I believe in God. Wait, that’s wrong – I believe in Love.
Sorry. Easy mistake to make, for me, anyway, because until quite recently I didn’t believe in either. In fact, I was pretty convinced that both were equally pernicious man-made constructs, conceived and refined as a means of subduing and pacifying specific groups of the population – the poor and the desperate, in the first case; and women, in the second. Religion, as everyone knows, is the hard stuff, the crack cocaine for when earthly life is simply intolerable; Love is the prescription trank that gets you through another day, the mother’s little helper.
|He REALLY loves me.|
You can’t blame me, in the delirious rationality that followed a childhood yoked to religion, for rejecting what was plainly more of the same: happy-ever-afters, richness in poverty, selflessness and sacrifice. I had no doubt that the myth of romantic love existed only to sustain women through the drudgery of domestic lives: our happy-ever-afters were children, housework and the endless picking up of people’s socks, and we were meant to accept it, for the sake of Love.
Don’t get me wrong: I ‘loved’ my husband. (I still do, my darling.) But what I recognised as love I experienced as a complex, ever-changing mix of emotions and shared experiences: admiration, respect, familiarity, warmth, companionship, desire, joy, trauma, parenthood, and so on. To acknowledge anything more fundamental than this, a condition verily defined as emotion without reason, would be to make myself vulnerable. To admit love would be to become dependent upon it, and what self-respecting modern woman wants that?
But recently I’ve been talking and thinking about love more than usual, and I have discovered to my astonishment that yes, I believe. I have faith. Somehow, I have accepted that love exists, that it is a real and powerful force within human beings, and that it can be trusted.
What changed my mind? Simply the unblinking steadfastness of what my husband has always called, without needing to analyse it, ‘love.’ He has loved me, as Tim Lott puts it ‘without pause or doubt’ for 26 years, and at last I can believe that he will continue to do so.
I used to think the notion of romantic love must have been cooked up by women as a consoling, escapist fantasy; but it has men’s fingerprints all over it. Not so much as a way of keeping women in their place, but as a convenient catch-all – so simple, pleasingly all-encompassing, it does away with the need to endlessly describe ‘feelings.’ I love you, girl. End of.
So does this mean that Jesus still has a chance at my heart? Er, no. And nor does Santa or the Faerie King. I like my men real, and preferably bearing tea.