

My wife had to take a step back.  Did she just say what I thought she said?

I know I’m not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but hey – beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, right?  Maybe I have that endearing look that made her blurt out that precious and coveted word, ‘Love’.  Maybe she was just from Newfoundland, where everyone calls everyone ‘Love‘.

I suppose in the big picture, I shouldn’t be surprised.  Aren’t we taught to ‘Love our fellow man’, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’, and ‘Give love freely’?  Okay, maybe that last one could get you in a bit of trouble. But what is it about this simple little word that scares the bajeebers out of young men, and makes young women swoon?  I guess it’s pretty much the same for not-so-young men and women, too. The three word combination, ‘I Love You’ has to be one of the most powerful phrases in the English language.

Growing up in a house of boys, you can imagine that the ‘L’ word wasn’t thrown around very much, other than in the context of general comments like; ‘I love spaghetti night‘, or ‘I’d love it if this house could stay clean for 5 minutes‘.

Love was shown, it’s its unique testosterone-soaked way, just not spoken a lot. We do say it to each other now and again when we talk on the phone, but I suspect that we all find it a bit strange – like when you go to do a hand shake, and the other one tries a fist bump, and you end up grabbing his fist awkwardly.

“I Love You” can be expected and natural at times, like a mother might say to their child in a tender moment, or in a romantic comedy movie, where the ‘best friend’ of the opposite sex says it as he crashes an impending wedding….what a jerk! BECKY He couldn’t declare his love before she booked the caterer and sent out the invitations?

Couples say it to each other – sometimes even during a fight that gets out of hand.  It can be a peace offering of sorts, or used as a form of preface before you say something negative; “I love you, but you make me crazy the way you squeeze the toothpaste”.

I’ve even heard people say it to total strangers, much like my admirer from Costco.  At a restaurant, the waitress brings you a big glass of water just as you start to choke on a dried out piece of chicken; “I Love You” seems totally acceptable in that situation, because we all see it as a ‘thank you’ when their timing is perfect.

I guess the most awkward ‘Love You’ is between guy friends who aren’t romantically connected to each other.  Typically, we like to qualify it with ‘Man’ at the end, so as to not imply any weird secret affection. “I Love You, Man!” – usually followed by a guy hug – pull him in really hard, bear-hug style, and pat him on the back.

Of course, you better reply in kind, right? You can’t just leave that hanging out there without an appropriate response.  That’s even more awkward than the failed hand shake. Proper responses may go as follows, in descending order of acceptability:

  • “I love you, too”
  • “I love you too, man!”
  • “Me too”
  • “Same…”
  • “Word!”
  • “Uh, yeah”
  • “Oh…um, yeah”
  • “Well, good seeing you…”

…and you have like a nano-second to come up with your reply.  Dead air is deadly.  The length of hesitation directly corresponds to the unwillingness to respond properly.  That’s not a ‘guy to guy’ rule either….in fact, with a spouse or other romantically connected person, you better be like Quick-draw McGraw with the ‘I love you, too’, or else!

I think that too often though, the ‘Love’ word is thrown around a little too liberally. I mean, it should be meaningful, right?  It should be a sought-after expression.  So, when people say “I LOVE this show”, it diminishes the word ‘Love’ a bit doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we look at ‘Love’ like we approach the old supply and demand rule?  The less you hear it, the more important and valued it is?  Maybe we should reserve using it for only those things that truly move us spiritually and emotionally.

No more “I (heart) NY”.  That in itself is demonstration enough to argue the point, isn’t it? Have we become so casual with the word ‘Love’ that we can’t even be bothered to say it? Now we just make this weird shape with our hands…swift Should I really believe that when the adorable Taylor Swift looks at the camera and makes that contorted hand gesture, that she loves ‘me‘?  We haven’t even met!  Maybe she secretly follows my blog….hey, you never know! See what I mean?

It’s such a beautiful word, but it’s been cheapened somehow. But then again, maybe we need to say it as a way to fight off all that negativity in the world. God knows, we could stand to love each other a bit more. Am I being cynical about reserving the word ‘Love’ for only the most important moments in life?  Should I seize every moment to tell all of God’s children that as brothers and sisters, I love them?

Maybe Taylor Swift really does love everyone – who am I to judge her?  She’s happy, rich, and has thousands of fans – what’s not be loving about?

I think maybe I should stop being embarrassed in sharing my true feelings for my friends and family.  Maybe I should tell them all that I love them.

I’m gonna start by heading back to Costco first thing tomorrow!

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Yin and Yang – the glue of marriage

Yin YangAfter 28 years of marriage, I think I might just have finally started to begin to think I maybe kinda understand a tiny bit about my lovely bride.  I think she had me down on day 2.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve been completely assimilated to her thinking though.  My clay isn’t quiet as malleable as she’d like it to be.

