Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Crazy in Love

“Al and I are crazy in love!”

I caught up with May, a good girlfriend of mine the other day and it was just as she diagnosed. She was crazy in love. Incandescent with happiness. It was terminal.

May’s life had always had a loveable, moderately bonkers quality to it, but this time when I talked to her, she could barely contain her share of breathless adventures and anecdotes from the past few months. A languorous holiday just doing groceries together…A dream home in Buenos Aires…Fighting sleep so as not to lose a moment…The first argument that felt like a knife through the gut…Making up in the best possible way…Relocating for love… Shunning old lovers…Debating adult concepts like marriage…Absolute trust…

“Now I am thinking of moving to Miami and maybe starting a restaurant there! It seems so right. I don’t know why I never thought of it before! Al says I’ll love Miami. Besides, we always make friends everywhere we go!” she proclaimed excitedly, her speech a series of staccato tones.

Her enthusiasm was infectious. And I found myself hugging her and dreamily sighing along as she related her stories. I was happy for May. It had been a difficult relationship at first (I definitely had my doubts) but she worked hard at it and she deserved every single punctuation mark that came her way. I sincerely wished and hoped for the very best for her.

Still, I couldn’t help but advise caution: “Just be careful, sweets. Don’t make any life decisions based on purely emotional grounds. Give yourself some time to settle into your relationship first.” Being the voice of reason didn’t quite suit me. In fact, it made me sound like the single wet blanket galpal (the type that graduates into the tight-lipped disapproving spinster aunt that perpetually knits later in life) – not at all the tone I was striving for.

Besides, I was hardly qualified to give advice. As if I knew any better – one and a half failed relationships and a series of uninspiring ‘non-dates’ to my name – suddenly I was pretending to be an expert? Yea right.

‘Crazy in love’ is a rare commodity in the world that us jaded 21st century 20something types live in. It’s so easy for us to sit back in our favourite Eames chairs and be disparaging about relationships; quoting the rising divorce rates or the number of unhappy marriages we see held together by government subsidies and archaic tributes to “Asian values”.

Gone are the days where a girl can expect candlelight dinners, drive-in movies, chaste kisses on the forehead, breakfast in bed and living happily ever after. These days, after being surrounded by way too many cheating husbands and broken marriages, we’re a pragmatic lot. We carry our own condoms. We leave our lovers before morning. We don’t give out phone numbers. And then we sip black coffee and buy expensive shoes with our girlfriends, laughing at how our lives are so dysfunctional. Romance? Buy us a Louis Vuitton handbag and we’ll show you romance.

Despite all this concerted posturing, we never completely lose hope in the ideal state of being ‘crazy in love’. I’ve always thought that if I had to fall in love, it would be ‘crazy in love’ otherwise it just wouldn’t be worth the effort. The whole Singaporean way of finding someone to settle down and apply for an HDB flat with is not my idea of ‘crazy’ in anything. I would so much rather be single. At least that way I can settle for ‘crazy in 200 new Kamasutra sex positions’.

But once in a while, girlfriends like May show us that there is still space left in this world for grand gestures and extravagant promises. For the complete and ungrudging surrender of oneself without any sense of irony or self-preservation. For rose-tinted luff and fresh air.

It needs to be said that I admire (and possibly envy) people who can – and do – fall desperately in love. It takes a real leap of faith to believe that one’s relationship is going to pip the odds and actually work out. It takes reasonable effort and courage to unconditionally commit all your eggs to one basket without caring unduly about the need for a physical / emotional safety net. And it requires a healthy suspension of disbelief to uphold absolute concepts like Fidelity and Trust and Forever. I certainly couldn’t do it without stuffing enough socks down my mouth to make sure I kept a straight (if not otherwise puffy) face.

However, on the off chance that ‘crazy in love’ happens to land in my lap, I’m sure I wouldn’t know what to do with it. In fact, my instinctive response would probably be to hunt it down and stamp it out of existence. “Bah, don't be a sentimental idiot,” I’d chide myself. Or I’d rationalize it to death and attribute it to some quirk of human nature. Or I’d sabotage it by having meaningless, brain-numbing sex with a random someone whom I had no real attraction to. Or immediately throw down the shutters to my heart and appear completely sphinx-like at every interaction.

Because while I can gladly throw caution to the wind in almost all other aspects of my personal life, I know that if there is anything that scares the living daylights out of me – it is being ‘crazy in love’. I’ve felt it before. And it was the most beautiful and horrible thing at the same time. I did things I never thought I would ever do. I could repeat verbatim chunks of significant conversations that I kept securely locked in my memory. I made lists of what we could do as a couple so that we would never waste a second having nothing to do. I laughed / danced / screamed / wept on the street with no dignity. I could be so angry a vase would hurtle out of my hand without warning. I could be so sensitive that a mere trifle would make me whimper.

Life was eerily out of balance. I was always restless, on edge, irrational, short-tempered and exuberantly neurotic. If you knew me in real life, you would laugh in disbelief at this description. It bears absolutely no resemblance to the sash that you know and love.

But that was awfully long ago. Now look at me, pretending to be all grown up and in denial of my inner infant. It is humbling to confess that I am afraid to hope. And that I am anxious to avoid hurt at all costs. That I am terrified of disappointment. And of disappointing other people (which inevitably happens – I know this from bitter experience). And that I can’t quite reconcile myself to the nagging thought that ‘crazy in love’ just doesn’t exist for emotional cowards like me.

Do not give me platitudes of comfort, I must learn how to trust and believe again. It is an ongoing organic process. There is no overnight prescription to recover lost faith, but thanks for coming along so far. It helps to know you're reading. :)