All The Ways I’ve Said “I Love You”

The phrase “I love you” always tasted like capitulation to me. Like giving someone verbal consent to ruin your life. “I love you” was always one of those phrases that disintegrated in my mouth like those cheap allergy pills you get from the big $0.89 bin at the grocery store.

Until today, it was something I reserved for my family (because let’s be real, your family ruins your life- whether you consent to it or not), and for my best friends (because they’re the ones who are there to clean up the mess when people ruin your life- usually without consent).

I’m going to go ahead and admit that central to my aversion to the eight-letter epithet is my fear of intimacy and general anxiety about expressing my feelings; which is ironic considering my recently deceased childhood dream of becoming a therapist.

The bottom line here is that I used to be of the opinion that “I love you” was a bullshit phrase people said because they should and not because they meant it.

Last week, someone who did not fit into either of my categories for expressing affection told me they loved me, and I stared at them like they spoke to me in Klingon, completely unable to respond. I spent several days thinking about it, and my parley paralysis.

At the end of my meditation, I decided that the reason I’ve never said it must be because I haven’t felt enough love for it to be important to me. It seemed reason enough to me, and honestly, I was done thinking about it.

But tonight, as I type this out, I know that that is complete and absolute bullshit. I’ve felt a million types of love so far- and they’re all equally important.

The very first, terrifying, wildfire kind that never really goes away (no matter how many times you delete his phone number). The kind you feel when you’re telling a story in a group you don’t want to be in and you catch the patient eyes of the only one who’s listening. The kind you feel when you walk past someone who is now just a stranger you talked to on your freshman year common room couch until the sun came up about all the ways you’ve tried to disappear. The kind you feel when you’re 16, high as a kite, and singing A-Punk as loud as you can with your friends on a Friday night.The bittersweet, temporary, reminiscent kind you try to devour before the post-breakup sex glow disappears. The kind that makes you so angry that you hit your little brother in the face then vehemently apologize for it immediately after. The kind you reluctantly spend your whole life giving to someone hoping it’ll make them better enough to return it one day.

As someone who is very aware of their own mortality, it suddenly became very important to me that the people in my life know the way I feel about them in case they didn’t already. How thankful I am for having them teach me about all the different kinds of love there is to give and receive. How grateful I am that they’ve given me love even though I have problems giving it to myself.

I guess the point of this post is to remind you guys to say those three silly syllables to the people who deserve to hear them (and maybe even to those who don’t) because at the end of the day, it’s the only phrase that matters.

La Nouvelle Romantique


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