What Love Looks Like

What Love Looks Like February 14, 2014

Earlier today, I popped into Whole Foods to get a few Valentine’s Day things for my husband. Because he’s the polar opposite of me in every way, his idea of a great dinner is the same as his idea of what dinner should be every night, and preferably most lunches: rare steak and sweet potatoes, and okay fine, some broccoli if I insist.

I knew I didn’t have the time or energy to make some kind of fabulous dessert this year, so I wandered toward the bakery with vague plans to get something chocolate. Because it’s Valentine’s Day, the day we worship chocolate, right? My kind of day.

As I stood there contemplating the mousses and lava cakes and chocolate-dipped chocolate cannolis, I thought about the conversation I’d had with the Ogre last night. It started off being a kind of joke about how I always forget his birthday (because I always do) but ended up with me getting all fragile and wounded and bringing up how he never tells me I look beautiful, not even on our wedding day.

It’s a long-standing thing with us. I guess you’d say we don’t speak each other’s love languages, if you’re into reading self destruction books. I have this whole theory about how if he’d married the girl who was right for him (not a specific girl, just some mythical one) he’d want to tell her she was beautiful all the time because he’d always think it when he saw her. But he said, “Calah, think about it. If I had married some imaginary girl who’s perfect for me in every way, I’d never tell her she’s beautiful either, because she wouldn’t want to hear it. She’d know there are better ways to say it than by using words.”

It’s odd to begin a marriage the way we did, where our stormy on-and-off dating thing suddenly became a marriage and a family. We didn’t have to get married just because I was pregnant, of course, but we chose to. We chose to knowing that we weren’t exactly in love, and we certainly weren’t sure that each other was The One. We didn’t go into it thinking life was going to be sunshine and lollipops because true love. We knew we had a choice to make, and we made it.

Sometimes I get really caught up in wishing we’d had a more traditional romance, that the Ogre had been speechless when he saw me in my wedding dress, that there had been more flowers and chocolates and less drug interventions and OB appointments. I confuse what our culture tells me love is supposed to look like with what love looks like for me.

I chose the Ogre and he chose me, and I’ve grown more aware each year how unbelievably lucky I was in my choice. His eyes may not comically pop out of his head when I put on a slinky dress, but he looks at me like no one else ever has…like I’m the most exasperating, confusing, hilarious, and wonderful person in the world. He looked at me like that on our wedding day, on the day our first child was born, on the day we moved away from our families, on the day I sat sobbing in the closet about missing plates, and yesterday. He looks at me like that every night, before he refuses to let me do the dishes and sends me to bed while he cleans up, rocks the baby, and preps for class. He may not come home bearing velvet-wrapped chocolates and a dozen overly priced roses today, but he’ll come home after a long day, eat a quick dinner, clean up the kitchen, help me get the kids in pajamas, then put on a suit and take Sienna to the father-daughter dance while I watch a movie and paint my toenails. That’s what love is.

So I skipped the chocolate at Whole Foods, and I bought a carrot cake. I hate carrot cake. It’s essentially dessert blasphemy. But the Ogre loves carrot cake, and in all our years together I have never either bought or made him one. This year I did, because love is buying carrot cake on the day of all the chocolate.

I posted the bit about carrot cake on facebook, and one of my friends responded with, “Love is my husband giving me a Roomba instead of jewelery. Because he know that jewelry won’t do shit to combat the daily battle of crumbs on the floor.”

I wonder how many of us think our husbands (or wives) aren’t doing love right because it doesn’t look the way we’ve been conditioned to expect it to look. Love rarely looks like a Zales commercial, though. Sometimes it looks like this:


But sometimes it looks like this too:

or this:

For my part, I’m glad love looks like carrot cake and clean dishes instead of chocolates and compliments. It’s who we are. What does love look like for you?

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