I was on the phone the other day with a friend of mine, someone a few years older than my mother would be. As we finished up the conversation, she said, “Love you!”
“Love you, too,” I responded, but there was a little pause there that I hope she didn’t hear.
When I grew up, my mom always said that words mattered. You didn’t use words lightly, even the “L” word. Words had power and you didn’t want someone to think you were IN love with them when you just loved them like a friend. So, she taught me to use the L word sparingly.
Love came with obligations, kind of like saving someone’s life means you’re responsible for them in some cultures. If you loved someone, you were willing to do anything for them. Die for them. Or, at least go all the way with them. Nothing you’d do lightly.
My parents aren’t around anymore to tell them I love them. But I tell my husband. And my daughter. And my friends-who-are-like-family.
But I have stayed away from being someone who tosses the word around like it’s loose change. Love has currency. It is currency.
The older I get, the more I find that love has shades. From light affection to dark passion, there is no one love.
And the older I get, the more I realize that the currency that is love…is scarce. I see so many giving away hate as though it is no big thing. We hate broccoli, this movie, that person’s politics, that person.
And the only thing in this world that seems to pop up every time it gets knocked down, like some kind of round-bottomed doll? Love.
There are times when only love will do. When it is the only appropriate thing, whether the timing or the person is appropriate. After the shooting at a gay club in Orlando in 2016, what mattered was not whether people loved someone of the same gender. As Lin Manuel Miranda said in his Tony acceptance speech after that shooting, “We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer. And love is love is love is love is love is love is love, and love cannot be killed or swept aside.”
So, when my friend tells me she loves me? Next time, no hesitation. I love you too.