Love and Language

I told someone at work about my high school phase of being in love with Bill Gates. I found it hard to explain the dynamics of female high school relationships, and the insistence that there must be someone I’m interested in, which led to my decision that Mr Gates would be my default response to the question of whether I “like-liked” anyone. So I think he took my response at face value. His response was to ask what I believe love is, as I was so freely able to throw the word around to someone I’d never even met. Then he asked if it had changed over time.

My initial response was love is that feeling you have when being around that person / thing makes you happy. I don’t think love only extends to people. It’s perfectly reasonable to love things or experiences, like loving pasta, or playing golf. So he asked if I was at a stand up comedy show and laughing, is that love? I definitely don’t think that. The only alteration I could think of at the time was to amend my initial statement to say love also includes the compulsion to go back and experience that thing again. So with MrFodder, I enjoy repeated experiences with him, and I enjoy eating pasta over and over.

But I feel like that description doesn’t cover some of the deeper aspects of love, especially how it has changed over time. The love I have for MrFodder now is not the same as the love I felt at the start.

I’m not sure why, but as I was falling asleep last night, I was thinking about one of my Japanese lecturers, and about the process of learning Japanese.

I actually missed my first Japanese class because I had been told that the first lecture is always useless, and I was having so much fun playing board games with the role-playing club. When I went to the second class, I realised I had missed the entire first row of hiragana (one of the alphabets used in Japanese). They had done. あa, いi, うu, えe, おo and had moved on to かka, きki, くku, けke, こko. I had never done Japanese before, so not only was I wondering what these squiggly lines were about, I was already on the back foot trying to catch up.

Fortunately, the Japanese textbook we were using was in romaji ( English alphabet representing the sounds), so I was able to keep up. Rather than trying to catch up, years of coasting in high school meant that I was confident I could learn it all in a day, and so I played more board games and lots of WoW. Class was fun, I was learning new words so quickly. Forming basic sentences. わたしはアナです I am Anna. I was making progress with very little effort.

Needless to say, I fell further and further behind, and once the book stopped using romaji, I struggled to participate in class. We moved from hiragana and katakana on to kanji ( pictographic characters used to represent words), and after the initial few characters that I had learned at Chinese school in the few classes I had attended, most were foreign to me. It took a lot more effort and the rate at which I was learning new things slowed. Japanese class became hard.

Somehow, I managed to pass the first year, but it kept getting harder. It became less about learning new words and more about learning characters and grammar rules. Rather than learning 20 new words a week, I’d barely understand one new grammar rule.

I’ve since forgotten most of the stuff I learned in my second year of Japanese class, but interestingly, the earlier stuff I still remember, despite struggling with it at the time. Hiragana is pretty much second nature to me now, but I still have vivid memories of the struggle I had learning it. It’s comfortable for me now, and I’m actually a lot slower when reading romaji.

A huge tangent, but it made me think that love is like learning a new language. At the start, things are easy, and you’re always discovering new things. Sure, dialogue is maybe somewhat stilted and you can’t really discuss anything complex, but you just enjoy the process of learning new things. Things are so simple that any obstacles feel fairly minor. If you hit an obstacle you can’t overcome, well, maybe this language wasn’t for you, perhaps try something else? However, words don’t always come easily, and If you want to make the best impression, you’d better think twice about what you say in case you end up saying that you like mutilating geese instead of asking someone to pass the salt.

It’s this stage that appears in movies and on TV, where Adam Sandler rushes onto the departing plane just so he can tell Drew Barrymore that he loves her. Awwww.

After a while, that initial novelty wears off. Rushing onto planes is pretty expensive after a while! You’re not learning new things all the time, which can actually be a bit of a relief, as you can work on building up what you already know. Refining it. You can start talking about deeper and more meaningful things. But at this stage, it takes a lot more effort to overcome obstacles. You start to question whether it’s worth the effort, there’s still time to try another language, but you have already committed so much effort.

Then you become fluent, or at least proficient enough to have deep conversations. You learn slang, and no longer feel the need to say sentences in their full form. You know enough to get your meaning across with the least amount of effort. Learning new things becomes a rare event, but the best thing is that communication is effortless. You are comfortable. You no longer need to question whether you should be saying X or Y, you can just say whatever flows into your head. It takes a lot of effort to keep improving, but in all honesty, do you really need to? Learning new things is quite rare.

I know it sounds a bit negative at the end, but I feel like that’s how love evolves. I feel comfortable with MrFodder now, and every day isn’t a need to impress. I realise perhaps that is not the best attitude to have, and we are working on making sure we both still put effort in the relationship, but I really like the feeling of familiarity. I like that I can come home from a long day of work and just relax. Maybe that’s not for everyone, but I’m the kind of person who orders the same thing at a restaurant because I already know it’s good and don’t want to risk getting something bad. I like comfortable. I hate getting dressed up, and while I can put on a mask and play the cheerful, “normal” person, it’s exhausting and not something I want to do when relaxed.

That’s what love is to me. The exciting burn which slows to a comfortable warmth.

Then you have lust, which is like meeting a person with a foreign accent. It’s nice to listen to them speak, but after a while, you realise that you can’t really say anything meaningful to each other.

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