preemptive affection; or, i can the talking.

So I goofed.

This is not unusual or anything, but in this premeditated digital age it is sometimes a little disconcerting to remember that I am still capable of saying the wrong thing. Well, perhaps calling it a wrong thing to say is excessive. It was definitely the wrong time, though.

It’s impossible to prove that it genuinely was an accident, but I blurted out, “I love you,” when I probably shouldn’t have.

The truth is that I do not love the person I was talking to. Am I headed in that direction? Yes, if anything to say about it I have. Am I there yet? No.

Madeleine L’Engle writes in Walking on Water, which is the closest thing I have to a Bible, the following.

“My son-in-law, Alan Jones, told me a story of a Hassidic rabbi renowned for his piety. He was unexpectedly confronted one day by one of his youthful disciples. In a burst of feeling, the young disciple exclaimed, ‘My master, I love you!’ The ancient teacher looked up from his books and asked his fervent disciple, ‘Do you know what hurts me, my son?’

“The young man was puzzled. Composing himself, he stuttered, ‘I don’t understand your question, Rabbi. I am trying to tell you how much you mean to me, and you confuse me with irrelevant questions.’

“‘My question is neither confusing nor irrelevant,” rejoined the rabbi. ‘For if you do not know what hurts me, how can you truly love me?'”

One more time.

If you do not know what hurts me, how can you truly love me?

Despite being very full of butterflies about him and also willing to admit that kissing him is one of my favorite things in the world, second only to talking to him, I do not love the person I was talking to. I do not know what hurts him.

I feel like there is a better meaning to this notion than the idea of accidentally joking about something which is actually very sensitive for the other person, but that’s all I can come up with at the moment.

Either way, it is impossible to love someone unless you know where and what those sensitivities are. Is the point.

L’Engle continues to write about this in the context of divine love, saying, “No matter how much we are hurt, God knows about it, cares about it, and so, through his love, we are sometimes enabled to let go our hurts. But it is not only our hurts which we are required to give over, but our wholenesses too. It must all be his.”

I’m still struggling to understand what it means in terms of feeble human love.

There’s certainly something to be said for waiting to declare your love for someone. It reminds me of the story my grandparents told about how they met: my grandpa told her on their second date that he was going to marry her. She wasn’t so sure. They were married for just over fifty-five years before he died. When they told me this, I was fifteen, and I said, “Well, better to say no first and then yes than to say yes first and then no.”

Better to admit to it after it’s been fact a long time than to say it before knowing whether or not it’s true.

I really didn’t want to mess up like this – and yet I feel scummy when I say, “No, no, I didn’t mean that, I don’t love you,” like I said it only to manipulate. (Love does not dominate or manipulate or control, damn it – am I ever going to figure that part out?) I didn’t say it to manipulate. In fact, I think I said it out of an unfortunate habit of saying it in conjunction with kissing.

And frankly, that habit probably has its roots in my previous relationships. I distinctly remember biting my tongue to keep from saying it to Mormon Guy, who had stated explicitly that “I do not love you,” and I was fairly certain I did not love him either, and yet there it was on the tip of my tongue. Why? Perhaps my love literally overflows. Or perhaps I am just ridiculous. (Perhaps both.)

Oh, damn it all.

I think the recipient of my accidental bombshell was surprised and possibly uncomfortable, but he was very nice about the whole thing, especially when I was still cringing ten minutes afterward. But – and this I am proud of myself for – I was so embarrassed, but I got through it without pushing him away. I thought for a moment that I could ask him to leave and torture myself alone, and then I didn’t, and I am glad that I didn’t.

We had talked earlier about the whole “getting to know people versus appreciating attentions” thing, and I tried to explain that my reticence to actually say that I loved him stemmed somewhat from that. In all honesty it is still very possible that I don’t actually like him as a person, but am instead flattered by the attention. There’s no way of knowing that until after the shine comes off a bit. Which is complicated further by the fact that I am leaving the country in four months, but that’s a mess for another time.

Put very simply, I like him a lot, but do I love him?

I have no idea. And thus, the best answer, for now, is no.

Frankly, I like caution better in this case. I’ve been the idiot who blurts out “I love you” prematurely before. Actually, every time I’ve had a relationship in which that was a thing, I was basically the first one to say it. Twice mostly by accident, in junior high, because I would make a habit of saying it under my breath before I was even in a relationship with that person (oh how indiscreet I was at thirteen…and fourteen…and seventeen!).

It reminds me of something from a not-particularly-impressive book from middle school about drunk driving.

The exchange I am remembering is that a hotshot high school basketball player is in the locker room with his buddies after an impressive win during which his girlfriend cheered wildly. And one of his friends, having noticed the girlfriend’s enthusiasm, asks him if he’s scored with her yet. And he says something like, “No, I like her too much.”


I feel a bit like that right now. Fleshed out, that thought sounds silly: “I like you too much to tell you I love you.” Yep, weird. But I think it might be true. I like you too much to move too fast.

Actually, that’s exactly what it is. I like you too much to move too fast.

Take all the time in the world with me. I don’t care if you love me yet, that’s not what it’s about. Let’s just go, and let’s not rush. I vote this lasts as long as it can.

I sincerely hope we reach that moment. Life and geography may not concede that to us, but what the hell, we’ll try. And should we eventually reach that point, I have to grin a little bit, because I imagine us remembering this particular instance and laughing about oh how indiscreet I was at nineteen!

I done goofed, as my dad would say, albeit unintentionally. I don’t think it’s beyond repair. I still feel a bit weird about it. But I think I understand better now why I freaked out about it, although I can say that I did not see it coming that I would be the one to say “no, let’s not say I love you yet,” although it makes a lot of sense that I ended up saying that because I goofed and said it before I wanted to. Sounds like classic Red.

In less philosophical things, the German camp officially turned me down, but this leaves me open for an opportunity Swedish leadership contacted me about recently: lifeguarding at Danish for a couple weeks. Apparently they are desperate enough for lifeguards that it doesn’t matter that I barely know any Danish. Actually, I know a few words, but my accent is really, really, really Swedish. And probably will always be. Not that I mind.

So I’m gonna go stand on a dock and listen to Danish all day without needing to know a word of it, and that sounds like a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. And then back to Sjö for another year and just YAY.

Despite my stumbling tongue, things are pretty good.


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