Been There, Done That

“Love and do what you will,” says St Augustine. We are told in the New Testament to “Love thy neighbor as thou would love thyself.” And then the kicker: “Love thine enemy.”

Shakespeare tells us that love is the “ever fixéd mark,” the stable grounding to all our emotional vagaries. And what fool in his right mind came up with the notion of “two in one flesh” to describe the close bonding we’re supposed to experience in a committed physical and emotional relationship? (the two-in-one-flesh metaphor, by the way, is seen by many as a convenient mandate to suppress individuality. I’m just sayin’).

Love, we are told by many of the great moral teachers, is the highest human achievement, trumping even the pursuit and acquisition of truth. “Without love,” St Paul tells us, we are nothing more than a “tinkling cymbal.”

Well, I’m here to tell you the other side. It’s called the “love addiction.”

If some of us have never experienced it, we have escaped the throes of another illusion. Whether or not we are better for it is a matter of dispute, for even illusions can be profound learning experiences. It’s called the “once-burned-once-shy” lesson of life.

So, what are the symptoms of this love addiction?

Let me say, from my own experience, that it often begins with a phone call after I meet someone I feel there might be a chance for a relationship.

No, I need to change that. It begins when I first meet someone and think there might be a possibility for a relationship. The phone call usually kicks in the next day.

You see, even I can be in denial about what I’m thinking when I first meet someone that looks like a possibility for a meaningful relationship. The drum roll in my head has already begun, ladies and gentlemen.

For some of us, a first meeting with our love victim can result in a whole symphony of what-would-they-be-like-ten years from now fantasies. It is not unusual for many of us to kick the can ahead by holding our fantasy hostage to a ’til death-do-us-part moment.

In some of my more upgraded fantasies, I begin to picture my first-meeting love victim in a mutually shared condo in Greenwich Village; in a posh restaurant talking about the tragic ending of Anna Karenina; walking our three kids in Central Park; adjusting the tenor-bass sound on our BMW wrap-around sound system;or explaining the story line of La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera to our private-schooled thirteen year old girl name Ophelia.

Today, I am convinced will be different. I am at an art gallery. I see someone across the room. I am smitten, as the poets say. Should I glance? Yes, a second and third quick-shutter glance. No stares. Not yet. Staring is for predators, those front-teeth-missing guys who would diddle a ten year old or rape your teen-age daughter in a heartbeat.

Polite stares are okay. But I have to time myself. I don’t want my photo wandering around the Internet on an FBI serial-killer wanted list.

Not even a long peek at that old German sehnsucht in the eye-balling. Five seconds, tops. Then I allow myself  a hiatus to return to a conversation I have no intention of listening to with some inane art critic bellowing on about the “natural ebb and flow” of the watercolor technique.

I am, after all, at an art showing. Exhibits and concerts always—I mean “always”–give legitimacy to desire because, as we all know, they put all the baser emotions onto a much higher plane.

I return to a longer timed stare, upgraded from a glance to avoid any hint of indifference.

The object of my desire should always be poised for a return glance. And she is posing, isn’t she? Why wouldn’t she be? She is tilting her body, with strained effort, towards the other side of the room where I just happen to be standing, right next to the Renoir.

“Damn. I’m wearing brown pants.” Of all the days to wear brown, I think to myself. And khaki brown, to boot, the default color of mall shoppers and corporate golfers. It’s embarrassing.

But I will be ready next time—black pants (straight leg with a brazen hint of ankle); a white linen shirt, unironed and open, two buttons down (artists must be tastefully unkempt and free-spirited, the subtle pyramid of bare skin below the neck flashing its quiet cornucopia of bushy, black hair); black sandals sans socks (see above); and a tint of Calvin Klein One.

Maybe I should lose some weight.

I’m looking straight at the Renoir. I turn, ever so slightly, to see if she has moved from her strategic position. “My God. She’s walking towards me.” I turn back to the Renoir. I listen. I hear her high-heel footfall—assertive, confident, firm, jaunty, whimsical, curious—the glass-ceiling femme fatale of my dreams.

“George, how wonderful to see you.”

George, the troglodyte, is standing next to me. Gazing blankly at a Motherwell, he turns unruffled. “Martha, I can’t believe it. And how are Tim and the kids.”

“We’re divorced.”













































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