I had my 34th birthday in June.
I very rarely feel thirty-anything, mostly because I don’t look it, and I’m almost certain I don’t act it. I live in a world of my own creation, and I am one of the few people I know who is lucky enough to live their art and create for a living, albeit a meager one. One thing I’ve seen a lot of lately, however, from friends in my age group, is these incredibly public declarations of social media love.
I’ve watched countless proposals (and even one wedding) on Facebook Live. I’m always seeing these incredibly sappy Snapchat videos and Facebook statuses about how amazing Bae is, or what Boo bought, or how much people are in love. Flowers and balloons, and jewelry, and elaborate gifts, and rose petals... you name it, I’ve seen it. And I enjoy watching it. I love love, and my being an unmarried woman doesn’t make me bitter or upset to see other people so happy sharing their loved one’s acts of love with the social media world.
What I’ve learned in my 34 years, however, is that love doesn’t quite look the way I always expected it to.
Yes, I bought into the Disney fairy tale. The Prince Charming idea. All that “Someday my dream will come” bullshit... where the mice and birds help me get dressed to meet the love of my life, and we will fall madly in love with some cheesy Disney soundtrack playing behind us...
Okay. Maybe I wasn’t quite that delusional, but I definitely had an idea of what love should look like.
In my head, love was dinner and the movies. It was random flowers, sporadic love notes and sappy cards with happy white people on the front. Love was butterflies. Constant, swirly butterflies in my stomach. Love was bells and whistles. It was heart palpitations, elaborate proposals, fairy tale weddings, gender reveals and baby showers and large family gatherings and lots of kissing and lots and LOTS of sex.
And don’t get me wrong... because some of you have those things, and I am happy as hell for you... I really am.
But what I’ve learned in the last 34 years is that the picture I’d painted of love was all wrong.
What I’ve learned is that love is obligation. Love is showing up when you say you’re going to, even when you don’t feel like it, even when there’s something better going on. Love is honesty beyond belief. It’s that “I’ma tell you this because I love you, even though I know it will hurt your feelings.” Love is spending all night in a cold, uncomfortable chair in an emergency room. Love is patience. Even when I shrink your favorite shirt by washing it in hot water instead of cold.
Love is turning on the light switch and the lights coming on. (Or, if the lights don’t come on, love is gathering a bunch of candles, ordering a pizza, and making it an adventure.) Love is “did you eat?” It’s “did you take your meds?” Love is sitting through movies you don’t wanna watch because it makes the other person happy.
Love is responsibility.
Love is realizing that you’re responsible for another person’s feelings, and doing all you can to spare them, even at the expense of your own.
Love is loving even when the other person doesn’t deserve your love.
Even when you don’t want to be around them, and hardly have anything to say to them, it’s texting to say good night.
Love isn’t as fun or as beautiful as Disney made it look when I was a kid.
There’s no glass slipper or pumpkin chariot.
There’s just laundry, and daily life, and falling asleep on anything we try to watch after 10 pm.
There’s no constant bliss. It’s work, and energy, and effort.
And you know what I figured out? I was chasing Disney love, when I had real love in my face the entire time. I was looking for the flowers, neglecting that fact that I’ve never missed a meal. I looked for the sweeping gestures of adoration and affection, and didn’t see the fact that I get in my car and my tank is on F.
Love comes in strange forms, y’all.
Yes, romantic love is awesome.
But don’t be so caught up in the romance part of it that you miss the real parts, the not-so-glamorous parts. The parts that never make it onto Facebook.
Quietly, those are the best kinds of love anyway.