“Once upon a time, people thought about love, felt it, wrote poems on it, and died for it—but didn’t incorporate it in their daily lives. Now, of course, the word is in easy use, like small change clinking in pockets: ‘I love pizza’, ‘I love Marilyn Monroe’, ‘I love kitchen gardens’... But in a personal context, it’s gone into all kinds of subterfuge, a tizzy of finger-biting self-doubt, even.
So when love starts to double your heart rate and trips up the words on your tongue, you’d rather keep it a secret. The minute you say it, everything changes. Each word echoes like a gunshot. Besides, if ‘I love you’ doesn’t get an ‘I love you too’ in return, wrists may be slit.
We are told never to say IT first—it’s more lady-like that way. It pays to be coy. You also keep waiting for the right moment—not to mention the right person. The first time I said it, the guy looked at me with such sympathy, like I had a little-known disease with no cure. The last time I said it was at gunpoint, at my wedding anniversary when a room full of friends stared at my husband and me expectantly, while we cut a cake. Well past my first declaration, I still fear ‘I love you’ can sound like a bit of a joke, whether you say it or are told it. It’s okay for Ross to say to Rachel, and make an audience chuckle. But outside of sitcoms, these are clunky little words that fall on their fat bottoms. A fear of ridicule lives strong.
Though I say it to my dog and my friends all the time (so sue me), I’m a right wuss when it comes to saying it to the man I love. It’s scary when you realise that saying ‘I love you’ makes you vulnerable. And saying ‘I love Valentine’s Day’ does the same. That embracing the red roses, sonnets, tables for two, and heart-shaped anything is putting yourself out there too much.
Au contraire! If anything, you should seize the day! It’s the one day of the year you have the biggest free pass in romantic existence—you can shout how much you love someone from the rooftops, you can get those gigantic, tacky, gold-ribboned boxes of chocolates, you can eat by candlelight and drink great wine, and dream of Hollywood endings. And if anyone tries to judge? Well, hey, buddy, it’s Valentine’s Day.” Skeptics, put down your heart grenades!