The many forms of love

We may love undeserving people conceptually, because emotionally and biologically we know no other way.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

CHENNAI : I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the text I saw on a reel on Instagram — it popped up briefly on my screen and was then never to be spotted again (that is, until the algorithm sends me the same thing a dozen times over, with a different person hamming it for the ‘gram each time). The line said something to this effect: that the person posting loves their mother “conceptually”, despite a litany of triggers.

I adore that descriptor — “conceptually”. It’s a healing admission: loving only because one is conditioned to. Loving conditionally, because that’s the boundary that allows one to love oneself. Loving because that is what one does, despite what the other is — but cognizant of this all. That word makes it possible to deconstruct love into myriad meanings and effects, as per actual experience. Most intriguingly, it opens the possibility of other renamings. Abuse is not love. Fear is not love. Control is not love. When our love, as we give it, isn’t met with equal (or adequate) love, we can — if we have the courage to — love less, or even love no longer. On the other side of the compulsion to love is the freedom to love better, and without duplicitous demands. Love is not self-abandonment.

On a related note, the dating app Bumble has released an annual report listing trends that the company says it anticipates for 2024, ostensibly based on a survey. The catchy terms they have used for these trends have been faithfully reproduced by Indian publications. It’s unclear whether anyone who coined them has actually dated in this country, let alone through an app, because the view looks rather rosy in their PR campaign. Still, because hope floats, and one of the hopes is that having language for one’s desires may ignite their fulfilment, this marketing tactic caught my attention.

The trends are: “val-core dating” (sharing sociopolitical perspectives, with 64% of Indians who took the app’s survey agreeing that human rights issues matter), “intuitive intimacy” (in which emotional closeness takes precedence over sexual needs), “consider-date” (most mokkai name, but like much mokkai is quite sincere: emotional intelligence and deliberation as opposed to reckless choices); “open-hearted  masculinity” (more openness and vulnerability from the male-identified), and my big favourite, “betterment burnout” (saying No to pressures to constantly self-improve, instead embracing a more natural state and pace). I love all these terms.

Conceptually, that is. Practically also, for sure. Look, I don’t believe Bumble’s statistics, and I certainly don’t believe that these wonderful changes are going to sweep through Indian society on short notice, but the trends suggested above are all good things. Maybe we will talk about these wishes more, whether or not we use the cutesy monikers they’ve been given. Maybe we will name them as our own desires, and through this naming experience more volition in how we live and love — and how we leave, how we let go.

We may love undeserving people conceptually, because emotionally and biologically we know no other way. But we can also love people consciously, even reciprocally (if we’re lucky). Beginning, and ending, with our own utterly deserving selves.

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