Jun 29, 2013

These violent delights have violent ends

From my piece about Love for The Guardian:—
'Guilt is the only purely useless emotion, I’ve found — not just no use whatsoever, but actually the enemy. Here’s another thing I’ve learned: when you fall in love with someone, MIR scans reveal a firework display in the caudate nucleus, a pair of shrimp-like structures located deep in the reptilian brain. This isn't where everyone thought love lived. For decades everyone thought love was holed up in the limbic system — the place where infants recognize their mothers, and parents protect their families, and individuals feel loyal to their friends. No. It’s deep in the selfish, self-seeking reptile brain, the same bit dealing with reward and achievement, which lights up like a slot-machine when you make money, or win the lottery, or ace the final level of Grand Theft Auto. Some researchers have reclassified it not as an emotion at all, but a drive, like hunger. Romantic love, that is: Romeo-and-Juliet love, crazy-passionate-I-feel-like-I’ve known-you-all-my life love, the kind celebrated in pop songs and movies as the Holy Grail of all human activity — the prize, no less, for being human. On the subject of waking up next to a face you have seen a thousand times and trying to be as nice and kind to its owner as you can — the kind of love, in other words, most of us will actually attempt at some point in our lives — our culture maintains a deathly silence, broken only by the odd bit of Shakespearean verse. 
“So we grew together, 
Like to a double cherry—seeming parted 
But yet an union in partition— 
Two lovely berries molded on one stem.” 
Here are some of the things that didn't happen when I met my wife: it wasn’t love at first sight (we both had moments of ‘meh’). My childhood and her childhood didn’t sing each other’s siren song (she has a great relationship with the men in her family). It wasn't a meeting of minds, or a melding of souls, or a beating of two hearts as one. (If anything I was a little unsettled, as if sensing that the game might be up). We didn't fall in love, we just walked slowly into it, and at around the 9-month mark I woke up one day and thought: I do love her. That was my exact intonation when I told her. “I do love you.” As if it were a piece of news we’d all been waiting on. She is the love of my life, quite literally: the woman I have spent the most of my life loving — the most minutes, the most hours, the most days, the most time. Fromm again: the man who waits for the right person to come along can be “compared to the man who wants to paint but who, instead, of learning the art, claims that he has just to wait for the right object, and that he will paint it beautifully when he finds it.” It’s an inside job. I know for a fact I am not her perfect man. Living with me, she says, is “like living with a teenage girl,” although I don’t play Taylor Swift that loudly. Earlier this year, we had an argument over what to watch on TV. She got back from work early to find me already ensconced on the sofa.  
 “What’s going on?”  
 “What time is it on?”  
 “Ten minutes.”  
 Her eyes narrowed.  
 “Oh honey, I wanted to watched Titanic. You know I did.”  
 “We just saw Titanic!”  
 “That was the 3-D version. It was awful. They looked a million miles away from each other.” 
“Sweetheart. It’s the Superbowl. The Baltimore Ravens. I’ve been waiting all week to see those 49ers get spanked…. Oh don't pull that face.”  
 I got my way in the end. We watched Titanic.'


  1. I really connected with this - as honest as it is entertaining. I'm already collecting some of those references...Christ knows, I need them.

  2. Thank you by the way!

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  4. sorry I lost your pen back at Varndean.
    you were a nice guy back then and I don't think people really change