"is is dedicated to my late brother Joe McShane. He was the first one to introduce me to this concept.
Not long ago, a bright young man was in my office to talk about his love life.
He mentioned that he had a crush on a girl, a girl that he wanted to ask out on a date. He said that he didn't really have the courage to ask, and wasn't able to muster much in the way of nerve. He talked about how bothered he became in her presence, and was afraid that he would just end up being just one of her buddies.
A true sentence to solitary confinement for a young man with hope of romance: being in love with a girl who wants to be just friends.
He said that she'd just met a guy online, and that they were very compatible together, at least to begin with. And he wasn't sure what to do next, but he said that he couldn't get her out of his head.
And he's looking straight at me. Hoping that I'll say something profound, offer some counsel, some direction. Shifting his weight from one foot to another, just waiting. And looking at me.
I tell him the perfunctory stuff, like taking her to a movie instead of dinner because, in a movie, it's dark and you can grab things. Told him how to listen, to pay attention as if you're being told a story. Even thought about telling him how to look, not too wide-eyed but keeping your focus straight and watch yourself for fawning.
As he was describing, again, the process of how this girl went from him to the internet to pick up with another guy, something just jumped out of my mouth. He was yammering on about internet this and online that, dating sites and swiping left or right, and I stopped him. I interrupted without letting him finish his thought, and said "None of that matters. Love is Analogue." He looked at me a little like a spaniel that catches a really high frequency in its ears, his head tilted to one side and this expression of bewilderment that covers its face.
While I was waiting for him to refocus, I explained the following.
"Love is not a digital format. It's analogue. It flows on a contiguous groove. It's not something that you can fit together from pieces of compatibility. Compatibility is great, don't get me wrong. But people have come to the conclusion lately that, if you have a lot in common and are able to articulate your preferences, your likes and dislikes, and put them down on paper, you'll find the love of your life. The pieces will somehow mesh together, and all of the qualities that you have and they have will magically form this synergistic unit of love."
"Well, I'm here to tell you that this just doesn't happen. Love doesn't work like that. In fact, Love never works like that. It's not an assemblage of parts. It's a creation out of nothing."
"Love happens when you are unaware, when the components of attraction, need, experience, space, time and grace come together without you or the other person managing its occurrence. It grows from contact with one another, wondering if what you thought you experienced the first time could happen again, thinking that maybe another meeting would regenerate those variables under the same formula of chance and happenstance."
"The first variable is a little luck, and the digital love formula lowers the luck into something more manageable. I don't have a problem with that. Commonality is necessary, to be sure, to sustain a relationship. But the second variable is wonder, and without the roll of the second, the components of the first are meaningless."
"Love happens. People know where they are when they think they're in love. They can tell you with wonderful recall the experience of that love. But when they put words to the expression, the experience, and the overall state of love, they always fall short. It isn't "I love him because he likes flowers" or "I love her because she smells good." The parts, when described, are meaningless. And the meaning, when broken down into its parts, is lost."
"And know this, too: although people know when they're in love, and where they were when they first felt they were in love, they can never tell you, with any adequacy, why they are in love. "Because she's a good kisser" "Because of the way he looks at me" "Because she's just so wonderful." These pebbles of expression thrown into the ocean of emotion barely register a ripple."
"Want to know the best answer to the question "Why do you love somebody?" Here's the answer for you, my friend: “I don't know, I just do. I just feel that way." And that's the best answer you could ever have. It is an unexplainable phenomenon, but boy do you know it when you feel it. You can't break it down. Love isn't a matter of your favorite color or if you like opera or how you eat your eggs. Love just is. No more. It just is."
"If you feel that this wonderful state of emotion is within your sights, follow it. Ask her out. Don't let this pass, good Lord, don't let it pass. Not for anything. Find her, ask her out. Don't postpone this wonderful chance at the greatest gift the universe has to give. And, please, don't try to simplify or categorize or make manageable the details of this wonderful feeling. Just go with it. Love is just there. Make the contact with her. Help it along. See what happens…."
He left. He thanked me, got into his car, and left. I'm going to see him again. Soon, I hope. And I hope he asks her out. I hope he takes her to a movie. And I hope he falls in love.
And, for his sake most of all, I hope he never tries to figure out how it happened, but I hope he holds in his heart the moment he knew it did.