I would like to preface this, with the understanding that I am in no way trying to put down romantic love. Romantic love is magical, and wonderful, and when reciprocated in a healthy way, can be very fulfilling. In this piece, all I am meaning to convey is that there are also other types of magical, wonderful, healthy ways to love, that have nothing to do with romance. If you are interested in reading my takes on romantic love feel free to do so Here.
While there are many types of love, and love can happen for a lifetime, or in brief moments, I'd like to talk about three for the purpose of not prattling on for ever and ever, and making you, my lovely readers, read a novel instead of an article. That being said, today I'd like to talk about Friend Love, Stranger Love, and World Love. These are not like terms that exist anywhere but in my head, in any official capacity, but I try to always call them like I see them.
I am not a psychologist, sociologist, or any other type of professional with regards to human behavior. I am just a person who observes, feels, lives, and breathes on this planet, and have a drive to share those observations and feelings with others.
This is probably my favorite type of love. Even above romantic love, because you are not bound to another through romance, or sex, or commitment. You are bound together through kinship, and shared experience. Friendships wax and wane like all things, but it doesn't matter if it is for a short time or a long time, Friend Love is unequaled in my heart. Friend Love is what causes us to hold space for people that we value, for who they are as people. I have friends that I haven't spoken to in months, or even years, that I hold space for, so that I can be there to love them at the drop of a hat.
I had this friend for maybe about six months in the summer of 2010, it was one of those fast burning and intense friendships. We met through a mutual friend, and I even temporarily lived in their house and ended up moving into the apartment next door for a brief time. We did everything together for six months, and TimeHop constantly sends me little reminders of our shenanigans, and I haven't really spoken to them since. But if they ever called me and said, they needed a place to crash, a shoulder to cry on, a hug, whatever, I would do it without hesitation. Not because they did it for me, or would do it for me, but because I have a whole summer of laughs and adventures thanks to them, and that is worth a couch for a few weeks, and a wet shoulder, and a warm embrace. Our lives have moved in completely different directions, and truthfully until I started writing this I hadn't thought of them in probably three years. But when I looked inside myself, I see the space reserved for them is still there.
This type of love is so important. We humans are so deeply social, we need to have people that call on us, just as much as we need to have people to call on. Holding space can be difficult, and I am not saying that we should do it for people who are toxic to our lives. What I am saying is to make sure that your threshold for who is deserving is not so high that you hold space for no one, but the people you see every day. You should do this even if you know they aren't doing the same, because sometimes a summer of laughs and selfies is worth years of your life. I can say that without a doubt, if I had not had this friend for that time in my life, I would very likely have killed myself.
This type of love happens like magnesium set alight. You are at once overcome with it and feel it so intensely, and then a moment later all you have left is that retinal impression of the brightness. Some people seek it out, wanting to chase that feeling again and again, and I will tell you that my favorite people are the people who do this. The best analogy I can make for Stranger Love, is drunk women in the bathroom at bars at about one AM in any place in the United States.
I will please beg some indulgence, as I am going to make a generalization here for the sake of my metaphor. I have both been comforted by drunk women in the bathroom at bars at one AM, and I have been the drunk girl pouring support and love on other women in the bathroom at bars at one AM. I will recall two particular personal experiences I have had with this phenomena, one in which I was not the drunk woman, and one where I was.
Picture a bar bathroom in a dance club in Florida. My partner and I had been fighting, they had left me at the bar, and I was sitting on the row of sinks, with mascara all over my face, my once pristine hair a tangled mess, and my lipstick smeared and peeling. I had taken my shoes off, and my stocking clad feet were dangling over the filthy bathroom floor. It was close to two AM, and I was scrolling through my phone for anyone I knew in the area who would be up, and could pick me up. In walks a visibly drunk girl. She is heading to the stall, but then catches sight of me and makes a course alteration at the last second, which looked like a wobbly pirouette. She clopped over in her heels and tucked a finger under my chin pulling my face up to hers and said in the sweetest southern belle voice I have ever heard, "Aww Sugar, you are far to pretty to be in here crying alone, tell me what I can do to make you feel better." So I started crying again, and told her I was fighting with my partner, and while I was telling her she thumped her purse down next to me and took out her make up bag. She wet a paper towel and started to wipe my make up off my face. She kept making reassuring noises and nodding, and then pulled out make up and began to make my face up again. When she was done, out came all the bobby pins in my hair, and her brush was working its way through the tangles. When she was done I looked like a brand new girl, and I felt so much better, she leaned in close and kissed my cheek, and said, "Alright, now let's go get some food, and forget about that asshole you're with," and we got a taxi to Waffle House, ate food until we were both largely sober, and then she called her friend who drove us both home. The last thing she said to me as we parted company was, "Leave that person you're with, they aren't worth it, Sugar." This complete stranger loved me more intensely than my romantic partner had in years, and while I did not leave them right away, when the time for parting happened, I remembered her voice, and took strength from it.
Once upon a time I was back home in Baltimore visiting a friend, and I had perhaps 15 too many libations. I remember rather distinctly running around the city in the height of winter, with no coat on in a tank top, laying in a snow bank, and taking selfies, and puking while walking to a cab. I also remember seeing a woman huddled in a doorway sobbing into her hands. I approached her, and spoke to her softly, and when she confessed that it was her boyfriend, and how he had treated her poorly and she was just really sad about it, my friend and I picked her up, and told her to point out her boyfriend. When she did I asked her if she wanted to continue the relationship, she said no. I asked her if she was drunk, she said no. So while I sat with her, my friend who is in his own right, an intimidating presence, approached her boyfriend and told him to get fucked. We then got her into a cab, and sent her home. I don't think I even got her name, but I was so compelled to be empathetic, to love her, to help her love herself. I have no idea what happened after we put her in a cab, but that flash of bright magnesium still echoes on the retina on my soul.
This one is a little less tangible, but just as important. This is the wave of love that you feel when you step outside on a crisp morning, heave a deep breath and take in your surroundings. It is the type of love you feel when sun filters through the trees in exactly the right way. When leaves or grass crunch beneath your feet, and you find contentment just knowing you are alive. It is the kind of love that compels you to be kind, to buy the person behind you in line a coffee, or lunch. The kind of love that makes you stop and speak to a stranger, or give the last $5 in your pocket to someone who is homeless. It is the altruistic love that comes from the knowledge that we are all sharing space on this piece of rock and water, hurtling through an infinite void, with nothing to keep us together but the magic of mathematics and physics.
In a world as troubled as ours, I realize that this feeling is harder to come by, but that makes it all the more important to seek these moments out. To embrace them when they catch you unawares. Seek out places and situations that have made you feel the glow of this love before, and encourage others to do the same. Although I disagree with John Lennon, I think that we do need more than love alone, I think that love is a great first step!