Saturday, February 9, 2013


     I always have a bit of a problem when authors write about love that isn't tinged, however faintly, with hate.  The exception is the Romeo-and-Juliet story where the lovers don't ever get to spend enough time together to begin to hate each other, e.g., John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. But when people who love each other come to know the other intimately, love takes on many different aspects, including its opposite. Is there, anywhere in the world, a parent of a screaming toddler who hasn't fantasized, if only for a second or two, about throwing him/her out of a window?  Or a spouse who hasn't felt grateful at one time that there were no weapons nearby to help bring an argument with the beloved other to a close? If you say you've never felt that way - well, I'm not saying you're lying. But you know you are.
     I would like to offer a photographic example to support this claim. Anyone who reads this blog knows without question that I love my son, right? And yet -

and yet, when I am trying to make dinner and he is trying to force me to dance with him instead, the word "love" does not fully encompass the emotions I am experiencing. It does not even come close.
     I cite to Katherine Paterson's classic (Newbery-winning) novel, JACOB HAVE I LOVED. Louise hates her gifted twin sister Caroline because their twin-world is a pie chart, and Caroline has never left Louise any more than one thin slice of the pie. But Louise also hates her loyal best friend, Cal, for being clumsy and overweight and literal-minded and generally flawed. And when Louise develops a humiliating crush on the almost-70-year-old Captain, she hates him too, for putting her in such a ridiculous and horrifying position. She hates that she, and they, are slaves to the human condition.
     In John Green/David Levithan's WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, Will Grayson I deeply loves his lifelong best friend Tiny, which does not at all preclude him from hating Tiny too. Every time Tiny embarks on a new romance, he abandons Will, only seeking him out again when the romance (inevitably) ends. He takes Will and his devotion for granted. He makes unreasonable demands. He is, as Will finally tells him, a terrible best friend. Will hates that about Tiny, and yet loves him irrevocably all the same.
     Love makes us vulnerable. From the moment we begin to love someone, we reflexively begin to fear losing them, and the love becomes inextricably intertwined with the fear. Our ability to love another person is our greatest strength, and simultaneously our Achilles' heel. We love our children desperately, and question every decision we make on their behalf, and continue to feel responsible for them as long as we live. The more we love our partners, the less alone we feel, but the more we dread feeling alone. And how could we not resent that? What a terrible burden we've taken on. What a priceless, terrifying gift has been entrusted to us. And whom can we blame but the imperfect, annoying, mortal objects of our love?
     So when I read a book about ennobling, unwavering, eternal love, I have a hard time believing in it. I want to see love accompanied by passion and awe, but also by guilt, shame, anxiety, anger, doubt, disillusionment, and yes, a degree of hatred as well. That's what makes it 3-D. Anything less doesn't do full justice to the vast array of emotions of which we humans are capable, whether we want to be or not.


  1. Well, perhaps you should have simply danced with you son, Susan. I'm sure he only had good reasons for his actions.

    1. Wow. Who are you, anyway? It's like... It's like you can read my son's mind!!!

  2. Generally, I agree! And although you may be annoyed at your son's timing, I think it's wonderful he wants to dance with you :)

    1. Well, Donna, I'm pretty sure that his wanting to dance with me was closely connected to the fact that I was in the middle of making dinner. But don't worry! I still know how lucky I am. Thanks for the reminder, though!