Thursday, January 4

Giving and Getting

We all have things that say to us, “I love you”. For most of my life, those things were stuff that my mother does on a regular basis, like, keep clean towels in the linen closet, fix dinner, and know where everyone is. When we go visit someone, it says “I love you” if they’ve made up the guest room (or guest couch) with clean sheets, laid out fresh towels, and planned ahead for at least the first dinner you’ll have with them.

When I was a kid and we went to visit mom’s parents’ for Christmas, there were always card games going, people dropping by, and food being prepared in abundance. Tablecloths were pressed, trees were decorated, and presents were wrapped. People rushed out the front door to hug you and say how glad they were that you’d turned up to visit. “Come in, sit down, what do you want to drink? Let me help you with your suitcase.”

Those things still say “I love you” to me, but I’ve learned to understand other languages, too.

When we went to my dad’s parents’ for Christmas, there were games of solitaire going. My grandmother didn’t look up super often from her crossword puzzles to visit. When you arrived after a harrowing trip through a sandstorm, the attitude was mostly, “Hi. You drove through a sandstorm, did you?” I don’t ever remember people coming around to visit or many company-esque dinners being prepared. (I’m illustrating here. Hang with me, they were also wonderful.)

If all your life people had indicated their love for you by preparing in advance and acting real enthusiastic and excited that you’d come to see them, you can see where not preparing in advance and acting neutral about your presence might feel like, “Huh, I don’t really love you that much.”

For my dad’s folks, they most certainly were not saying, “Huh, don’t really love you”. They were saying, “This is how we do things here.” They showed love in other ways, like building sterno-powered paddle-boats for the swimming pool, letting their excitable granddaughter throw a luau in the back yard, and writing letters when we were not nearby.

This is where it gets tricky.

If your first language is, say, English, and the native language of the person you love is, say, French, and he or she says to you, “Je t’aime” They actually ARE saying “I LOVE YOU.” They just aren’t saying it in your native language. So, this requires some emotional intelligence. Do you accept “je t’aime”? Or do you insist on “I love you”? Further, do you accept that the one who was home all day and did not prepare dinner while you were at work does not mean, “I don’t love you”? Do you accept other languages?

My solution, which I’ve only come to through time and destroyed marriage, is that (for me) both are acceptable, and needed. I have learned to recognize “I love you” in forms that are not my native language. Sure, the kitchen might not be clean (um, I didn’t clean it, either…), but there is conversation, and at least one intricate story to be told/listened to. There are thoughtful gifts, questions about my day, and speculations about a shared future. These are all “I love you”.

When I need to hear it in my native language, I ask for it. For this to work for me, I have to believe that asking for something I need doesn’t devalue it. Over-romanticizing things and pretending like my friends should KNOW my native language doesn’t result in receiving what I need. I believe these things wholeheartedly.

When I ask in plain language for something specific and easily provide-able, and then don’t get it, *that* can be an indication of anti-love. If I don’t ask and don’t get? That’s an indication that I didn’t ask.


Anonymous said...

As usual, well-said.

Anonymous said...

OUT OUT OUT of my hayed!!!!!! I just had that same 'epiphany' about mine and the BaldMan's languages!!! Dang I miss you!


Beth said...

Steve said "I love you" into a megaphone tonight when he made taco salad for the family while I was away running errands. I came home, thinking I would need to whip something together, only to find that he had already done it AND had already fed the boys.

He's totally getting lucky tonight.

Anonymous said...

Hey happy new year...
I've joined the dorks online and created my very own MySpace blog.

Little Pink Purses said...

And some people? You just never have to ask them for what you need. They just know. Like, you know I totally adore you. For lots of reasons, not the least which is the fact that you write things like this that I totally feel, but could never put into words as beautifully as you do.

I love that you used the word "abundance." It makes me smile. :)

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