Everyone has met the kind of guy who declares loudly that he just loves women. He can’t help it, he just does. He may get into a lot of trouble because he loves women so much… This is the humblebrag of the man who I suspects never really likes women. It is rather peculiar to love an entire gender – and anyway who wants to be loved generically?
What I value more and more is not people blazing with lurve but those quieter compadres, friends, work colleagues who just get on with liking each other. Growing to like and appreciate someone is less dramatic but more difficult in some ways. Liking someone means a low key commitment to finding out who they are. A slow burn. This is so different from the rush of love where one person tells the other person who they are the whole bleedin' time. One of my favourite things in life are the unlikely friendships that grow, often from working together or travelling, where you end up liking someone very different from yourself, where you realise, often despite first impressions, a communication and fondness has grown. It has been a joy to have liked the most unlikely people and have them like me back.
Liking is the not the stuff about a knot in the stomach and thrumming with anxiety about what they meant exactly when they said that you reminded them of someone. You grow to like someone by being with them, by laughing with them, by living with your differences, ultimately by valuing them. Pretty good, right? But somehow culturally undervalued because love is the drug that everyone chases.
Liking someone means learning to trust their judgement, caring for their wellbeing, it means mutual respect, affection. It does not mean control, possession or insisting upon your own specialness
Love we speak of so often as a physical, primal, uncontrollable experience. Women are taught to be overwhelmed by love. Liking though seems more conscious , more of a choice. Not being liked therefore can be very painful. I am surely not the only person who has sat in therapy speaking of a mother who loved me but just didn’t actually like me very much. Her love whirled around me , unquestionable and passionate. We were flesh and blood – that should have been enough for me. But it wasn’t as I wanted her to like me and never felt she did. Liking, you see, is about respect. It is about acknowledging another person as separate. But I became too separate, too different and therefore a disappointment. She was not of a class or a generation that could or would express any of this.
It is still hard for any woman to express any “difficulties” about how they feel about their children. Maternal love and romantic love are spoken of as the most powerful loves of all. All-consuming. Not to have experienced these are to miss out. How terrible not to be living the grand passions all the time! The truth though is that the webs we weave are far more intricate and boundaries between liking, lust and love are blurred. We are now slightly embarrassed about anything less than love to the extent everyone says “loveyoubabes” to people they clearly don’t love. We overuse the word love because like seems a bit anaemic, a bit Facebook ticky.
But liking someone means learning to trust their judgement, caring for their wellbeing; it means mutual respect, affection. It does not mean control, possession or insisting upon your own specialness. Liking and all the kinds of friendships it produces is social in a way coupledom is often profoundly anti-social; it is a celebration of all kinds of people who find each other in all kinds of ways. All our lives we are told that our purpose is to find true love. Nothing else counts. Many feel they cant quite measure up. But what are we measuring? It is the best thing to like and be liked in return. Don't underestimate it.
Love Stories: This week on The Pool, our writers are discussing love and relationships