February 2017

Line in the Sand: What is Love?

Author: Barry Kaufman, Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Opinion 1: Barry Kaufman

As we prepare for the annual February rite of severing bundles of plant genitals so our loved ones know that we own a calendar, let us not forget the reason for this holiday: commemorating one (or possibly several) saints who were mercilessly killed for performing marriages. That sounds incredibly bitter, I know. Reducing the glorious traditions of Valentine’s Day to their most technically accurate components robs it of its romance, but you have to understand: I haven’t even started yet.

As usual, I blame Courtney. The impetus of this column came about when I noticed that every other ad on television lately is for FarmersOnly.com. For those of you somehow not plugged into the white-hot rural dating scene, these are ads that have somehow taken over every segment of the media-buying landscaping, appearing on programming from Sunday Night Football to Doc McStuffins, regardless of whether any actual farmers may be watching.

The message is simple: Those idjit city folk don’t know nothin’ ‘bout fishin’. Git yerself a farmin’ guy/gal to cozy on up with and surrender yourself to never interacting outside your social sphere, because your superficial cultural differences are way more important than love.

It’s a series of ads that raise a lot of troubling questions, the biggest of which is how a demographic so presumably narrow (lonely farmers) could somehow foster the kind of marketing budget that could put an advertisement on the moon. I turned to my Facebook friends for answers, to which Courtney responded, “Sounds like a column.”
I was all set to accept her challenge when she upped the ante (read: completely changed the subject, as usual) by deciding that, instead, we should debate that eternal question first posed by the philosopher Haddaway: What is Love?

Now that’s a little trickier. I’m pretty sure there was an episode of Star Trek where Kirk got an evil computer to blow itself up by posing that same question. But I’m up for it. Any members of Foreigner out there who still want to know what love is, I’m about to show you.

Love is actually seven distinct emotions, according to the ancient Greeks. As the last of the true romantics, let me spell them out for you:

Eros: The type of sexual, passionate love that we feel for underwear models.

Agape: Universal love for strangers, nature or God; unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Presumed extinct.

Philia: The love we feel towards a really good cheesesteak and/or the love of friendship.

Ludus: Often known as “playful love,” this is the kind of love marked by flirtation and seduction that has fueled oh so many regrettable yet awesome office Christmas parties.

Pragma: Also known as “love’s boring cousin,” this is the hollow shell of affection you feel for one another decades after any physical attraction has been taken off the table.

Philautia: The love that is illegal in most states.

Storge: The type of love that sort of sounds like it might be a Pokémon. (Which I will reinforce with an actual quote from a Psychology Today article: “Over time, eros often mutates into storge and, if we are lucky, there is philia and pragma.”)

So, knowing what love is called, what is love? The fact is, love is what you make of it. If you’re a farmer, well, sometimes it means finding someone who enjoys the great outdoors as much as you do. If you’re an underwear model, maybe it means a steak sandwich every now and again when your manager isn’t looking. If you’re a Pokémon, maybe it’s a fully evolved pragma.

I don’t know what it is for you. For me, it’s a woman I first laid eyes on when I was 15 years old and haven’t been able to take my eyes off since.

In the end, love is what you make of it. There could be seven kinds or there could be a thousand kinds. Ultimately it’s up to you to find it, cherish it, and nourish it. Through yearly offerings of plant genitals.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

Opinion 2: Courtney Hampson

What is love?
Baby don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more
Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me
No more
What is love?
I don’t know why you’re not fair
I give you my love, but you don’t care
So what is right and what is wrong?
Gimme a sign
What is love?
Baby don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more
What is love?
Baby don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more

What is love, he asked. Oh, Barry, must we go here? We’ve known each other for a long time. You know I’m the Ross Gellar of relationships. You’ve watched me fall. A few times. I am not quite sure how your questions around the Farmers.com dating site (yes, if you check the e-mail transcripts, you will indeed see that it was you who asked the question, not I. But, I love you, so I am not going to debate that point, which results in me having to figure out how to define love.

Alas, we are not alone in our quest. A quick look at the Google returns 516 million potential answers. And guess what? This very question was the number one Google search in 2012—the same year Farmers.com was launched. Coincidence? I think not.

The truth is, I love love, but that hardly qualifies me to tell you what it is. Maybe I have more questions than I do answers.

Is love hanging over the side of the bed, petting your dog until your arm goes numb and he falls back asleep, after being spooked by thunder?

Is love buying your nieces Ariana Grande tickets? And then finding out who Ariana Grande is and still wanting to take them to the concert?

Is love the moment of pride you feel when those same girls are racing down the soccer field, crossing a finish line, or winning a dance competition?

Is love wanting to be a better version of yourself every day to make someone else smile?

Is love making yourself smile along the way and not even realizing the transformation you’ve made?

Is love watching him have a full conversation with your dog, while cutting up steak for his bowl, when six months ago he said he “wasn’t a dog person”?

Is it making sure you say, “be safe” every time he heads out the door for another shift at the fire station?

Is it being open to new adventures and not only focusing on your needs and wants?

Is it having a “secret handshake” and rock-paper-scissoring who chooses your dinner destination?

Is it knowing when to pick your battles? When to keep your mouth shut and let it go?

Love comes in all forms. This week I had to find love in my heart for my doctor, who during my annual check-up looked me dead in the eye and asked, “Should we talk about your weight?” when I really thought it was her scale that needed the talking to. Later that day, I found love at home, when I stepped on my own scale, which had been in the guest bath collecting dust, and I weighed 14 pounds less than I did at the doctor’s office, to which I exclaimed, “I love you, scale!” Love is what my family expressed when I told them what my doctor said over dinner, and they all looked at me incredulously as if they couldn’t believe it. Love is what my better half showed when he got on the scale at home and said it actually had him weighing 20 pounds more than he thought he was. And, love is what our art director communicated with this month’s picture, making me a size four when she knows darn well I am a 10.

In the end, though, no matter the relationship, love is knowing you fit.

Sometimes the pieces get jumbled up. But in the end, you fit. 

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