What Is Love?

"Oh, baby, don't hurt me, don't hurt me no more."

“Oh, baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more.”

I was listening to singer-songwriter Diane Birch ask that plaintive question late last night. You probably remember the song from Haddaway (full disclosure: I had to Google his name) or more likely, from SNL and that God-awful A Night at the Roxbury movie with Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan, but her sublime cover is completely out of this world. And more than anything, it got me thinking about the answer to this timeless inquiry.

More full disclosure: I’ve been staring at my laptop for the past 20 minutes or so trying to write this next paragraph. I keep deleting sentence after sentence because whenever I try to describe the feeling – the real feeling of love – not just mushy platitudes, I draw a blank (and that’s saying quite a lot right there).

What the fuck is love?

All I know is that it’s a feeling like no other, which is why I’ve been struggling so hard to pin it down, to say nothing of eternally searching for it. I’ve had this feeling a few times in my life (not including my kids and family) but in retrospect, I’m not sure what I felt was really love. Don’t get me wrong – what I’ve had was wonderful and true. I’m just uncertain what it actually was.

Caryn and I used to talk about love more than two people probably should’ve talked about it (and that’s also saying quite a lot right there), and the last time we were on the subject, we both said how we loved each other and still do, but maybe were never really “in love.” And even after being together for 30 years, that mutual acknowledgment still didn’t offer an iota of insight.

The dictionary defines it as:

(1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates>

And this is why the dictionary is stupid. It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just not quite right.

When I think about love, the first word that pops into my head is caring. It’s the type of caring that runs so deep that you didn’t even realize you had the capacity for it and the deeper it gets, the more it opens you up to the depths of joy and wonders of pain and becomes a vital part of who you are, cozily residing in the second (and unequivocally my favorite) word that pops into my head:


Why heart is my fave word I really couldn’t tell you, other than the way it makes me feel when I write and say it. That’s it right there — it makes me feel. Heart is simply the most emotional word in the English language. Ask Neil Young or the Grinch. And before you throw up in your own mouth like my friend Tony is doing right now, let me just say one more thing: think about the one you love for a moment.

Did you feel that?

Good! Now shut up!

I have one last thought on the etymology of love and then I’ll shut up: If you put the two words that popped in to my head together, you get caring heart and when two caring hearts come together, well, there’s the answer to just about everything.

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