Debate: Is falling in love worth the bother?
Sunday 01 August 1999
SO FALLING in love is nothing more romantic than a cocktail of brain chemicals we get addicted to for 18 to 30 months. After this we either break up or stay with our partners out of habit. So says a survey conducted, quelle surprise, in America. Hot on the heels of this comes another bit of research from Italy, saying that people in love have the same symptoms as those with obsessive compulsive disorder: they do crazy things, take senseless risks and have endless thoughts about their loved ones.
My answer to both these findings is, so what? Is it still worth falling in love? Yes, yes and yes again. So those lovely dreamy initial feelings fade. We all knew this. It doesn't mean your love is less valid. So you do mad things when you're in love. Thank God! Who wouldn't want to live life on the peripheries of madness with your emotions all over the place, your appetite suppressed and your skin glowing despite living on nothing but wine and unfinished dinners.
Being in love means that the world, for a while at least, is a different, magical place with a secret only the two of you hold. How sweet all words sound, how helpful everyone is, isn't the sun bright and - oh dear, someone's pushed into you on the train. Whoops-a-daisy. How fascinating your loved one is, was ever a person more interesting? The fact that others may not share your obsession only makes you feel more special.
And why did you need so much sleep before? Nights are suddenly the perfect time for lying face to face whispering life histories to each other - or for other things. So, love can go wrong, again: who cares? What fun is to be had rediscovering yourself, writing letters that will never be sent, until you're ready once more for that private world of "us".
Why is all of this not OK just because at the end of it there may not be a lifelong union? (At least your underwear drawer will have been replenished.) A delicious meal is still delicious even though it will not satisfy for longer than a few hours. But the memory of it! That will last forever. So it is with love affairs, and what better pursuit than the collection of memories that make your heart jump at the whiff of a perfume,the first bars of a forgotten song? And you thought time travel was not possible...
I KNEW IT. Scientists now claim that falling in love is a kind of madness. Apparently we develop obsessive compulsive disorder illness when we get bitten by the love bug. They say it's all to do
with our serotonin levels, which plummet as we fall into an amorous trance and don't recover until we finally wake up and smell the coffee. Boy, were they ever right. Who hasn't looked back on the first rush of love and remembered a haze of sex-mad mania? Falling in love is like losing your temper - you forget yourself, lose your pride and become a slave to your emotions. It's great for Romantic poets, crap for everyone else.
Call me an old cynic, but there is nothing sadder than a girlfriend cancelling all social arrangements to fit in the new man and praising the prettiness of his nose hairs. It's a form of madness looked back on by peeping through one's fingers with embarrassment. Oh God, did I really say that? Did I really join his night classes/ hang around outside his office/ watch him play rugby/ go on that crash diet?
I'm not saying that falling in love is wrong, it's just how you do it. That mania where everything s/he says, does, comments on has the power to either flatten or enthral you - just leads to no good. The slow, measured change where friendship turns to something deeper is far preferable. The serotonin levels totter gingerly down the steps of amour rather tumble down the slippery slope of obsession.
The only good thing about falling in love is that it's a barometer of things to come. The more bittersweet the first rush of love, the more you're in for a bum's rush of a relationship. Languish by the phone, chase his ass like a dog at a rabbit, hang on his every word, and you're onto a losing wicket.
Any man who milks a maiden's mania, who calls you three days later than arranged and makes you feel more like a pea than a princess is also the man who'll build the shelves three months after he promised. While the man who calls you before the butterflies start fluttering, who treats you like a goddess not a goat, whom you gradually come to realise is Lord of the Universe is the man who'll get up at 5am to watch Cartoon Network with Nipper while you doze.
Falling in love - that initial madness, despair and longing for 24-7 quality time with Mr Right - is a waste of time. You'll wake up one morning and his dry wit will be a damp squib, his fruity laugh will scrape your nerves like chalk on a blackboard and his nose hairs will drive you insane. And all because your serotonin went pear-shaped. It's your fault for projecting George Clooney's looks and King Solomon's character onto a cross between George Formby and Don King. Don't say I didn't warn you.
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