It’s amazing how we ever ‘hooked up’ as the kids say (or do they say that any more?).  I was a city boy, and she was a country girl.  We met in college which, I guess by default, was the great equalizer.  Nothing drives people together faster than hunger and loneliness.

I think there’s real truth to the adage that ‘opposites attract’.  Maybe it’s a core desire to coax the other to your way of thinking, or if I was a romantic, I might say it’s the different way they gaze at the moon, but I think our differences might be more basic than that.  I think we’re just intrigued by a different lens through which they see the world.

I love surprises – the good kind at least.  No one likes the surprises you get in a hospital…”Surprise, we’re gonna have to go ahead and remove that digit after all”.  Not a balloon and cheer kind of surprise.

No, I like birthday surprises.  I really like surprising people!  Maybe it’s a morbid fascination of watching the confusion and disbelief on their unsuspecting faces, but surprising people gives me great joy.

My wife?  Not so much.  In fact, since we first started dating, she regularly reminded me how much she doesn’t like surprises.  She wants to see what’s coming, buster! There was and never will be any confusion about this.  DO NOT SURPRISE HER!

But like those two bumbling guards in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, simple instructions are completely lost on me, since surprises are fun…..for me.  So, what did I do?

swamp castle

 

 

 

 

For my wife’s 40th birthday, I organized, with the help of a team of scheming friends, the most elaborate ruse ever concocted.  It involved multiple levels of deception, fake parties, hotel bookings, real ‘parties’ to throw her off the scent, even included pseudo-friends that may have never existed, all in the name of….’SURPRISE’!

I’ll save you the gory details – the shock, the tears.  It wasn’t a ‘happy surprise’.

But that’s the stuff of relationships.  Our differences keep it exciting.  Admittedly, sometimes horrible and regrettable differences, but exciting none the less.

We can even watch the exact same program and have totally divergent responses.  Take ‘The Biggest Loser’ for example.  We sit and watch the show.  My lovely suggests we need to take out the bikes and get into shape.  I watch the same show and think ‘Gee, I’m in awesome shape compared to these guys – I’m gonna make some popcorn to celebrate my superb health’.

I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, I guess – fun first!  If we have a busy day lined up, and the weather is nice, I’ll always say ‘fun first’! Lets get outside and enjoy the beautiful day – the work can wait.

While this sounds very ‘in the moment’ and cheery, there’s a big downside to always eating the dessert first.  It means that nothing important really gets done.  Housework; laundry, cleaning, getting groceries, etc., get pushed back, and you end up living in a crazy, chaotic world that just might end up on a TLC show.hoardersSo, me being the ‘surprise me’ guy, needs an adult around to remind me to pay the bills, change the dryer lint trap, and put my clothes away.  That’s my wife’s role, and she’s good at it.

It’s a terrible job to have – at least it seems like it to me – always being the voice of reason.  The practical one. The huge payoff of practicality is almost never fully appreciated, is it?  Our house is mostly tidy, we can find stuff like wallets, keys, and phones, and there’s usually enough food in the fridge to make a meal with.

You don’t notice if your keys are where you left them, but you sure do if they’re not!

Lists! My sweet bride makes lists.  Grocery lists, ‘honey-do’ lists, reminder lists.  For big upcoming events, I’ve even seen her make lists of lists.  Sometimes they’re disguised as sweet notes, but they’re still lists:  ‘Kids, don’t forget to walk the dog, put on your laundry, and put your dirty dishes in the sink.  Love, Mommy – xoxo’.

I’m big enough to acknowledge that those lists are helpful – they keep us on track. And I have to admit, they help me to figure out what needs to be done so I can go and play…a touch of order in my chaos.

It’s those opposing forces that create this weird and beautiful balance in our marriage.  Mix a little salt in the chocolate milk and you get an unexpectedly great taste. Those contrasting flavours bring out something more delicious than the ingredients would be on their own.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  My darling loves having fun, too!  She can party and laugh with the best of them.  Few things please her more than relaxing by the pool with a glass of wine. It just needs to be prioritized amongst the ‘must do’s’, or it won’t be enjoyable for her.  I get that.

And that’s exactly what this goofball needs.  The Yang to my Yin.

Maybe trying to figure each other out is part of the joy and mystery of our marriage. Maybe we aren’t supposed to be able to correctly predict what the other is thinking.  We should, at least, love and respect our partner for what they bring to this dance we call marriage. We should thank God for giving us the strength to bare our souls in trust to another human being, even if that other human being doesn’t understand us.

My Yang is exactly what this Yin needs.  And that surprise party?  Well, in the end, we had an awesome time with our friends.  I also had to swear on my life never to pull a stunt like that again!  Sweet Yang!