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  • Kanika Bhatia

Decoding L.O.V.E.

I carefully unpacked a white dress from my wardrobe today. Trimmed the dry cleaner's tag, spread it out evenly on the bed. It's the dress I wore on my first ever date back in 2010. So much had changed since then. Even though the contours of the outfit fall on a similar body, the person inside had gone through multiple transitions.


Let me start by saying I am worried about writing on larger schemes like love. I am worried because my mind might shift to believe otherwise and I will be left with published words that I no longer believe in. So let's take this as a running document, shall we?


When you have had a row of failed relationships around you, there is a lot that you question. Are happy couples the limited cult members like orange heads? Are they a cultural myth like the loch ness monster? Because they seem rather few, and too good to be true. Don't get me wrong, I have been very happy most times in those relationships, but somehow the millennial language of "here for a good time" overtook questioning the depth of these relationships. Should I even be grieving the heartbreak because in retrospect I didn't really love him the way love was supposed to be.

To give you visual context, I felt like the customer in a barista who was served a beautifully finished coffee every day by the same man behind the counter. He drew the perfect heart, he glazed my coffee, but he never asked how my day was going. On some days, I was the barista man, but the story remained intact. No one was digging deeper. No one was questioning what it really was worth. No one knew if we were doing it right as long as it was shiny, glossy, and sunny.


Years later, I am in a relationship where there is no room for perfection. It's messy, chaotic, good, bad, ugly all smooshed into one ball. Yet, it feels like love more than it has ever felt. It's far away from what social media tells me love should look like. In fact, when I enquired, "vulnerability," "individuality" "acceptance" echoed as the buzzwords. My relationship is more intertwined existences, adjustments, and childish tactics if am being honest. Bottom line, it feels like standing in muck, while cool water hits your feet every few seconds. The good and bad coexist.


It wouldn't be short of naive to connect sex and love. If The New Yorker is your gospel, sleeping in together is the new definition of love. But BuzzFeed continues to update every new rule in the kinky playbook, convincing me, I am not "doing it" enough. They say you shouldn't change anyone to be in love, but also a "little" adjustment is mandatory for a healthy life together. Blocking and unblocking is toxic, but I can't shut up sometimes, and text wars are scarier. It's okay to 'force quit' on some occasions? Brushing issues under the carpet and replacing conversations with memes is the worst thing for love. But aren't memes the new language of this love thing and it ensures we aren't over, yet? I am here, he is here, we are just dallying. The formula is officially dead on me.


Like parenthood and all things evolutionary, there is science behind love too. There are rules or there should at least be? The concept is too vague, too abstract, and if history is any proof, humans suck at abstractness. Look what we made of religion! Can Linda Goodman claim to know it all in that case? Astrology carries the right amount of salt to lure innocent seekers. If your man is behaving irrationally, the answer probably lies in the nonalignment of his stars at this point. Or worse, who told you Geminis and Aquarians were meant to be together? The recipe for disaster. But I have seen astrology go the wrong way too many times to draw conclusions that work in the larger scheme of things.


I have had partners who held the small of my back while walking, leading with authority, the kind that makes me weak in knees. They brought coffee while I read, and tea while I wrote. They made me laugh, but equally strong was the destruction during the aftermath. Was that love? My current partner makes me laugh too. We don't hold back on harsh words when water is choppy, but I love the way we explore our bodies with each other like we haven't before. He makes me dream of love, family, and hope in the future, but it can go dark very soon too. Why does this love differ so much from the one books, movies and therapists tell us it should be? Yet it's more dear to me than life itself.


So, you continue. You continue falling in and out of love, hoping this time it will work out. This time things will be different, confusing every bond, every habit as love. You assume your heart falls into pieces each time he doesn't treat you the way you deserve, and that's a sign of love. It might be, or it might be a physical reaction to the fragility of your self-esteem. Or perhaps you missed the good one. You let him/her go. Because long after, it hits you, suddenly out of nowhere, that you could have loved better.

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