What do Smokey Robinson’s “Ooo Baby Baby,” Maxwell’s “Fortunate,” and Miguel’s “Adorn” have in common? They’re all love songs.
I’ve found myself singing along to and being moved by these songs, but I can’t say I’ve ever been in love (though I was close that one time in kindergarten when a girl shared her 64-count Crayola crayon box with the built-in sharpener with me). Why do I feel a connection with what Smokey sings if I don’t have a significant other to whom I’ve done wrong? I don’t belong to an “us,” yet I recite the lyrics to “Adorn” with such conviction that you’d think I wrote the song and had Miguel sing it because I felt ill that week. I know what you’re thinking-one doesn’t have to be in love in order to enjoy love songs-but in the four minutes and thirty seconds that “All of Me” by John Legend lasts, I’d be lying if I said someone in particular didn’t come to mind. Sometimes this person is that girl I met at the freshman barbeque during our first week as college students, and other times it’s a girl from one of my classes to whom I’ve never spoken but whom I love hearing speak because she articulates herself in a way I wish I did.
Oftentimes, however, it’s someone fictitious-a person created in my mind who is about her work just a little bit more than I am so that I can be kept in check; who has a nice sense of style; who is willing to learn from me just as I’m willing to learn from her. Ultimately, this person is someone for whom I don’t mind making an effort and vice versa. Although everything you’ve read up until now has been true, you haven’t gotten the full story.
On (many) weekends between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. (or until the “liquid courage,” as Kerry Cronin puts it in her famous dating talk, wears out), I tend to reject that vision of love for another, more stereotypically collegiate one-the “hook-up.” As this is very much a part of today’s college culture, I cannot exclude it from consideration and I must admit that, sometimes, I, too, am guilty of being one of those “jerks who just want to hook up.” I did not, however, own up to this part of my identity until recently-I wanted to believe that, because I didn’t make “hooking up” my sole pursuit, such a reputation was not applicable to me. Early in my freshman year, I recognized that I was trying to fit this mold so that I could have a story to tell my friends, who were all bragging about their recent “hook ups.” The realization I had, however, only lasted until the next weekend. A year and a half later, I cannot say that I have fully left behind this “hook up”-driven approach to love, but I think there’s some worth in the acknowledgment of my shortcomings.
Everyone wants to feel loved, but not everybody looks for love in the same places or considers love to have one concrete definition.
Simply looking at my actions, “love” has been capitalizing on the physical with no intention of going past a “hook up” session. Yet, if you were randomly to ask me to define love, my response would include something about selflessness, sacrifice, and solicitude, because I am more considerate of others’ emotions than I have conveyed, have less bravado than my wandering hands have suggested, and possess more yearning for meaningful interactions than I have communicated. The misalignment between my actions and words largely derives from the fact that love requires work and vulnerability. While one night is easier to commit to than a year, momentary pleasure isn’t satisfying in the long term.
When people ask how my love life is going, I usually respond by saying it’s unsuccessful, since I’ve been single for about four years. Although it’d be nice to have a significant other with whom I could stay in on the weekends and spend Valentine’s Day, I don’t need one. What has been constant in my life, however, has been the support, affection, and guidance that my family and friends offer-but seldom do these groups of people come to mind when I think about love.
It is easy to take for granted those who care about us and to think of love solely in terms of romantic attraction. My roommates noticing I’m quieter than usual and inquiring about this is love; my youngest brother being anxious for me to return home is love; my mother working while my 1-year-old sister stays with a babysitter is love. I am and always have been surrounded by love, but I have not been most mindful of this fact.
I may not completely relate to the fool Frankie Lymon sings about, or have a certain girl from Ipanema in mind like Frank Sinatra does, but I have loved ones for whom I can do (and will do) a better job of loving.
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.