Where does all the unexperienced love go? The thought came into my head this morning as I slowly woke myself up in a warm bath. I haven’t said “I love you” to anyone in a romantic sense in five years. Five years. That’s a major chunk of life. So as I keep living, more as a parent than a partner, where is all the unexperienced love going?
I imagine my life must look very different from that of someone who wakes up every morning entwined with another. Yeah, my eleven-pound Chihuahua is often pressed up against me, but that doesn’t count. Thankfully. I appreciate his affection, but I’m not willing to call it a substitute. How about a weak stand-in, a love that reminds me how I can cherish another being, a love that encourages me to be selfless, like when he pleads with me to take him out for a social stroll when all I want to do is continue to read my book? And, yes, he usually wins the tug-o-war. I figure I’m completely in control of his life, and it’s my duty to make it as much fun as possible. Within reason. I don’t provide rabbits to chase or allow access to open trashcans filled with tissues ready for shredding. Both offerings could just get too messy.
I can’t imagine anyone’s life is meant to be absent of the opportunity to travel the complicated course of love. No matter how bumpy it is, I think most of us are more in touch with being alive via the context of love than in any other context. But given present circumstances, I’m sadly losing the connection to that part of me. I’m forgetting how to navigate a mate, how to give when I feel like taking, how to laugh when I want to criticize. I’m even forgetting the list of challenges. In shorthand, I’m not even able to remember what I’m forgetting.
When you’re single, it’s always presented as an in-between condition, not a long-term place to inhabit. So what happens when it becomes long-term? Do you redefine your life as that of a permanently single? Do you stop thinking about life with another?
I’d like to think of my unexperienced love as having a life of its own, as if since it’s not committed to me, it gets to roam and explore. It will likely encounter other people's unexperienced love out for a spin. I can imagine all the unexperienced love gathering together to compare the missteps and the near love, sharing moments punctuated by sighs and cigarettes and the occasional belly laugh that squirts soda through the nose.
And when my unexperienced love returns to me with a wealth of adventures to share including amusing encounters with unexperienced sex, we can laugh about them together over a celebratory bottle of champagne. Maybe it will even have some hearty advice. I’d love that. But then we’ll have to get serious and decide whether my unexperienced love really belongs to me or not, whether it is obligated to stay by my side and drop the ‘un’ so that we can launch into experience together.
But maybe instead of demanding that my unexperienced love remain here with me, it is time for me to join it on the road. If my unexperienced love can leave the comfort zone and seek new adventures, perhaps I can as well. Maybe I really can approach the solitary stranger to strike up conversation believing that this time it will be different, emboldened by the shadow of my unexperienced love playfully nudging me forward, convincing me that while these ventures in vulnerability can be frightening and unsettling, in the very least they provide anecdotes. “It’s all material,” my brave, unexperienced love explains.
So I take the step, a tinge of optimism pushing me forward, a smirky grin upon my face as I feel the presence of my prodding travel mate. I’ll be sure to report back.