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Rhodri Marsden: The three most dangerous words in the English language

Life on Marsden
  • @rhodri

When embroiled in emotional situations, people can have a tendency to repeat dialogue they've heard in bad films. As a friend bawls on your shoulder after making some embarrassingly bad life choices, you might find yourself saying, "Look, you have to stop running away from yourself", despite a clanging bullshit alarm thwacking against the inner wall of your cranium.

During a relationship break-up, it only takes some moody lighting to make repulsive phrases roll off the tongue with bewildering ease. "Which makes what I'm about to say all the more difficult," is particularly awful.

And then, of course, there's: "I love you." We rush like panic-stricken bus-missers to blurt this out to people we like, because when it happens on telly there's a huge swell of violins, the other person says, "I love you too", they kiss tenderly and then there's an advertisement for DulcoEase Stool Softener. We want a piece of this action. But risk is involved. Yes, the other person might say "I love you too" – either because they love you, or because it's just tidier and less traumatic not to. But not everyone is predisposed to reciting the approved dialogue. As a result, dropping the "I love you" bombshell can leave you dangerously exposed, like wandering on to a battlefield dressed as a fluorescent tank.

Unwelcome responses to "I love you" are many and various, ranging from the patronising ("Oh, that's sweet") to heartless acceptance ("Thanks") to denial ("No you don't") to desperate attempts at deflection ("Sorry, I didn't quite catch that") to flustered responses generated by a misfiring central nervous system (laughing hysterically, then saying "me no speaka Eeengleesh".) But these kinds of responses rarely crop up in screenplays. If they did, it might serve as a useful warning of how that first "I love you" comes with no guarantees and can lead to a catastrophic imbalance of the relationship scales.

But hey, I suppose there are other ways to express love for someone that aren't quite so highly charged. Like baking, or smiling. And what is love, anyway? I revisited the 1983 song of this name by Howard Jones to see if he offered any clues, but instead of a philosophical treatise on the nature of affection he just gives us a synth solo. Jeez. If Howard Jones hasn't solved the mysteries of life and love, what chance have we got?