LOVE 101
To Love Oneself Is the
Beginning of a Lifelong Romance

Self-Love vs. Romantic Love

If love is the answer, could you rephrase the question?


When I talk about loving yourself, what sort of love do I mean? Simply this:

Love is taking care of, with regular intervals of taking good care of, and occasional splurges of pampering.

In this book, I am merely suggesting that you take care of yourself, regularly take good care of yourself, and every so often indulge yourself in a little pampering.

This is quite a different definition of love than the one offered by the proponents of "falling in love." Their love is an emotional bungee-jump from the depths to the heights of romance. Being "in love" generally implies people have "lost themselves" in someone (or at least the illusion of what that other person comprises), are obsessed by the other person (and relishing the addiction), and are desperate for the other person to feel the same way about them.

This form of love I shall refer to as romantic love. Essential to romantic love but (thankfully) missing from self-love, is an overwhelming, all consuming lust. What sort of lust? What sort have you got?

Sexual lust? Oh, my, yes. Although it is hidden behind any number of high-sounding platitudes, the need to do the dirty deed--and do it magnificently (and often)--is central to those "in love." The need for intense physical union, each to each, that obliterates physical boundaries and hurls one to the heavens, is a high-sounding way of saying, "I've got the hots for you."

Someday we are going to be lovers. Maybe married. At the least, an affair. What's your name?

Love ain't nothing but sex misspelled.


Then there is emotional lust. We want the loved one to be ours, just as we want to be fully possessed by the one we love. This emotional bonding should be so tight that not only is there no room for emotional need; there is no thought of emotional need. All needs are met, once and for all, in the mutual clutching, that is, embrace of the lovers.

The term "spiritual lust" may seem to be an oxymoron, but not in the world of romantic love. Here lovers meet, soul to soul, "and this union is a reunion with creation" (as the romantic poet in me once put it). Nothing less than God is to be found in the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual fusion of star-crossed lovers. Being in love is not just finding a mate; it is finding a soul mate. That spiritual "other half" (or "better half") that we have been deprived of since before birth has finally, at last, thank God, been given unto us and we can finally, at last, thank God, get on with the business of temporal bliss on earth and rehearse for the eternal bliss hereafter.

The belief that the beloved is God-given also goes a long way to remove any guilt interfering with the free, unfettered, and fabulous expression of the other lusts--especially sex.

Ordinary, everyday self-love, by comparison, is gentler, easier on the physiology. What it lacks in passion, it makes up for in practicality. Where it falls short in lust, it makes up for in like. What it fails to provide in false security ("I'll take care of you until the end of time!"), it makes up for in self-esteem, self-worth, and self-reliance. What it lacks in sexual yah-yahs, it makes up for in sensual umm-umms. In learning to love ourselves in this "taking care of" way, we also learn to love others--to take care of them, to occasionally take good care of them, and every so often (when we choose) to indulge them shamelessly.

Loving others, then, becomes part of loving ourselves if, when, and as we choose.

Not that romance can't be fun. It can. So can a roller coaster.

It's when we confuse the ride with real life or use it to make choices that have nothing to do with roller coasters that we get into trouble. As Stephen Sondheim put it, "the net descends."

Let's say we love the roller coaster and all the endorphins and adrenalin it produces. That doesn't mean that we should ever consider living on the roller coaster, or try to combine a roller-coaster life with career seeking, tranquility, or child rearing.

No, roller coaster rides are roller coaster rides and are compatible with loud music, screaming, losing your lunch (or at least the near occasion of losing your lunch), wind-blown hair, and not much else. If you desire and pursue the roller coaster above all else, then all else (especially those activities requiring tranquility, reflection, stability, nurturing, and quiet enjoyment) will not prevail.

Unless you want to run off with the carnival, letting a roller coaster (or, worse, Tunnel of Love) ride determine the rest of your life is, obviously, impractical.

And yet, that's just what we try to do with romantic love and the rest of our lives.

The Myth of Romantic Love: Living off the Fat of Infatuation

Romantic love is mental illness. But it's a pleasurable one. It's a drug. It distorts reality, and that's the point of it. It would be impossible to fall in love with someone that you really saw.


Romantic love is, quite literally, a drug high. The intensely good feeling of "falling in love" is triggered by the same physiological reactions caused by free-fall in sky diving or winning a fortune in the lottery. Free-fall, fortune winning, and falling in love release into the bloodstream epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline (the body's natural hey-hey-hey! chemical) and endorphins (the body's whoopee! chemical). These chemicals are just as pleasurable as any drugs (licit or illicit) you care to name--and just as addictive.

