Fairy Tale Love
What it is, and why, and how to make it.
by Beate Sigriddaughter
A young mother rocks her baby, remembering her dreams of a husband who would bring her flowers for her hair each evening in a home filled with laughter and warmth, instead of the distracted one who comes home expecting dinner and a beer. And would she please somehow keep a lid on the baby's incessant crying?
A psychiatrist drags herself home from a day of trying to heal everyone. After listening to many hours of anxiety and stress and conflict, all she wants to do now is read a romance novel with a hopeful ending while sipping a glass of wine.
A soldier returning from duty admits he does everything he does because he wants to be loved.
We all want to be loved. And we all somehow seem to know precisely what love looks like, though when you dig deep enough, you might notice that the models we have for love are not necessarily parents or inspirational elders, but characters from fairy tales instead. Not surprising then that romance novels make up the largest segments in the consumer publishing world, though regrettably men total only 9% or 10 % of romance readers — and, frankly, I was surprised to learn there were that many male romance readers. With men encouraged to keep their emotions in straitjackets, small wonder we sometimes think love is women's domain. It isn't. We're all in this together.
What exactly is this love that we so crave and then frequently deny we crave, lest we don't get it and then we would just look bad, so we might as well pretend we didn't really want it in the first place?
It has to do with visibility. After the first few years of being human and helpless and needing to be fed, we can all more or less fend for ourselves. But the craving for benevolent attention does not go away. My question is: Why should it, when it can so easily be satisfied? Or should I say, when it could be so simply satisfied? Because it doesn't appear to be all that easy. Many of us seem to have lost the knack for it, if we had it in the first place.
There are theories that God created the world in order to externalize Himself (Hegel, for one) and experience Himself or Herself (Walsh and other contemporary philosophers). I'll add to that a fairy tale image: At first God was indifferent, much like the sun, and therefore unconditionally and indiscriminately provided for scorpions, roses, rats, eagles, junipers, rocks, grass, whales. And of course God still does so provide. One day, though, God got bored with all that indifference. God wanted love in the mix. So God created human beings.
Of all the world's creatures, we men, women and children are the ones uniquely equipped to not just experience and yearn for, but also to create love, out of nothing, with a rose, a smile, a hug. I am prejudiced in believing God would rather experience a spectacle of people egging each other on while striving for excellence in whatever they do, than a spectacle of conflict and bloodshed, just so there would be something exciting to watch from paradise. I can't imagine God clamoring for just one more car chase, one more scene of battling dinosaurs with a stick, or one more round of machine-gun fire. It gets old after a while. Love, however, never gets boring, because it keeps evolving and changing with everyone who touches it.
You see, love is a fairy tale. As with so many things in life, you have to make it up as you go along. You aren't born, for example, with a life's supply of bread. You have to bake it, or somebody has to bake it for you. And so it is with love. But just because you make it up doesn't mean it isn't real. That's the beauty of good fairy tales.
Remember, too, that fairy tales grow on you as you repeat them.
Meanwhile, just as with bread, for most of us and much of the time, love tastes much better when somebody else makes it up and offers it, and it is a lot less effort to boot. There is a beautiful story in circulation where heaven and hell have exactly the same setting. Soup is on the table and everybody is provided with overly long spoons. In hell, folks suffer from painfully trying to contort themselves to get some of that soup into their own mouths. In heaven they laugh and feed each other. The soup is delicious, even though some of it might get spilled in the riotous process. (Lucky sparrows and mice!)
So, too, I find that self-love, while a noble and necessary concept, is not always satisfying. There are times when it pales compared with a caring word or touch from and outside source that "doesn't have to" be involved. And at times, especially when you crave a hug or direct eye contact, God's love is a tad too ephemeral and intangible.
A rose smells much sweeter when someone else hands it to you. (With one notable exception: When it's Valentine's Day and your significant other has to dip into the family savings to afford roses, you might feel better about buying them for yourself on sale the day after.)
The highest love is walking side by side through this world, making each other visible, and making this magnificent world visible to each other. Each soul has its own path, that's understood. But on the journey we could all benefit from a mutual admiration club with those who are with us on the road. We can share a small purple flower, a piercing sunrise, or the first lizard of spring, and we can applaud each other for bravely carrying on. In a more intense relationship, all you have to do is turn up the volume of attention. That's all there is to it. The basic mechanism stays the same: Really look at your partner. Admire his or her dreams. Acknowledge his or her existence. Clap your hands.
Above all, don't let anybody try to talk you out of love as something too mushy or not respectable enough in this world where allegedly your focus should be on intellectual prowess or ambition and commercial success (which would mean doubling the price of roses for Valentine's Day, for example). All of those things have their place. Let love come first, though.
Sometimes, in the rush of doubling the price of your roses or trying to earn enough to be able to afford them for your beloved, you might forget how very simple Love 101 can be. If you happen to be in Silver City, there's a woman here who can handily give you a refresher on how it is done. Her name is Sonia and she makes and sells burritos at Mi Viejo Mexico at the corner of Hwy. 90 and Broadway. She calls every single customer "my friend" and it is a treat. If God came by for a burrito, she would no doubt call God "my friend" as well, and God would walk away invigorated.
Let's make an effort to do that sort of thing for one another. Make each other visible with attention. Make it a pleasure to share the road. Make every step a quick caress of our shared wish to be celebrated on our journey from birth to old age. Happy Valentine's Day.
Beate Sigriddaughter is the author of Beauty Sleeping, a new novel about an artist's journey through the often daunting landscapes of self-doubt and disillusionment. Beauty Sleeping is available from major online booksellers (Amazon., Barnes & Noble, et al), both in print and e-book format, as are her other works of fiction. She lives and writes and sometimes dances in Silver City. For contact and other information, please visit her website www.sigriddaughter.com.