Hideously overrated business, love.
Now what could have provoked me into such an uncharacteristically misanthropic outburst? Certainly not the two weddings I’ve been to recently, both outrageously life-affirming occasions of bonhomie and munificence that presented not only love but humanity generally in an almost unjustifiably flattering light. Also not the fact that over the last month or so I’ve had an inordinate amount of contact with ex-girlfriends, which despite inevitably triggering various memories and introspective ruminations has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Not even the anxieties I’ve been facing in my present relationship, the details of which I don’t wish to go into (though I hasten to add that they were not caused by the aforementioned friendliness with the ex-s). Not even the fact that today, the fateful 18th of September, is exactly thirteen years to the day since I first met one of those ex-s, five years to the day since breaking up with another of them, and nine years to the day since a person close to me embarked upon an ill-advised (and ongoing) marriage – spooky, eh?
Neither is it down to love’s capacity to turn otherwise reasonable people into simpering, beatifically complacent buffoons, or alternatively desperate, despondent shells. Everyone knows that love is blind and can make you utterly miserable, how many songs have been written about that? Painful and downright dumb as it can be, even the most embittered cynic must be thinking that surely love has some redeeming features, and far be it from me to disagree.
A problem though is that love, by its very nature, is so nebulous. It can have all sorts of manifestations, and this gives rise to all sorts of interpretations and all sorts of abuses. Because it’s so hard to define, the word “love” can become a convenient cover for assorted pretentious hippy stargazers to use in order to mask their abject vapidity. Dropping (or more often piledriving) it into a conversation can make them sound nice and caring as well as deep, man, but what does it actually mean when used by these asinine, tarot-reading imbeciles? Scratch the surface and try to get them to explain what they’re talking about and you’ll find the answer is so vague as to be completely meaningless. One big nothing. Either that or they’ll get sanctimonious and start differentiating between their “true” conception of love as opposed to shallower, inferior versions. Now it’s a competition. My love’s better than your love.
To be more precise, it’s not love itself that I object to but the constant shoving of it to the forefront of everything. Why does it have to be so damned visible? I suddenly find myself favouring the old-school stiff upper lip approach, after all reticence and awkwardness in expression of love at least betray an appealing degree of modesty, by contrast with the wholly immodest, inappropriate and frequently insincere gushing that has become the norm (and yes, I realise that in addition to making me sound like a Telegraph-reading retired colonel, all this could seem like belated apologetics with regard to my ex-girlfriends). But those of us under about 50 no longer have much of a choice, bullied as we are into following the dictum that the more people you hug, the better a person you are.
About a week ago I was struck by just how loved-up we all are these days when I opened my parents’ fridge. Yes, you read it right, a fridge. Inside was a packet of crumpets, named “Love to toast” crumpets. Mmm yes, love to toast crumpets, butter melting lusciously all over them, perhaps whilst wearing a traditional hand-knitted Aran sweater on a frosty winter’s evening, on a rocking chair by a roaring log fire, with a steaming hot mug of cocoa to wash it down. Lovely. Love it. Makes you feel all warm inside, doesn’t it? Or does it make you, like me, want to go out and stab some manipulative, overpaid advertising executive’s eyeballs out with a rusty fork? A day or so later I was in a café which was selling Wall’s ice cream and noticed that their web address is www.loveicecream.com. Ooh, the power of suggestion. Don’t you just love our ice cream? What, don’t you have any feelings? We pour all our love into it. Love our ice cream. Go on, it’ll be sure to love you back. Love us. Give us your money, and keep giving it. It’s hardly rocket science, building up a relationship with the product, placing the producer in the position of a benevolent, paternal, almost God-like provider and infantilising us as consumers. The power of love.
Most offensive of all was an eco-friendly recycled polythene bag that came into my possession, bearing the slogan “use me, re-use me & try not to lose me… love the environment. love my bag” (all in cuddly, non-hectoring lower case letters). Now in spite of my natural scepticism and pessimism I’m still generally sympathetic to green issues, but this slogan filled me with a desire to buy a chainsaw run on ultra-leaded petrol and proceed to hack down a forest. I don’t love “you”, and I never will. “You” don’t even have the right to call yourself “me”. You’re a piece of plastic. And get ready for the punch line… it turns out that this repulsive abortion was produced by Asda, who are owned by those valiant eco-warriors Wal-Mart. Lovely.
By the way, before you get on my case for owning a Wal-Mart carrier bag, I’ll have you know that it was given to me by my 94 year old grandmother, containing a lovingly prepared parcel of goodies which are unavailable out in these parts. So if you take me to task me on this, you’re basically a granny-basher. You hate frail old ladies. Don’t you have a heart?
Err… what was I saying?
Brothers, sisters, friends. As someone who cares deeply about your emotional welfare and spiritual nourishment, I implore you: can’t we please have a bit less love in the house?
PS: I was challenged recently to create a post which contained “no swearing, no punk, no Brit/Czech contrasts and no politics”. Does the above meet the criteria? No mention of Czech or punk, and it’s only political in a loose sense, like y’know everything’s political if you think about it, yeah? And do I win any prizes for not swearing, considering it’s such an emotive issue? Especially since, reviewing this post, I can’t help feeling that it would have been much better with swearing in.
Mind you, Czech punks are a right fucking bunch of right-wing cunts.