11 August, 2006

Love is...

As befits the received image of life in the sixth form being somewhat formless and freewheeling, I will never forget one English A Level lesson spent, in part, discussing the nebulous question 'what is love?'

This was about 13 years ago, so what time has done its best to muddy and mollify it has equally rendered more wistful and wishful. All the same, it was a hopelessly ambitious topic for a bit of conversation, coming as it did off the back of a rather ponderous discussion of a section of Margaret Attwood's 'A Handmaid's Tale'.

This was also but a few months after that never-to-be-remembered vocalist Haddaway scored a top ten hit single with a song forwarding the accusation, "What is love?/Baby, don't hurt me/Don't hurt me/No more!" If he couldn't find any answers, what hope did we, a bunch of disparate and flippant 17-year-olds?

From what I recall, we were quick to pin down was love wasn't. We weren't so hasty or indeed willing to hazard a guess at what it was.

In retrospect it was a preposterous discussion to be having at all, and boasted more than a little of that faux-articulate, faux-mature, anything goes attitude which seems to thrillingly pervade much of your life when you're that age. Still, at least we were willing to have a go. Trouble is, even now, I still don't know what the answer is.

If love is, as some conventions dictate, that sense of knowing instantly and compulsively that you want to be with someone else for as long as possible, and that when you're with that person you are, quite literally, overcome with emotion, it's news to me. I don't think I've ever felt such an extreme response towards anyone.

If love is, however, formed out of regrets and resentments for not taking the time and effort, or having the wherewithal, to realise you could have made something out of what you once casually and fussily sought to treat as nothing, then I have been there and felt that and wondered why. Why I couldn't bring myself to make something of it at the time, and why I still linger over that resentment so many years down the line.

One of the reasons I've never liked the song 'Regret' by New Order is its central theme, to me a seriously selfish and arrogant one, of denying the singer exhibits any of the eponymous sentiment whatsoever. I cannot believe that anybody anywhere passes through life not regretting something. What I can believe, though, is that less people pass through life not regretting someone, and that more people have the courage of their convictions than me, who is, at heart, a fatally shy, forcefully solitary and often acutely lonely person.

More of this burdensome waffling another time, because it ties in with another story to which I have promised to return, that being the summer of 1994. In the meantime, upon the subject of 'what is love?', I suppose a couple of verses from Adrian Henri's titular poem is, at least, something to go on.

Love is feeling cold in the back of vans
Love is a fanclub with only two fans
Love is walking holding paintstained hands.

Love is the presents in Christmas shops
Love is when you're feeling Top Of The Pops
Love is what happens when the music stops.


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