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Sometimes I think I am weird because I genuinely love love.

Most of my friends, even those who are happily in love, tend to scoff at public displays of affection and gag at the arbitrary celebration of Valentine's Day. I am pretty much the opposite. Few things make me happier than seeing couples truly in love because it helps me believe that that kind of affection and adoration still exists in the world.

As for Valentine's Day, I really don't see why it should make people feel bad about themselves. I understand feeling left out of a highly-commercialized holiday, but it's not like you'd hate yourself if you didn't dress up on Halloween, if you weren't Irish on St Patrick's Day, or if you were heterosexual at a gay pride parade. Valentine's Day is meant to be a celebration of love in all its forms, not an exclusionary sorting of people into those who are currently part of a couple or not.

I love romance, and I think it's a natural and beautiful part of being human. I am in the habit of watching Discovery Channel programs on just about everything, so I've enjoyed quite a few lately on the chemistry and evolutionary impact of love. Particularly fascinating were studies of the caudate nucleus and the associated brain chemistry of falling in love.

In one study, researchers found that similar amounts of dopamine were released through a trigger of familiarity (as in being with a lifelong friend or one's wife of fifty years) as novelty (love at first sight, a sexy stranger in a bar, the first blushes of a new relationship). They interpreted this as an indication that monogamy is satisfying and exciting for humans, that we can still be as riveted by our life partners after many years of marriage as when we first realized they have the most beautiful eyes we've ever seen.

To the brain, love is love, and it knows it when it sees it. For whatever reason, I find this massively encouraging. I can ignore common sense, decency, logic, and a host of other things, but dopamine, I recognize. It takes me over, and I fall easily, headlong into love.

Another thing I enjoy about love is how much it hurts. I know that sounds strange, but I'm really into duality and the way that the same sensations can make you feel sick with miserable longing or soaring with irrepressible elation. The same person can make your heart take wing or sink into a pit of despair. I love that anyone can make me care that much, and it thrills me that human beings connect so deeply that it triggers survival instincts and digs at the very depths of our psychological makeup.

Love challenges me to be a better person, my response to which is to make and do bigger and more difficult things. I am never more ambitious than when I am in love, and I know I'm not alone in that. I suspect that the greatest contributions and inventions in history have been made by people trying to impress each other, driven by love.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of love. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I love fully and without regret, I enjoy the hell out of it, I let it hurt like hell, and then I carry on because I know I am capable of loving deeply again. I do believe that I will one day find someone as idealistic and starry-eyed as me, who wants to love me with the same unabashed, overwhelming intensity and exhilarating joy, if I am open and optimistic about love.

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This page contains a single entry by Vicki published on February 12, 2009 1:56 AM.

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