It's an addiction, however, our society not only tolerates, but encourages. According to cultural norms, addiction to heroin, cocaine, or alcohol is bad. Addiction to the thrill of falling in love is good. In fact, not being addicted to love is bad. Further, being "in love" is reason enough to do almost anything--from murder to abandoning one's career.

It is hard to name anything that gets more free positive publicity than romantic love. Every movie, commercial, TV show (sitcom, drama, or movie-of-the-week), popular song, billboard, and nine out of ten bestsellers sing the praises of romantic love.

It is painful to watch how tortured the plots become in order to work in the "love interest," as it's known in Hollywood. How is it that Indiana Jones always seems to find at least one gorgeous, intelligent, but otherwise romantically available woman in the midst of the jungle, desert, Incan ruins, Egyptian pyramids, or Peking opium den? Why? Well, as George Lucas once advised Steven Spielberg, "If the man and woman walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand in the last reel, it adds $10 million to the box office."

Human beings seem to have an almost unlimited capacity to deceive themselves and to deceive themselves into taking their own lies for the truth. One's only task is to realize oneself.


Romantic love is used so often because it sells so well, and the media always have something to sell. As they are using romantic love to sell what they want to sell (higher ratings, soap, Fenamint, books, tickets), they are also selling the notion of romantic love itself. This means romance sells better, which means it's used more often to sell, so it gets sold even more often, and so on. It's a very successful marketing tool.

From the consumer's point of view, however, there is only one small problem with romantic love: it's almost always doomed to failure.

Why Romantic Love Is Almost Always Doomed

The consuming desire of most human beings is deliberately to plant their whole life in the hands of some other person. For this purpose they frequently choose someone who doesn't even want the beastly thing. I would describe this method of searching for happiness as immature. Development of character consists solely in moving towards self-sufficiency.


Few enterprises fail as often and as traumatically as romantic love, yet are still considered by many not just a solution, but the solution.

Solution to what? You name it: love waltzes in and dances your problems away. From solving the fundamental "problem" of existence to renewed health to financial rejuvenation to a cure for loneliness, Prince Charming or Cinderella cureth all.

At the outset, perhaps this is true. The problem, however, with this all-purpose problem solver is that it is based almost entirely on illusion.

We are programmed with the illusion of romantic love from an early age. The same culture that programs us to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Free Lunch also programs us to believe in One Significant Other Out There Without Whom We Can't Be Whole, Much Less Happy. Minnie and Mickey, Olive Oyl and Popeye, Barbie and Ken, Lady and the Tramp--and they all lived happily ever after.


Mercifully, by the time we reach puberty and the advent of all those raging hormones that form the biochemical basis of romantic love, we have been disillusioned (probably traumatically) about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and (for some) Free Lunch. Alas, as the early teenage years progress and our throbbing hormones create desires for other people's bodies which easily surpass even the most meaningful childhood visitation to Toys R Us, the illusion of romantic love is not dispelled. In fact, the spell is cast deeper, stronger, in Technicolor, 3-D, Dolby ProLogic, Sensearoundsound, and feelaroundbound.

In real love you want the other person's good. In romantic love you want the other person.


We are taught (by songs, movies, TV shows) that the natural physical attractions of the early teenage years are all part of the romantic ideal. It is "the dawn of love," "love at first sight," or "if you call it horny your parents will ground you, but if you say you're in love your parents will say it's a crush and whisper `Oh, how cute!'"

We are told the attraction--which is biochemical and electrical, but feels downright magnetic--is just the start of Something Big. "You mean it gets better than this?" Oh, yes, the more deeply you fall in love, the more spectacular it becomes. "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing."

To quote another song (you can discourse on romantic love's philosophy by quoting almost any song), "Fools Rush in Where Wise Men Fear to Tread." If this is true (and it probably is, if you consider that even the wise can become foolish when hormones and cultural programming combine to lower the IQ roughly one hundred points, as it does when one is about to fall in love), the wise are distressingly silent when it comes to teaching us about a certain biological imperative common to all mammals.

Rather than saying, for example, "Yes, this is a perfectly natural, healthy reaction, but it is not practical to act on it every time you feel it any more than it is practical to eat every morsel of food you see. Sexual attraction is just energy; if the time is not right to express it sexually, for whatever reason, then the energy can be used to create something else that is productive, satisfying, and fun."

No, the wise seem to have had their wisdom co-opted by the Grand Illusion. Some of the wise tales sound more like old wives' tales. "This feeling you have will deepen into desire, ripen into passion, grow into fulfillment, and flower into love." That even the wise want to escape the birds and the bees and instead discuss flowers is indicative of just how far from reality those who sell us the notion of romantic love must go.

