by Lynn Ruth Miller
It is impossible to love and to be wise.
I have always defined true love as a costly feeling between a man and a woman that leads to marriage, sex, children, killer battles, divorce, a psychiatrist and a lot of pills. I have never had that kind of love.
All my life (and that is a very long time) I ached for someone who was willing to take the risk of marrying me, bedding me, supporting our progeny and not caring if I had bad breath. I actually tried the marriage thing and the bedding part but never managed to produce anything except huge lawyer’s fees, several dogs and a goldfish named Herbert. I believed I missed the meaning of life.
I know very well that love begets love, but I always believed that it is a lot smarter to love what loves me first. My mother confirmed this principle in her own marriage. My father adored her, pursued her, and insisted they marry until she relented. She treated him as if she was doing him a favor to scramble his eggs and I assure you she never let him scramble hers. I still remember when I fell in love with Dickie Hertzberg in tap dance class. My mother shook her finger at me. ”You listen to me, Lynn Ruth. It is always better to be loved before you love. Men only want one thing.”
I never figured out what that thing was, because my character is flawed. I love to love. I was born with my father’s soft heart and like him, I fall in love with every living thing from the boy next door to my cousin’s salamander. In my haste to adore the kitten at my feet or the boy in my blouse, I never wait to see if the object of my admiration returns my love or, for that matter, is aware of me.
Inevitably, after I lavish kisses, hugs, tears and rent garments on my victim, (for victim he always is) I realize he doesn’t give a tinkers elbow about me. And so, after years of empty arms and no one sharing breakfast, I accepted that my role in life is solitary. I surveyed the candidates for my body and my bank account and determined that safety lies in lavishing my care on living things I can control. My loving is confined hearts canine, feline or in diapers. In return, I get much leg rubbing, wagging tails and wet gurgles. I drive myself to the movies, buy myself flowers and dine in the light of a candle I bought myself at the dollar store. That is the way it is for me.
Every valentine’s day, I send out lots of cards to men with whom I would neither sleep or play Scrabble because I know that no one loves me in the way I would like to be loved. And frankly I don’t love them either. I haven’t met the guy whose laundry I would wash. Period. At my age the risk of any kind of relationship is immense. If some dude thinks I am going to change his diaper or refresh his pacemaker, he has another think coming. That kind of payoff only comes when you have had a fifty year investment launched with the ring, the china, the baby and the house in the country.
I now realize I have failed to notice someone who has loved me for years in just exactly the way I always dreamed. You know: no strings attached. Unconditional. Just because I breathe. I have an interview program on our public access TV station and I must sit across from my guest and converse with great enthusiasm. However, as the years progressed and my spine compressed, I have become so short, the top of my head barely reaches the chair‘s back. I resemble a pygmy chatting with a giant even if my guest is a child of ten. The TV crew recognized this lack of symmetry and a technician named James always put a pillow on my chair.
Not too long ago, I was a guest on another program at that same station and when I sat down to be interviewed, I realized that James had put a pillow on the chair.
He remembered. He cared. He loved me. And I didn’t have to feed him dinner. James is not the only one who has lavished me with affection I need never return. A young man who has many more enchanting chicks to protect, walked me through San Francisco’s streets to help me find the car I had lost. I didn’t ask his help, because I didn’t know the car was misplaced. He never complained about the time he wasted. He just located the right Toyota. He didn’t even need a thank-you kiss. Indeed, he would have been horrified had I offered one.
I returned home that night to my furry family and I said, “Don’t give me that wagging tail and those drooling tongues! You can’t fool ME. All you want is your kibble. I have real honest-to-goodness MEN who lavish me with pillows and walk the streets with me. And they can READ.”
And I know you won’t believe me, but my fuzzies nuzzled my leg and I distinctly heard them say, ”But do they snuggle up to you when your feet are cold and the furnace fails?”
“Of course they don’t,” I said. “I don’t brush their teeth or rub their bellies. They don’t owe me a thing. You do.”
About Lynn Ruth
Causes Lynn Ruth Miller Supports
Habitat for Humanity