tales of a girl in the city

août 12, 2004


I fear the L word the way some people fear spiders.

The first time someone said it to me, I was sixteen and sitting outside of my upstairs bathroom, on tan carpeting, holding the hand of a quakey, Princeton-bound seventeen year-old boy. He said it, and I thought and said simultaneously, "You can't." Then I picked at the rug and tried to act casual while my stomach lurched.

Because saying "I love you" felt very...important. Too important for tan carpeting and sixteen. And even though I knew what he felt was love, and knew that what I felt couldn't have been anything else, I also thought that saying it aloud made it scary.

I loved him back, but it took me a long time to tell him so.

I've gotten no better at it as I get older. It might be because the words mean so much to me.

My family was a Love You Family. Other households, I have since learned, use the words sparingly: funerals, hospital visits, weddings. But my family began every day with it, and my dad--who possibly never said the words to his own father, and certainly never heard them back--still leaves me voice mails every once and awhile that say nothing else.

And when we say it, we mean it in The Big Way. No stitching it into pot holders, or chiming in with a "Luv Ya!" at the end of a phone call. We mean the tough kind, the stuff that's invincible. I love you no matter what.

So when I feel it, I feel it big; I suppose, that's part of what makes it hard to say. And, I suppose, that's part of why I've only said it aloud to two boyfriends: Princeton-bound was the first and Dan (first boyfriend post-college) was the second. Never mind the fact that I said it to him only once on the day I broke up with him.

That doesn't mean I haven't felt it for other men who've come into my life. But saying and feeling it are two different things. (I do agree with whoever said that there should be as many words for "love" as their are Eskimo words for "snow.")

Some of the kinds of love I've felt haven't been worth saying out loud.

I don't know, really, where I'm going with all of this. I don't say it yet to David, but even just typing his name there makes me flash to the dinner party we threw recently, and--god--the fun we had cleaning up. The way we How easily our lives have slipped into each other. How we're creating our own vocabulary: sweet thing and my girl.

He is the kindest person I have ever met.

And he's not dumb either, which makes me laugh and feel certain that he can see right through me--all of the ridiculous things I say, the funny nicknames and late night phone calls.

Because those particular three words are always hovering on my tongue.

And everything else is just a euphemism.