Was having this discussion with MinCat about whether we can classify the situation she is in as love or something lesser, which she chooses to call lau. I find that today, just like it’s fashionable for women to say they are commitment-phobic, it has also become infra dig to use the “love” word. Not only are guys afraid of using it, now women are too. We will keep denying to ourselves and everyone else that we are in love, calling it some other euphemism (like it’s a bad thing), because, I suspect, it gives us a sense of control over our lives. But what is love, particularly unrequited love, if not a loss of control?

I see this clearly because I am guilty of it. When I was in my thing, which I legitimately cannot call a relationship because it was agreed expressly between us that it was not, with the Green Eyed Monster, I refused to use the L-word, the one with the big L, even in my own head. And yet, everything I did, pointed to it. The only off note was that I was pretty sure that I did not want to spend the rest of my life with him. Even this might have been to introduce some element of control into a situation that was rapidly going out of control. If I have to be honest, if he had asked me to marry him during that heady, if not entirely satisfactorily secure time, I would probably have said yes.

Today, I have kind of sort of acknowledged to myself (and maybe one other person, most likely MinCat) that it must have been love (but it’s over now…Roxette for the win!) but it’s something I say sternly to myself in a sort of hissy whisper while the part of me that wants to retain the image of the strong woman who I did not let herself fall in love with someone who clearly did not love her, though definitely was affectionate to the end, and possibly used her a little, fights this and literally goes hot in the face. So yeah, I can see the signs clearly.

MinCat has a complicated set of stages one must pass through in order for it to be worthy of being classified as love. Get the theory from the horse’s kitty’s mouth here. It involves the initial stage of chemistry and personal connection with someone (she says the same is true of friendships; I’m pretty sure that while there might be some overlaps depending on how enthusiastically you embrace new friendships, it’s a little different with romance) which deepens as you get to know the person better. The first test of sorts is when things that annoy you about the person crop up, but you find that the good overshadows the bad.

Then there’s what she calls the extrapolation phase, which is when you start fantasising about the person. This is interesting because it definitely happens but I don’t think it’s a significant distinguishing factor between love and lesser emotions. It happens in love, it happens in lesser emotions like infatuation too. This for her is defined as the lau stage, where you would introduce the person to your friends, parents etc. because you admit that there’s something there possibly worth declaring to someone other than yourself. The difference between infatuation and lau is that lau is based on something a little more concrete.

But then you spend more time with the person. More stuff comes up… and then this is the real testing ground. Whether it gets classified or not depends on whether over time, you extrapolation of life with that person matches up to reality and still satisfies you.

She also has a concept of superlove which is when stuff that the person does ceases to matter. Examples are unconditional love of the parental love variety.

So there seem to be at least two stages to be gone through before an emotion can officially be recognised as love. Both are similar so it appears to be more of a rinse-repeat sort of thing. Only when your shirt has gone through two bleach cycles (this may be a completely nonsensical analogy because I’m not entirely sure how my washing machine works*) and survived into Surf-style shiny whiteness can it be branded truly white/love.

I agree that there is a process involved in falling in love and that time and knowing the person are definitely factors. But all this seems incredibly complicated. I have a simpler definition with three characteristics:

1. A certain level of maturity. I don’t think very small children can fall in love though they can love. I think you need to maturity to be able to decide if the feelings you have are based on a solid foundation or a fantasy. When a child is actually of age to fall in love is very subjective.

2. A certain degree of knowing the object of your affection, and generally, time is a factor in this because often it takes time for people’s quirks to surface. Though how long it takes to get a good idea of what a person’s about is subjective and also, people change. At the heart of love is the willingness to tolerate most of the negatives and changes because there are some core things that hold you.

3. Being willing to bend over backward for that person. You go out of your way to do stuff for that person, you excuse things about them that you wouldn’t in other people. Maybe this is more relevant to me because I am guarded about going out of my way for people; MinCat on the other hand is naturally generous in this regard. But I think a certain amount of effort is an indicator of love.

Of course, there are the feelings, the blood rushing to your head (and other regions), the fuzzy stuff but that is not what sets love apart from the rest.

So I would classify all lesser kinds of emotions as infatuation. Of course, they could be separated by degrees but the degrees to me could be infinitesimal and the splitting of hairs seems to suggest a shying away from admitting something. For an emotion to be called love, according to me, it should satisfy all the three conditions above. Thus, you could willing to do anything for someone but you don’t really know the person that well –  it’s infatuation. Through college, I was infatuated with boys I liked the look of who I didn’t know that well, and I would have done a fair bit for them had they noticed my existence enough to ask me. You may also know someone well but not be willing to go the distance for them…that’s not love. It’s convenience.

A very old and wise man once told me that love is quite simply a gift and a choice. It is a choice to gift yourself to someone else. This suggests that there is some amount of commitment inherent in love and I agree. But I also think that the commitment can be involuntary, you can love although you don’t want to. It can also be unacknowledged, not just by the person you love but by yourself. MinCat says that you have to acknowledge yourself that you’re in love but I don’t believe so. Well, at some level, nothing exists until it is spoken into existence a al Saussure but also, we all kind of know that things do exist, though the exact terms of reference of them may differ and yes, saying it out loud sometimes does make it more real.

On this one, I choose to call the bluff.

* yes, I live a privileged lifestyle and one day in the future I will be doomed when I have no money and have to wash my own clothes. Except that I have been in that situation before and I have firsthand experience that operating a washing machine is not rocket science, just that for a technologically challenged soul like me I need to have written instructions initially which I then forge into the area of my brain dedicated to these thing which right now I have decided to declutter since it is not information I need in the near future. I know, bratty.