I’ll Take Love with Conditions

I think unconditional love is an absurd construct. Even my dog has his limits. If I stopped feeding him or started torturing him, how much do you think he would love me then?

While it’s comforting to think that there is love that you can count on, I believe that the responsibility for maintaining that bond goes both ways. Frankly, I’d find it rather creepy if someone loved me so unconditionally that I could become a monster and that person would be okay with that. I do not want someone loving me even if I decide to be a serial killer. I expect to be held accountable for my actions.

I was once in a 16-year relationship with someone who enjoyed saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I knew he was attempting to be reassuring, but in truth that always made me inwardly shudder. I don’t want blind adoration. I actually kind of feel better when there are well-defined boundaries. When I know where I stand, I can do so with confidence. That, and there’s a great deal of pressure to maintain your center of decency when, literally, anything goes. (I admit I didn’t handle it well.)

Parents are expected to love their children unconditionally. I can’t really speak from experience, as I chose not to have kids, but I suspect that “unconditional” condition is the very source of a great deal of dysfunction. If “unconditional” were taken off the table, more parents would be invested in instilling values in their children that would encourage them to be decent human beings, because it’s safe to assume that most parents really do want to love their children.

If we stopped looking at love as if it were a possession, as if, once obtained, you get to keep it, a lot of things would change. If people genuinely believed that one must be loving and lovable in order to receive love, this would be a kinder, gentler planet. If we knew that love must be earned, fewer people would remain with their abusers. If we set the bar ever-so-slightly higher when choosing a mate, it would make for much healthier family units. And if we looked at love as something that must constantly be nurtured in order to thrive, we wouldn’t be so shocked and devastated when it withers on the vine due to our own neglect.

It might also allow us to exercise critical thinking. This whole blind loyalty thing that is becoming the cultural norm is actually rather terrifying. If you vote for someone whose behavior becomes more despicable over time, your FIRST instinct should be a withdrawal of political love for that person. Your standards should be high, and your tolerance for outrage should be short-lived. Our leaders should be kept in check, as their powers allow for rather more destruction than most of us can endure.

So, dear reader, be loving. Be kind. And remember that it’s okay to set boundaries.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Puppy Love

“You do realize they’re only happy to see you because you’re their source of food, right?”

“I refuse to believe that.”

“And they lick you for the salt.”

“You make them sound like parasites.”

“If you started beating them they’d turn on you in a hot minute.”

“The same could be said for the average human.”

“And acting cute helps assure that you keep them around.”

“Here’s a question: Why are you so hellbent on convincing me that my dogs don’t love me? What is love, anyway? Here’s what I know. These dogs keep me warm at night. They help me feel safe. They make me laugh, they help make me feel less alone in the world, they’re someone to talk to, they come to me when they’re afraid, they choose me over everyone else, they bring me joy, and I love them. That’s more than good enough for me.”

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Come the Apocalypse, I Want to be with my Dog.

I have a new theory. The best possible thing that can happen when you are searching for a mate is a horrible first date, because then you can see how that person reacts under pressure. Stress separates the men from the boys. It cuts through all the surface bs and shows you what someone is truly made of. There are all sorts of ways of dealing with negativity, as evidenced by nature. All of these ways are legitimate, but only a few of them are viable in terms of a life partner in this modern world. Here are a few examples.

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The Shark. In times of great tension, the shark will not only attack the source of the problem, but will also turn on anyone and anything that happens to be in his vicinity, even members of its own family. When in the midst of this feeding frenzy, the shark has absolutely no regard for loyalty, and does not care about who is on his side. When in the presence of this type of fury, there is nothing you can do except prepare to be eaten. Frankly, I find the shark to be tragic and self-destructive. And the most depressing thing about the shark is he cannot see why this type of behavior is a problem. Somehow being eaten will become your fault. You’ll never feel completely safe with a shark.

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The Fainting Goat. Also known as the Myotonic Goat, this poor creature freezes in times of panic and keels over, thus rendering him utterly useless to himself or anyone else. I used to date one of these. Don’t ask me why.

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The Turtle. When the sh*t comes down and you’re with a turtle, you are on your own. He will pull himself into his shell and wait for the boogeyman to go away. Oh, he’ll protect himself all right, but he won’t confront anyone or anything and prefers to live in a state of denial. He’s completely resistant to change, which makes improvement impossible. Also, if you come by his house and he doesn’t feel like talking, he simply won’t come to the door. Who needs that?

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The Badger. No need to wait for a crisis situation when on a date with a badger. He’s going to be in a foul mood regardless, even if you could potentially be the best thing that ever happened to him. He’s never going to see it.

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The Porcupine. Now, here’s a guy who is prepared. He doesn’t want to be messed with, and has made sure that he won’t be. The problem is, since all he wants is to be left alone, he’ll never let you in.

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The Octopus. I have to admire this guy’s ability to avoid conflict. I like his stealth and intelligence. But if none of that works, he shoots ink. Do you want someone who’s going to throw stuff at you? No. That, and he tends to be clingy.

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Frilled Lizard. You’ve probably seen one of these guys on the National Geographic channel. When you piss one of them off, the frill on their neck expands and they’ll chase you on two feet. Yes, they look intimidating and they get the job done for the most part, but honestly, what would happen if you stood your ground with them? Not too much, I suspect. I think you’d win that confrontation. These guys are all sizzle and no steak.

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The Rattlesnake. The rattler is sort of a first strike kind of guy. He prefers to be the aggressor in anticipation of any possible antagonism you may or may not have in mind. Don’t hang out with the rattlesnake if you’re hoping for cozy get togethers with groups of friends.

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The Praying Mantis. Honestly? Do you really want to hang out with a guy who is so desperate for sex that he’s willing to go there with you even though he knows he’s going to get his head bitten off for his troubles? This guy is so focused on what he wants that he has no concept of the consequences.

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The Meerkat. I have to admit that I have a certain fondness for meerkats. They’re loyal. They’re family oriented, they’re protective, they’re cautious. But they’re also an emotional drain. They’re constantly anticipating trouble. They’re always on the lookout. Their watchword is paranoia. They never seem to relax.

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The Benobo. Scientists have dedicated their lives to studying benobos, because these cousins of ours seem to be totally devoid of aggression. They’re the hippies of the primate world. They’re all about free love and live and let live. I could see myself getting caught up in this lifestyle, but I suspect I’d get fat and complacent, and years would go by without my realizing it.

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The Dog. Dogs don’t seek fights, and in fact try to avoid them, but if you eff with them, they’ll take you out. I can respect that. They tend to restrict their aggression to those that deserve it. They’re loyal and protective, and usually generous and kind unless they’ve been abused. They’d much rather cuddle with you than argue, but they’ll do what they have to in order to protect themselves and the ones they love. A dog will always have your back. They also know how to heave a heavy sigh and release all tension. This, to me, is a very healthy and well-balanced approach to life. Yup, I’ll take a dog every time.

So next time you’re thrust into the dating world, pray for a flash flood or an earthquake or an armed robbery, because then you’ll know exactly what you’ve got on your hands. Disaster can save you a lot of time and heartache.