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Love: according to experts

small heartI was schooled by romantic novels and film, showtunes, subversive love songs and years of hit-and-miss acculturation. I knew how to give myself away to my beloved. I’d let him fill me like New York cheesecake goo, swirling in a circuit around heart, cross to navel, round to crotch, crossover to heart again. As the mixture heats and expands, it pushes past the heart to fill chest and shoulders, hungering for his arms and skin, heat and release. Safety, security, happy, might just come in that sated sleeping breath.

From this side, that love looks like a series of fantasies brought on by the relentless grip of my ovaries—breed! Breed! Breed! Breed! Darwin’s call drowned out all others. Enough already: no more eggs for you, biology. I’m done with that. Now—how do I do this love thing? Do I read a book? Take a course? Maybe I should consult with the experts. No, not Dr. Phil, the real experts. I wonder what science has to say about love?

The biologist holds the carapace of a serious love affair. She begins the dissection and new thoughts emerge. She slows to preserve that layer that has yet to reveal its secret. What precious juice might this secrete? It seems to be a vestigial organ. It looks as though the tiny folds and membranes here might have once been programmed to exude that syrup essential to love—generosity.

The psychologist thinks she owns this turf of love. With those generosity ducts opened up, perhaps lovers could leave aside the pain and parry technique, topping each other to prove their love and leaving all those little cuts and bruises in their wake. Rather, bathed in generosity, a lover might risk discomfort and allow his abrasions to touch the sun’s healing rays without defense and domination. It might be so satisfying to leave the wound exposed for a moment and allow the beloved to be heard, a gift of intoxicating generosity. Then to pry open doors long since slammed shut on unruly landscapes. Maybe we can even tease melody out of those miserable sticky, choking patterns.

The ethnomusicologist loves to extrude meaning from those crazy-quilt patterns. We shouldn’t read too much from the incomplete traces left to us. We have only what she remembers, what he noticed, what they told themselves over and over and over again. Still, be sure to note the entry of the whispering chorus here, at measure 128. This chorus of friends and meddlers restates the central theme with a variation that conveys their own fear and uncertainty.

The designer… it’s hopeless. She cannot cover two in a dream by one. Pattern must be mutual, fabric? Jersey-light, stretchy, even in the deepest bonds. It’s so slippery and tricky to work with. A good fit is rare.

Love beyond the bursting of passion in each artery wall and sticky bit of skin, love past the years, love over fifty, love through the dark times—that lasting, longed-for, whole adult love—must be generous. It cannot demand more than it gives; it cannot measure the gift.

Say it! Say “we’ll bring our imperfect wholenesses together and be more.” Love will speak in the very imperfect, compiling all those too-narrow visions from the experts into one rich-ripe heart, as my hand opens to your thigh, my lips touch your lips and my weight shifts upon the curve of your belly.