My favorite author (who does not know I exist) became a widow last week. I opened up her blog today hoping to see an excerpt from an upcoming book I know she’s editing, and instead she said it very simply, and asked to be excused from the usual round of social media blitzing for a few weeks. Her husband was, she said, her inspiration, and that she loved him.
It’s all we can hope for, isn’t it? To love someone and to be loved in return. It’s a gift beyond measure, and yet circumstances and mental health mean we are not always able to accept and return love in equal parts with which it is given. Some days we give more, some days we take more, some years we take more, until we are not just leaning on a partner but being carried by them.
What a miracle it is when two lives are parallel enough that love can spring forth, latch on, and grip hard for even a brief time in the same lane for a few trips around the sun, let alone for the golden ideal fifty years.
When I was a girl, I read romances voraciously. I thought about sex in the context of relationships, where pleasure derived not just from physical sensation but also from the emotional intimacy of commitment. I learned about relationships and sex from romance novels, and while probably not the best teacher, they did a better job than my repressed mother. I promised myself that, given half a chance, I would take every opportunity to make sure my children knew that sex was a healthy part of adulthood, whether bound by marriage or not.
We’ve been working on that promise at my house. Our thirteen-year-old knows more vocabulary about sexual identity and orientation than I knew at twice her age. We’ve discussed asexuality, polyamory, Safe Sane and Consensual as a guideline for measuring healthy behaviors, and the difference between transvestism, cross-dressing and transgender. Last night, she pointed out to us that every single girl in her middle school friend group has come out in the past two years as somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum, except her. We discussed the falling of certain barriers through the generations that have allowed young women to discover their sexuality on a spectrum instead of a binary and the fluidity with which the adolescent generation approaches orientation.
I truly don’t care who she finds happiness with, as long as she finds happiness. But I realized today that I still see her happiness as intertwined with a relationship — whether it is with a preppy white boy from up the street or with a tribe of blue-skinned, horned alien females with thigh high boots and red hair. That’s my bias and predisposition, not hers.
Because that’s all we can hope for, isn’t it? To love someone and to be loved in return?
No. It may be all that I ever hoped for and thank goodness I found it, but a relationship is not the end goal, not even for the romance addict. The true end goal of life is to be a happy and productive member of society, by whatever talents and gifts we inherit and nurture. I’m happy some are able to accomplish this through romance and relationship, but such blessings are not providentially provided to everyone, no matter what the romance books snuck out of your mom’s nightstand say.