Love: The Story

The story of love seeped its way into our psyches since birth. Heard hundreds of times by the fourth grade, “The Story” presents two young people who fall in love at first sight, after years of passion-fueled banter, on the third date after the first kiss with a friend’s cousin’s neighbor. Sometimes, The Story uses a glass slipper, often a spectacular twist of Fate, but never portrays true human flaws.

The Story chases us until we catch it. Then, it forms a chasm between our partner and us. The relationship and our partner don’t stand a chance.

Our poor lad or lass morphs into every reassuring and whimsical thought that filled our minds on a lonely night, after an awkward event which prompted hidden, debilitating insecurity or after a romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl.

Our unsuspecting partner can’t be who he or she actually is. They are who we need them to be. Determined to maintain the picture of all we ever wanted, what validates us to our parents, friends and society or resembles the photo on our vision board (created because “The Secret” promised that if we made one, they would come), we cut the corners off our actual partners to fit the image until our partners slump in defeat, round and tattered. We’re left resentful, short-tempered and victimized. We blame them, though we did it to ourselves.

Stuck between our fantasy and reality, we live somewhere in the middle. Moments remind us of what caused us to believe that we had found the Holy Grail of Love. The Story keeps us in it. We clutch its remnants like starving children and smile for photos.

The great love story compiled in our minds as photos and moments. Too bad Steve Jobs – may he rest peacefully – didn’t live long enough to bring smell to digital photography.

Scientists differ about the effect of pheromones on human love, but tell anyone that your new he or she “smells good,” and it doesn’t matter if he’s emotionally shut down or she hates your favorite sport and your mother. How someone smells creates an excuse to choose a partner who in no way promotes your continued wellness or development.

After years pass, the delicious taste and smell of the main character in The Story becomes sour and moldy. He doesn’t floss; her perfume smells like an elevator, a doctor’s office, her cat, whatever.

Science does confirm that “love” releases actual, measurable chemicals into our brains to make us high. A societal sanctioned and encouraged drug addiction. Researchers studied the activity of the brain and its hormones and report that dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin and serotonin present differently in the smitten. The first three go up and the last down. The result: obsessive mania.

Don’t tell Tom Cruise, but he was high on psychotropic drugs, not Katie Holmes, when he jumped up and down on Oprah’s butter yellow leather couch.

We tell the how-we-met tale over and over, because people want to hear that part of The Story. I first saw Ben, my on, off and now concluded love of twenty years from a hallway while he sat in his office behind his desk. His jet-black hair, sage green eyes and a wide smile framed by symmetrical dimples stole my heart, but the way he looked at me in that moment lasted decades.

I would have held to The Story of us forever, but life ensued. Ben’s hair turned gray too early and his eyes washed out from the disappointment of mistakes he believed he’d made. The resulting bitterness transformed his cupcake-like breath into a regular person’s. His baby fat never melted and instead hardened around his heart. He hated himself for the fat and everything else; his self-hatred overrode his love for me. I no longer liked him because he no longer loved me in the same way. He liked me even less than that because I no longer liked him.

My blame: I knew we were doomed in March of 1994, but I needed to believe in our history, that our bond was pure and indestructible enough to ignore my gut and reality.

Last year, we told the truth, shot the lame horse and killed The Story.

I miss it more than him. When The Story lived, it told the world and tiny corners of my mind that I stick to things, see them through no matter what, that I’m loyal, my mother’s daughter, reliable, patient, a good girl, the love of Ben’s life.

Without it, I’m an unrealistic eccentric who believes two people can connect, notwithstanding the release of brain chemicals and remain bonded despite the temptations, traumas, failures and successes of life.

Nuts, I know.

I believe we can connect to our partners because or despite good smells and hormone highs to persist for years and a lifetime within the intimacy we create. First, we must love and like ourselves. Not who we wish we were, not The Story we need and crave to fill a void in our life or a hole in our heart and without fear that our partners will think poorly of us, because we secretly fear we are worthless.

If we can forgive our perceived ugliness and heal our shame, we can put down The Story.

Love shines longer and brighter if it’s not a story.

If we accept that we are flawed and that in the years of our lives we will make countless mistakes, which transform us into ripe, delicious adults, we can love

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