Times like these, writing is difficult. I have an idea. I ponder the idea, rolling it around in my head until I think I have a solid start. I sit down to begin and...
Shootings in Orlando. Horrendous murders. Terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Nice. America ripping itself apart in Dallas. Baton Rouge -again, Baton Rouge.
A melee of gruesome acts filling the screen. And I want to sit down write about my life? "Hello, my name is Elise Ottenfeld and since the day I was born I have lived a life of wonder, intrigue and extreme privilege being born pretty and smart to a white-upper middle class family. Aside from a small handful of fuckups -and I assure you, they have been fuckups. There is no other fitting title- brought about specifically as a result of my entitlement, my life is a continuing magical parade. Let me sit down and tell you about these things in between your daily dose of horror."
It just doesn't seem tasteful.
But life goes on. I think about how far we've come. How many horrors of our past we've solved. No doubt we're entering the Golden Age of humanity with the most people living happy, productive lives that have every lived happy, productive lives. Artists still create. My stupid TV shows don't stop their comedy. My musicians don't stop their music. My photographers still turn to beauty. And I have a strong belief it's the duty of writers to continue telling stories. Making up the collective narrative of the world can't stop because of sadness. That's letting the terrorists win.
So let's talk about something else. Let's talk about love. Love is redemptive and healing. One of our only respites in troubled times.
I am Scientist, E -for Elise. I am scientiste -scientisty, science related and interested. I study love the way only a scientist can -I want predictors. Correlation Coefficients between specific variables indicating success or failure. I once found an article stating the perfect marriage match was 1. Neither should have been divorced. 2. The man is at least 5 years older. 3. But the woman is more educated (My standard seems to be 6 years, but otherwise we're gold). Conversely, articles tell me I'm more likely to be single because of my intelligence. With the daily torrent or articles claiming "Science says!" Who am I to believe? Whose correlations and data are better?
In 2006, National Geographic published an article titled "This Thing Called Love" and introduced me to Helen Fisher. Helen Fisher, the Queen of the chemistry and biochemistry of love, granted my first introduction to love as a drug. Dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline creating a cocktail for madness in your cortex. Of course this idea is appealing. As Americans of the modern pharmaceutical era don't we sing, "It's not me, it's my chemicals!"? And as a chemist, one of my favorite things is to slip away into the madness of love thinking "Ah yes, there's my dopamine and norepinephrine." I do hope you have had the experience. You know when it's different. The ability to stay awake until 2am talking over wine, then wake up at 6 in the morning to go to work feeling alive and refreshed is yours. The -can't eat, can't sleep, can only daydream. Cocaine and heroin? No, thanks. I just need a new pretty face.
But our chemicals wane as our tolerance grows. Fisher says that after two years -theoretically how long it would have taken to meet, mate and partially raise a child in the olden days-, our chemicals shift from the "high" ones to the "low" ones. (Google: Why do relationships end after....2 years is the top result). We're left with whatever else we had to see if it can be grown into attachment.
That gives me the physical pathology of love and some predictors for the "whatever else we had" to make it last, but what about the initial fall? What makes my classmates stare at the quiet handsome stranger in class, gossiping "Is he gay? Does he have a girlfriend back home? Why doesn't he try to come hang out with us?" And I grin thinking, "I know why." and go on to solicit stolen kisses on the train after talks of "What is sin? Isn't it good to fall in?" (Hint: If handsome men are quiet, it's normally because their minds having more to say than the average listener is willing to hear). Or at least, that's how love is for me. A sudden overwhelming which arrives a la the gods on my lap. Here I am living my own happy productive life, then, whoosh, it's all gone.
But, an adrenaline junkie, I'd have it no other way.
For this, I have no explanation. I secede from the knowable into Malcolm Gladwell's principle of "Blink" : Sometimes you just know things and you don't know why. It's a sum of neurons firing you can't begin to understand. Trust your brain; it's made to integrate like this. And there are some people who come to know these things in time. They start out at a different base, and it takes time and interaction before the lights start sparking in their heads. Why be one or the other? I have no articles for that. C'est la vie.
This has been a pondering on only one type of love, of course. I think there are many others -we're just not great at distinguishing between the different shapes and forms via the English language nomenclature. Perhaps next time.