About Love (Love Actually)

Due to circumstances beyond my intellectual capacity to understand, I've been considering the subject of "love" a lot more than I want to lately. I suppose there a lot of reasons, the best of which involves seeing and hearing so many people talk about it in public. Just yesterday, while I was transferring from a light rail train to a bus, I overheard a young lady gushing to two friends, "I'm SO in love with James! Don't call me later 'cause I'm gonna be with MY honey!" I tried very hard to contain the gag reflex. Please give me props for at least considering that it would have been an unseemly act, and quite rude. So anyway, I've been noticing the actions of young people "in love" (lust) and wondering, was I like that once upon a time? I can't remember ever declaring undying love for a guy in the presence of strangers, but I'm sure I've done things that were equally ludicrous, like threatening to beat up a girl for calling my boyfriend. Yuck. Bad memories.

In recent years, the world of scientific research has done all of us a great favor by discovering that the physical and emotional reactions that we have come to associate with "love" is nothing more than biochemistry, a complex physical process that originates in the brain. So in the interest of consolidating some the stuff I've read on the subject over the years, here's a run down of these chemicals, courtesy of Wikipedia.org:

Main bonding chemicals[30][31]

Oxytocin [C43H66N12O12S2] – bonding molecule (hormone): high levels correlate with strong pair-bonding. sometimes called the ‘cuddle chemical’. levels rise during kissing and foreplay, and peak during orgasm.

Vasopressin – monogamy molecule (hormone) (Angela's editorial comment: Monogamy molecule? Do men really have this chemical in their bodies? Sorry, I know that's wrong. But I just couldn't help myself. I am a woman with a bit of relationship history, you know.)
responsible for creating intense loving memories during passionate situations. responsible for clarity of thought and alertness during passionate situations.

Endorphin - calming natural pain killer levels increase in response to touch, pleasing visual stimulus (as a smile), or after having positive thoughts. thought to be the main attachment chemical in longterm relationships.

From a 2004 edition of the St. Petersburg Times (online edition), writer Collette Bancroft delves into the subject of love, brain chemistry and a book by anthropologist Helen Fisher with this lead paragraph:

Romantic love really is all about chemistry, and on a brain scan it looks a lot like addiction. Evolution has hard-wired us to form long-term attachments - and to fool around. And those antidepressants that helped you get over your last romance might keep you from finding a new one.

There's that word again: addiction. Lest you start groaning and saying, there she goes again, there's proof that I'm not the only writer out there talking about it. Here' the URL: http://www.sptimes.com/2004/02/13/Floridian/The_complex_chemistry.shtml

I don't want to keep the broken record effect going, but seriously folk, we have issues. Our brains even work against us. It stands to reason why people jump from one addiction to another--we just want to feel good. Makes sense. Who wants to go through life feeling bad? There's just one tiny little problem with that concept. The good feelings are never permanent. Our brains never dish out copious amounts of those hormones all the time. They're stingy with the stuff, reserving it for special occasions, like when a well-dressed cute guy walks by and winks, or when your mother bakes homemade oatmeal cookies. Well, at least when my mother did that. (But the "what if" question lingers in my mind. If we could have the feel good hormones rolling in our systems constantly, what would happen?) Life is a mixture of good and bad, much to my own disappointment. I'm in the same bag as everyone else. I want full time elation, and if I can't have that, I'll take protection from all the "bad" stuff of life, aka, an anesthetizing agent like cheesecake. I can do "numb" much better than "life stinks and want to die".

So back to love. I find it a bit objectionable to trust a life-altering event such as "falling in love" to something as arbitrary as a hormone my brain manufactures primarily for procreation, something that I can no longer do anyway. Of course, I can't do anything about this fact of life, but it still bothers me. So now, when I feel that initial rush of attraction, I just tell myself, all right, it's no big deal. It's just a "survival of the species" hormones game. I'm not doing anything that your average squirrel running around on the east lawn of the California's state Capitol building does each spring. That's a very humbling thought, by the way. The fact that my brain, as far as hormonal reactions in the brain goes, is no better than a squirrel's is not very comforting.

However, my friends seem to think differently about me. They INSIST that deep down inside, there I have an "inner romantic". Some have begged me to write romance novels (Oh good Lord!) because I would be able to write very convincing male characters. Well, I'm flattered, but one of the primary rules of writing is "write what you know." That would be difficult since I've never been in love. I've had boyfriends, been engaged, married and I've felt that hormonal rush. But the stuff that writers describe in romance novels has never happened to me. It's kind of what I've read about a few methods of acting--you try on the character as if it were a costume, and you wear it for a while. But it's never a part of you. When I was going through those experiences, my thoughts were along the lines of, is this it? This is what the fuss is all about? Other times, I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud. The role women are expected to play in the romance game is truly hilarious to me.

I've dressed up for dates with the help of friends, and I felt uncomfortable and ridiculous. The eye shadow and mascara made my eyes water, the lip gloss kept getting on my teeth, and my feet were resonating with pain after one hour in high heels. I can't live like that! I'd rather be relaxed in jeans, a comfortable shirt and shoes, and have a marathon talk session in a coffee house. It's not very romantic, hence my inability to be a credible romance writer. It's kind of a shame because the market pays nicely, once you get in the door.

Last week, however, I had one of those epiphanies, a revelation brought on by the presence of one of those opposite sex types who seem to pass through a woman's life for the purpose of bringing about a change of mind. No, I still loathe Valentine's Day and "chick lit". But I can compromise with those pesky hormones, and recognize them for what they are: a temporary high. I can enjoy the feelings that those hormones bring about as long as I DON'T GET ATTACHED TO THEM. It's important for me to remember that because I have an addictive personality. It's easy to get hooked on feeling good, and that giddy feeling does feel really, really good. But perspective is more important to me now. It's just a chemical product of the brain, Angela. Yes, he is a good looking man. Enjoy the moment and move on with life. Hormonal reactions can't be considered reliable indicators of a future relationship.

As it turns out, I seem to be the odd person out of the female gene pool from the beginning. My natal chart is filled with signs associated with masculinity (Sun in Aries, moon in Gemini, Mars and Venus conjunct in Aquarius.) I have only two female signs --ascendant in Taurus (practical but loving in a no-nonsense way) and Saturn in Scorpio (Scorpio, like Aries, is ruled by Mars, even though it is a water/female sign). There's basically nothing in me that allows me to whisper sweet nothings on the telephone or fully appreciate a gift of roses. (What's the point? They die after a couple of hours.)

OK, so I don't like dresses (I do compromise with skirts on occasion) and I never read fashion magazines or gossip about celebrities. But I've decided that an atypical personality like mine does have certain advantages. I can spot an insincere proposal from a mile away, and I can hang with any discussion of sports or scientific discoveries (I love PBS). Sweet nothings have no affect on me whatsoever, but an intelligent conversation with a man that is equally thought provoking and filled with humor is incredibly stimulating to me. I'm just being honest here. I'm literally the eternal tomboy.

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