Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In which a Worm and a Bottle of Shampoo Astonish Me

I have an earworm this morning. Madonna, I think it is. And I'm wondering if the lyrics can really be as bizarre as the worm assures me they are.

"Don't go for second best, baby," it sings to me. I can go with that, Worm. Like Elizabeth's best friend in Pride and Prejudice, marrying that appalling parson. Don't do that!

"Put your love to the test." Pause. Perplexity. Put your love to the test? Like, voluntarily? Like the world's not going to supply enough tests? But it comes around again, relentlessly, as earworms do. Yep, that's what it says.

And goes on to this: "you've got to make him express how he feels, and then you know his love is real." Silent staggerment. Did she really say that, Worm? Are you sure you're not making this up?

So we're not talking about the parson. We're talking about a love contest, and you come in second if your lover doesn't talk about being in love. You're afraid it's not real and therefore you want to make sure it is by... inducing him to say so?

I try wildly to relate this to any experience of love I've ever had. I understand wanting to hear "I love you." Who doesn't want to hear that, from the right person? But it doesn't make you a contest winner, and it doesn't make it real. What makes it real is when you have the flu and they wipe the stray spit-up off your face with a washcloth, and kiss your forehead. What makes it real is you still want to read their poems and they still want to see your paintings a year later. What makes it real is when they get up with the baby at three a.m. because you have to be a work at seven and they have till nine. What makes it real is cutting you slack for saying something stupid you don't mean when you're upset, but making sure they understand the grain of truth in it, and dealing with it. And when your heart still skips a beat when they turn their head a certain way in a certain light.

As a good Buddhist, I grope for understanding. What kinds of experience lead you to view love the way this worm does? How does the issue become not do you really love me? but can I succeed in inducing you to talk glibly about loving me? And how did it become a contest, with rankings? But I get nowhere.

Contemplating these things, as I sit in the bathroom, I can come to no illumination. I shake it off and reach for the cheap shampoo at the edge of the tub. Reading material. I turn it over and squint at the fine print. Again I am astonished. Say yes to beauty, I read, without paying the price.

Say yes to beauty without paying the price? "Um..." I say aloud, "I don't think so."

Sometimes I wonder if the people from my home planet are ever coming back for me.

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