Is love the result of the first night spent in the same bed? Or maybe that night is a result of the love. Perhaps it happens the first time you meet their parents – maybe you fall in love with them first, sort of as a prerequisite to falling in love with the one you’re really with.
I guess one could argue that it happens all at once, in one moment. That maybe you go to bed after a night of binge watching House of Cards and wake up the next morning completely overwhelmed with this feeling. And there was no exchange of words or sex or cupcakes to explain this sudden, extreme change of heart. Maybe it was just a really good night’s rest. Maybe it happens during your late-night House of Cards session. When their eyes are glued to the screen with their mouth open slightly and they reach to grab a handful of popcorn, and it takes three tries until their hand finally finds the bowl and not your pant leg. Maybe this is the moment that the lightning strikes.
Maybe there is no lightning, but a steady flow of sunbeams that have always been present. Maybe there are only triggers, and that overwhelming feeling, that panic attack-esque feeling of being in love for the first time, is really us just realizing we’ve been in love all along. Maybe there is no one moment we fall in love, or we just don’t feel it anyway, but we feel the moment that we realize we’ve been feeling the way we have because we’re in love.
I tend to believe that love is similar to grief, and happens in stages without our knowledge. And it happens at different paces for different people – for some it may only take a few days, for some, weeks or months, in some rare cases it may even take years (I’m looking at you, Juan Pablo).
Maybe the stages are the same as grief; maybe in the beginning we are in total and complete denial that we are in love, and we try to convince ourselves otherwise. Maybe it’s denial because this feeling is too great, and this person really knows how to tell a story, and they clean up too nice, and their hair is too perfect, and they’re too kind to others, and they work out too much, and they are asking you too many questions about your job, and your major, and your feelings, and your mother, and your passions for you to actually be in love with, let alone for them to actually be in love with you.
Maybe by the end, we do really learn acceptance – maybe in the sense that we accept them for the little things; leaving the volume on the TV a little too high, the occasional hair on the soap bar, the fact that they don’t wait until the commercials to start telling you about their day, and by the time the commercials do come on, the story is over, it was anti-climactic, and now you have no idea who the Long Island Medium just channeled and whether or not their loved one received the message they needed to in order to embrace life here in the physical world.
But maybe we learn acceptance on an even deeper level. Maybe they’re not the ones we really need to accept. Yeah, they do clean up nice. But that bow tie wasn’t straight when he first put it on. Sure, their hair is flawless. But before you left the house, he had one strand sticking straight up and you think you’re dating Alfalfa. And maybe they are a really captivating storyteller. But it’s charming the way you take a year to tell a story, needing to tell every detail, stuttering and tripping over words, getting so animated, and ultimately forgetting where you’re even going with it, and by the time you get to the end, you’ve either lost everyone or they’re completely underwhelmed and it wasn’t really worth the effort it took to tell, or listen to. Maybe he can run a 5K and barely break a sweat, but I can sit in a coffee shop and write a novel about his kiss when he walks in the door from his run, while I have the Fu Star take-out menu on the counter in front of me and a hint of peanut butter and Nutella still on my breath, which only makes the embrace last longer, which only makes me more relieved that I didn’t go for that Greek yogurt.
So maybe love doesn’t happen the first time you wake next to each other, or when you admit to them how old you were when you stopped wetting the bed, or when they finally have your friends’ stamp of approval, or when your father tells them over dinner how old you actually were when you stopped wetting the bed, but when we finally accept about ourselves the things we try so hard to force upon others to accept. When we’re finally in love with ourselves – that’s when love happens.