Saturday, January 17, 2009

Help, I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

Oh no—we’re messing with the definitions of words again.

This time, I want to figure out what it means to “fall in love”.

I know what love is because I feel it. But I’m not sure what it means to “fall in love”. Furthermore, I’m not sure why it’s so important to us. Why isn’t regular love enough? Isn’t falling hard on the knees? I was prompted to write this post when I realized that some people's life goals were to "fall in love", and that wasn't something I understood. Maybe by asking what “falling in love” means, I’m like those asexuals who ask what sexual attraction is. To them, I’d say that even after describing it, it’s still hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it. You know it when you feel it. However, even so, I think they both remain important questions.

I think I have fallen in love, but not in the way most people would assume. Like I’ve mentioned before, the moment I realized there was more music than just what was on the radio was definitely the day I truly fell in love with music, as opposed to just liking it a whole lot. Part of my brain (probably the same part that thinks I'm cupid) believes that with the right mixtape (or okay, fine, iTunes playlist), I could make anyone love me instantly. For me, falling in love is music. But I didn’t come here to figure out what I think—I came to get the majority report, which, besides the idea that falling in love is desirable, is not as detailed as I'd like.

An internet search on the topic turned up this Wikipedia article and little else:

"'Falling in love' is a mainly Western term used to describe the process of moving from a feeling of neutrality towards someone to one of love."

Yeah. Way to use the original word in its definition. Wikipedia also says "According to Alberoni, falling in love is a rapid process of destructuration-reorganization called the nascent state. In the nascent state, the individual becomes capable of merging with another person and creating a new collectivity with a very high degree of social solidarity. Hence the definition: falling in love is the nascent state of a collective movement formed of two people only." And I hear Trimberger saying something like, "What's the point of a movement of two people? Isn't that a little anti-social?" It's pretty interesting that falling in love is a largely Western concept. It's also interesting that the most individualistic societies (see my imaginary comment from Trimberger) put the most emphasis on falling in love, romantic love, soulmates, and the like. But that's not enough to justify our falling-in-love it?

I could develop theories, one of which relates to an epic article I’m working on about sex/romance and work. Falling in love apparently is like a drug. It's an escape from our everyday, boring feelings. Maybe we crave it because our current lives are so routine and mundane. But there’s plenty of well-documented things you can do to add excitement to your life, including having crazy random sex with lots of people or riding in Mini-Cooper convertibles on strangely warm winter days (damn you, desk overlooking the road). Most of us do want experiences that lift us up, but why are some so much better-marketed than others? I feel like saying “it’s a cultural meme” is too easy, but it seems to indeed be a cultural meme. Say it enough and people start wanting it, whether it’ll help us lead better lives or not.

But I’m still not getting what I came for—a definition of what “falling in love” really means. Maybe it's not the definition itself I'm looking for, but words that will help me understand why it is so important. At any rate, if I say "falling in love" one more time, you will start to get annoyed with me.

Guess I’ll just have to leave hungry for now.


Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to write a post about this for a while. I think that when sexual people say it's a goal of theirs to fall in love, they mean they want a deep, meaningful, lasting relationship - something asexuals often want too. However, the phrase "in love" is also constantly used by sexual people as a synonym for infatuation and lust, as in the oft-heard declaration, "I'm in love with her but she doesn't even know my name." I once got broken up with after like two weeks on the basis that the guy "expected to be in love" with me by then and wasn't, which was ridiculous to me because I've always equated love with complete understanding and appreciation of another person. I've had that, but I've never thought of myself as falling in love or being in love with anyone. In the end, I've come to understand the idea of falling in love, when it's used seriously and not frivolously, as finding the more quiet, understated sort of closeness and partnership I crave, but with an added sexual component that brings excitement and fireworks.

Ily said...

Thanks, what you're saying makes a lot of sense. I'm too tired to respond intelligently, so I'll have to come back a bit later...

Kim said...

This short story made me think of you. It's sifi/fantasy, so I'm not sure if you'll like it or not. Sifi seems to be one of those genres that people either like or don't like and rarely change their minds about. But if you're interested, here's the link:

Ily said...

Thanks for thinking of me! I don't usually read sci-fi, but I know LeGuin is a good writer and keep meaning to read "Left Hand of Darkness". I'll definitely check it out when I have a few more minutes to read. And as far as "love" goes...I guess it's easy for me to think English has all the answers because that's the only language in which I can sufficiently express myself. But some words, like "love" are really not all that useful when it coms to communication because they're used for too many different things. I remember reading an interview with some actor, I think it might have been Colin Firth, and he thought it was ridiculous that he used the same word, love, to talk about his wife as he did to talk about a piece of pizza. I know Spanish at least has "te amo" and "te quiero" to mean "I love you", which at least doubles your options.