The message that "love" will solve all of our problems is repeated incessantly in contemporary culture-- like a philosophical tom tom. It would be closer to the truth to say that love is a contagious and virulent disease which leaves a victim in a state of near imbecility, paralysis, profound melancholia, and sometimes culminates in death.


As animals, we have more in common with birds and bees than we do with flowers. Most birds pair up for a season. They build a nest, mate, lay eggs, sit on eggs, feed the young for a few weeks, kick the kids out of the nest, and fly south for a well-deserved winter vacation--alone. In the spring, they fly north and begin it all again, usually with a new partner. With the exception of a few species including some lesbian sea gulls off the coast of California, to birds "till death do us part" means that they are living amongst a larger-than-usual population of pussy cats.

And of bees, well, allow Phyllis Lindstrom, of The Mary Tyler Moore Show to explain: Did you know the male bee is nothing but the slave of the queen? And once the male bee has, how should I say, serviced the queen, the male dies. All in all, not a bad system.

By the time we've reached dating age, the emotionally seductive concepts of "someone to watch over me," "in the morning, in the evening, ain't we got fun?" and "they all lived happily ever after" form an almost irresistible package, which has us by the end of the fifteen-year romance infomercial picking up our phones, dialing the number, and proclaiming, "I want it! I want it! I want it now!"

As with most illusions, reality inevitably intervenes, causing hurt, anger, and the exceptional success of broken-hearted love ballads. Unlike other disappointments, however, reality intervening in romantic love fails to bring disillusion. We still believe in romantic love; we just think we didn't measure up or they didn't measure up. Next time, we believe--next person, next weekend, next year, next lifetime it will be better, it will happen--true love, true love. To believe that the illusion is real, but that the loved one or our ability to love is inadequate, is of course all part of the illusion.

I'm not saying romantic love can't lead to solid, healthy, flexible, mutually nourishing relationships--sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. But it's not a sure thing. Fifty-four percent of the marriages in this country end in divorce, and that's just the marriages. As we explored, if we add to that the number of people who fall in love "forever and ever" and break up before getting married, it's clear that what we are doing to achieve "happily ever after" ain't working.

When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.


Jack Parr, who was raised vegetarian, said that, as a child, every time he passed a butcher's window he thought there had been a terrible accident. It is not hard to come to the same conclusion as one surveys the landscape of romantic love, littered as it always seems to be with wounded, broken, and bleeding hearts.

Those who say the solution is to return to "traditional family values," have obviously spent very little time studying tradition, family, or history. In fact, "the good old days" (whenever you want to peg the good old days to be) were terrible for almost everyone. To return to "the good old days" would require women to be treated as chattel; a significantly shortened lifespan; six-day, fourteen-hour-a-day work weeks; fifty percent of all children dying before the age of eight; increased disease, pestilence, suffering, and no VCRs.

Since we can't go back to an idyllic past that never existed in the first place, what can we do? We do what we usually do when we discover what we believed in, hoped for, longed for, and fully expected to happen (someday) is simply not true; a myth. Poof. We become the sadder, but wiser, rabbit. This prevents us from becoming the miserable and stupid rabbit who keeps banking on a payoff that is a long shot at best.

The fundamental problem with romantic love is that it is based on sexual attraction, which is, at its most reliable, fickle. Once desire dries up--in a week, a month, or a year--it's hasta la vista, baby. More scientifically stated, when the physical and aesthetic characteristics of the love object no longer trigger spontaneous emissions of pleasurable chemicals into the bloodstream, the amount of time spent with, and attention paid to, the former object of desire decreases in direct ratio to the decrease of pleasurable hormonal secretions. Put most simply--when lust hits the dust, it's a bust.

Personally, I like sex and I don't care what a man thinks of me as long as I get what I want from him-- which is usually sex.


"Oh, but I didn't love him for his body," some protest at my seemingly narrow analysis. "I loved him for his mind (character, ideals, kindness)." That may be so, dear heart, but you can bet the reason your partner--the mindful, idealistic, kindly character--showed you his remarkable mind, character, ideals, and kindness is, most likely, that he found your body not too shabby.behaviors (both uplifting and otherwise) in which anyone can take part--whether male or female, gay or straight, bi or sell.

When two people have a mutual nonsexual attraction, seldom, if ever, do they refer to it as "falling in love" or to their being together as a "relationship." It's called a friendship, partnership, or acquaintanceship. Although the two may grow to love one another, they do not fall into anything (unless there is money or some other lust-inducing enticement) and they don't go blindly leaping off emotional cliffs, yelling,
"Saint Valentine protect me! Here I go

                                        oh-oh . . . "

From time to time great minds have risked censure, public ridicule, and the loss of research grants to speak the truth about romantic love. Here are the best I could find. (O, to have had this list when I was seventeen!)

