From Tor.com

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Can You Smell It?

February 9, 2010

In one of my many trysts on the Internet, I cam across a brilliant compilation of quotes from young children about their interpretations of the meaning of love, which are phenomenal in their simplicity.


“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” — Billy – age 4

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” — Karl – age 5

“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” — Terri – age 4

“Love is hugging, Love is kissing, Love is saying no” — Patty – age 8

“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” — Noelle – age 7

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” — Tommy – age 6

“Love cards like Valentine’s cards say stuff on them that we’d like to say ourselves, but we wouldn’t be caught dead saying.” — Mike – age 8

What is it about love that is so difficult to discuss, let alone write about? Despite the romance novels and the sappy television pairing that we cling to, we have yet to attempt to pinpoint what it is that makes us so enthralled. We outwardly seek romantic pairings to coo over and sigh dramatically, yet ask someone to describe the actual feeling and you will receive an uncomfortable, shifting stare.

So despite the media obsession with romance, it takes a certain skill to really acknowledge, let alone describe the feeling itself, rather than just the outcomes. Myself, I’ve always been a cynic. My view of the process of love, or falling into it was almost scientific. A combination of social factors, hormonal shifts, primal urges and often the aide of alcohol created a feeling of togetherness that with luck would stick around two people for an undetermined amount of time.

This is not to make me sound like a complete love-hater. I’ve always thought myself to fall in love faster than most, and with most people. My friends, my roommates, passer-by’s with interesting life-stories to share (hey, I’m a writer), it’s never taken much. I’m also like most females (and some males) I know who have been planning their “perfect” wedding since they were children, down to ridiculous detail. So allow me to classify in my own strange way – a spit between love, the affection and closeness you can share with family and friends, and this ethereal unknown that will drive even the most rational, absolutely insane. And there we have it, the exact reason why we avoid trying to qualify true love – it’s closest equivalent is madness, which isn’t exactly socially acceptable.

I don’t claim to have found a way to describe it, particularly in the written word. The best I’ve found myself doing is detailing experiences, moments in time that trigger emotion. It’s a close second, and something people can easily relate to in the written form. That is fine and dandy, but comfort has never been my interest; it’s to provoke, to probe, to make things real on the verge of uncomfortable. So this is something I ask to be considered, in a deeper understanding than we give it credit for. What is this feeling, this emotion that drives so much of the population on the brink of insanity, or even to the point of committing acts of insanity? Are we that scared that if we can successfully find a universal way to qualify it that love would lose it’s splendor? If this feeling is so powerful that it can overwhelm all bases in reality, trip our feet and give premature arrhythmia on occasion, simply putting it into words could never make it lose it’s appeal. Rather, (from my very well hidden logical brain) it might just bring some ease, some understanding to those like me that were so eager to hide from the thought of an instant where we might not be in control.

Would it scare you to think that maybe that love that drives us to lovely madness could really be as simple as a bunch of first-graders were able to acknowledge? It certainly irks me, in that disgruntled ‘I should have known’ sort of way. In our constantly moving world, could we be making it all too complicated?

For anyone that remembers being a child, has at least one, or has ever seen one, you would know that when a child wants something, it is life-or-death. Whether a new toy, a piece of candy or just their bedtime, everything is urgent and pressing to the point of tantrum. Maybe love isn’t that different. Of course in situations of danger, everything is life-or-death, and we will often look for our loved-ones safety before our own. But in times of calm, love can make you feel like everything is still in great peril. As adult human beings we constantly fight to be in control, and love it out of control. It is radical, extreme, frightening and delicious in its simplicity.

In truth, there is absolutely nothing wrong with losing control for a little part of your life, a slice of reality where you can be removed, be wild and irrational and just enjoy life with a child-like reverence for yet another thing we cannot explain.