It used to be so easy to say “I love you.” For more than a decade I could say it whenever I felt it, knowing it would be received well.
And what did it mean, anyway? That I care. That their happiness is valued. That their sadness affects me. That I want good things for them. That I feel like I am one of those good things.
And what did I expect back from those words? Nothing. I don’t need the “I love you, too.” Before he was ready to respond in kind, my ex used to say “I know.” That was good. It was as good as “I love you, too.”
Because I felt it from him before he recognized what it was. I felt that he cared. I felt that my happiness was valued. I felt that my sadness affected him. I felt that he wanted good things for me. I felt like he knew he was one of those good things (until he wasn’t).
I don’t know when those three words got weird. It’s not like anybody told me “Hey, don’t say that,” but I get the sense that I could say “you matter to me” and “I care about you” and “your happiness is important to me” all I want, but if I were to condense it into those three particular words, it might scare the flying fuck out of the recipient of them.
Suddenly a phrase that has always brought me pleasure and happiness is a source of jarring fear. OH MY GOD WHAT IF THEY KNOW I GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THEM?
The phrase has power, but I think it’s just arbitrary power. I received an email the other day and in it, someone said “I love you.”
And I went WOAH NELLY, WHAT THE FUCK? And then I calmed the fuck down.
Because I broke it down. And all that email was saying was: you matter to me.
And I’d already known that I did.