Category Archives: Valentine's Day

12 Thoughts on the Tranportation of Affection


“Crush” seems an odd word for infatuation. Even if you don’t carry it to its full violence—imagine Giles Corey being accused of witchcraft in Salem and dying after two days of being “pressed” by heavy stones—a “crush” speaks to an inescapable position, some burden demanding extrication, impossible somehow to bear.

Which isn’t the way we use the word. We deploy it to describe our most innocent affections, and we verbize the word—to crush. We blunt it with prepositions so we “crush on” someone and elude anything like love… or lust.

We try to flee.


My high school girlfriend was a twin. She and her sister were cheerleaders, and when they dressed identically on game days and no one could tell them apart, my friends asked if they had ever tried to “switch on me.”

My girlfriend and her sister never considered it, I’d bet.

When you know someone, the faintest gesture communicates. Their eyes don’t point as they might, or a hand rests on a table wrongly, or that smile isn’t quite complete. When you know something, it’s continually defining itself.


I wonder if any age or condition makes you immune to crushes. But wondering, I suppose, is admitting I’m not immune—despite being happily married and probably too old.

In my defense, we over-define the word. A light touch or glance may initiate an infatuation. An economy of expression, the mellifluence of words, a simple sideways move to catch a falling object, a half laugh—all might start a crush.


Before Netflix began distinguishing different family members on an account, my viewing habits built a very strange profile. My children howled over recommendations we received for romantic comedies or Bollywood.

“What are you watching?!” they’d ask.

Sheepish evasion followed. How do you admit such an addiction to sentiment when you’re supposed to be educated and beyond such twaddle? Saying I liked to see him or her won was tantamount to confessing girlishness, the worst sort, the sort that screams at the Beatles or tacks Teen Beat photographs to a wall.


I’m unambiguously straight, but some of my worst crushes involve other males.

My daughter rolls her eyes and says, “You’re having a bro-mance” when I say I admire a colleague or wish I were closer to some man I know.

“The way you talk about him,” she says, “it’s so effusive.”

I’d deny her claim if I weren’t aware of it myself, a thrill at making a connection, a sense of some link forged in mystery long before actually meeting.

I’d object if I didn’t enjoy being somehow swept away… by anything.


In the end, I don’t think having a crush and lust are at all the same thing.


I’ve been watching the series “Chuck” and find I’m quite uninterested in most of the comedy and most of the spy stuff. I skip forward to see how close Chuck and Sarah Walker get to kissing.

My certainty they ought to be together expresses a broader wish everyone so baffled by indefinable connections might find their way to their desired, and perhaps denied, destination.

It’s better to think of the world as moving toward joy. I like to think it is.


No one would call me “romantic” in either a literary or colloquial sense. My wife might say I’m sporadically attentive, and the planning and vision that goes into Valentines Day or anniversaries largely escape me or at least challenge me.

My genuine moments of sentimentality and affection feel like water spilling from overfull cups. They can’t be stopped, and who really wants to?


What would life be without ambush, the surprise of a face to meet your own?


I fell in love for the first time in fifth grade when I saw a classmate performing a baton routine to “Jingle Bell Rock.” I didn’t understand how anything else could be so perfect.


Have you ever felt yourself instantly attached? She or he turns to a light or sound, and the change somehow captures you. “This,” you think, “is it… a grand awakening, a dimension entirely invisible before now.”

You want to believe, that’s key. You are looking for some touch that isn’t physical, some attachment impossible, made of implausible affection.


The odd contacts sting. You mean to reach for something commonly desired—a tool or object—and find one another instead.

It won’t last and may not be real, but it feels so.

What in us lusts after these ends? Why do we want surprise so much?


Filed under Aging, Desire, Essays, Experiments, Identity, Laments, life, Love, Lyric Essays, Meditations, Memory, Nostalgia, Solitude, Thoughts, Valentine's Day, Voice

For Saint Valentine

Actors startle us when they break the fourth wall dividing stage and audience. “Hey you out there,” they say, “we are real people only pretending to be real people.”  We greet their news like revelation.  We expect to be left alone.  We aren’t prepared for intimacy.

Real life has four walls.  We are both audiences and actors, and, if our lives are plays, they are endless and seamless and unmemorized.  We portray ourselves, trapped in a room that never allows us to go outside or see us as someone else might.  We’re told intimacy is inviting someone in, but how do you invite one room into another?

And sometimes we sit behind a fifth wall. Invisible, a diagonal to every room we occupy, it divides our thoughts from the world. We say the mashed potatoes are delicious when they stick like putty in our throats and replay conversations when we might participate in one underway. Others catch us smiling at nothing because we’re behind that fifth wall, in the room yet not in it, neither watching nor participating.

We speak explicitly to ourselves, but saying anything to anyone else requires formulation and codification.  We choose words to cover subjects no number of words can cover entirely. Some words have their own life, and sometimes the gap between our intention and our effect seems impossible to bridge with language.

True intimacy requires sharing, a wordless sense that what we see, feel, think, believe, or know is mutual. It appears when a sunrise means as much to another person, when a child’s tears bring others running, when a photograph, poetry, or strain of music pull emotions into the same stream, when touching seems reflex, when we’re all in one room. Sex is intimate only when self-consciousness disappears, when partners regard it as visited upon them and not created or staged. All sex is passionate, little is common passion.

Which is to say, intimacy is miraculous. Sometimes everything in the modern world seems to conspire against it. Personal entertainment and personal perspectives and personal needs discourage it. We’ve come to believe in the finest distinctions between us, and our differences are now far more important than our being one species. Sometimes it seems the only intimacy we can count on, the only intimacy worth relying upon, is the automatic intimacy of being with ourselves, behind that fifth wall.  Yet we haven’t lost—and can’t lose—the need for love.

Today, on Valentine’s Day, roses will fly and chocolate flow.  The intimacy industry will have its most lucrative day.  Though the holiday seems silly and arbitrary, as self-serving and self-gratifying as any other date, it is at least good for this: today let’s celebrate the possibility of a shared world where all of us pass through walls. Today let’s believe love is the grip that holds us together, in one world. Let’s hope for intimacy. Let’s hope we’re not alone.

1 Comment

Filed under Doubt, Essays, Hope, Laments, life, Love, Meditations, Thoughts, Valentine's Day, Words, Writing