A mighty pain to love it is, And `tis a pain that pain to miss; But of all pains, the greatest pain It is to love, but love in vain.
--Abraham Cowley (1656)

Time, which strengthens friendship, weakens love.
--Jean de La Bruyre (1688)

Beauty soon grows familiar to the lover, Fades in his eye, and palls upon the sense.
--Joseph Addison (1713)

If love is judged by most of its effects, it resembles hate more than friendship.
--La Rochefoucauld

Love is ridiculous passion which hath no being but in play-books and romances.
--Jonathan Swift

It is impossible to love and to be wise.
--Francis Bacon

Love is the child of illusion and the parent of disillusion.
--Miguel de Unamuno

Love is a springtime plant that perfumes everything with its hope, even the ruins to which it clings.

Love is a disease which fills you with a desire to be desired.

Never the time and the place And the loved one all together!
--Robert Browning

Friendship is a disinterested commerce between equals; love, an abject intercourse between tyrants and slaves.
--Oliver Goldsmith

When one is in love one begins by deceiving oneself, one ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls romance.
--Oscar Wilde

For though I know he loves me Tonight my heart is sad His kiss was not so wonderful As all the dreams I had.
--Sara Teasdale

One is very crazy when in love.

Love is a gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everybody else.
--George Bernard Shaw The worst of having a romance is that it leaves one so unromantic.
--Oscar Wilde

When first we met we did not guess That Love would prove so hard a master.
--Robert Bridges

To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia--to mistake an ordinary young man for a Greek god or an ordinary young woman for a goddess.
--H. L. Mencken

My silks and fine array, My smiles and languished air, By love are driv'n away; And mournful lean Despair Brings me yew to deck my grave: Such end true lovers have.


Lovers who have nothing to do but love each other are not really to be envied; love and nothing else very soon is nothing else.
--Walter Lippmann

Great loves too must be endured.
--Coco Chanel

If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it.
--Ernest Hemingway

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song, A medley of extemporanea; And love is a thing that can never go wrong; And I am Marie of Roumania.
--Dorothy Parker

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
--H. L. Mencken

And the lovers lie abed with all their griefs in their arms.
--Dylan Thomas

There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations and yet which fails so regularly as love.
--Erich Fromm

Love is a universal migraine A bright stain on the vision Blotting out reason.
--Robert Graves

One should always be wary of anyone who promises that their love will last longer than a weekend.
--Quentin Crisp

Every young girl . . . tries to smother her first love in possessiveness. Oh what tears and rejection await the girl who imbues her first delicate match with fantasies of permanence, expecting that he at this gelatinous stage will fit with her in a finished puzzle for all the days.
--Gail Sheehy

Great passions don't exist--they are liar's fantasies. What do exist are little loves that may last for a short or longer while.
--Anna Magnani

There is one thing I would break up over, and that is if she caught me with another woman. I won't stand for that.
--Steve Martin

I can see from your utter misery, from your eagerness to misunderstand each other, and from your thoroughly bad temper, that this is the real thing.
--Peter Ustinov

You love me so much, you want to put me in your pocket. And I should die there smothered.


People in love, it is well known, suffer extreme conceptual delusions; the most common of these being that other people find your condition as thrilling and eye-watering as you do yourselves.
--Julian Barnes

She was a lovely girl. Our courtship was fast and furious--I was fast and she was furious.
--Max Kauffmann

My boyfriend and I broke up. He wanted to get married, and I didn't want him to.
--Rita Rudner

Told her I had always lived alone And I probably always would, And all I wanted was my freedom, And she told me that she understood. But I let her do some of my laundry And she slipped a few meals in between, The next thing I remember she was all moved in And I was buying her a washing machine.
--Jackson Browne

Kissing is a means of getting two people so close together that they can't see anything wrong with each other.
--Ren Yasenek

To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible God.
--Jorge Luis Borges

Love is simple to understand if you haven't got a mind soft and full of holes. It's a crutch, that's all and there isn't any one of us that doesn't need a crutch.
--Norman Mailer

Love is mainly an affair of short spasms. If these spasms disappoint us, love dies. It is very seldom that it weathers the experience and becomes friendship.
--Jean Cocteau

The happiest moments in any affair take place after the loved one has learned to accommodate the lover and before the maddening personality of either party has emerged like a jagged rock from the receding tides of lust and curiosity.
--Quentin Crisp

To fall in love you have to be in the state of mind for it to take, like a disease.
--Nancy Mitford

Love is the drug which makes sexuality palatable in popular mythology.
--Germaine Greer

If you can stay in love for more than two years, you're on something.
--Fran Lebowitz

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