How the spark stays alive through the years.
The word “love” is inadequate. I love writing. I love my husband. And at the end of dinner, I always love a few pieces of mint chocolate for dessert. Same word, different feels. Depending on the time of the month, I love my chocolate the most.
Perhaps, when it comes to love at least, I should write in Greek instead. The Greeks have several ways to describe “love” in its different forms. Philia describes the bond between friends, storge depicts love within a family, and eros is the smouldering, sensual desire we have for our partner.
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The ability to differentiate love relieved my nagging question: how “to eros” my partner at every age and stage. What if he becomes unattractive to me? What if I become unattractive to him! The clarifying lens of retrospection showed me love is a spectrum (perhaps as many as fifty shades). My younger self had simple and straightforward criteria for love: a pair of toned biceps and perky glutes. But as I evolved, so did my understanding of love. The concept became broader and deeper and more fulfilling, and what started as eros, expanded to include feelings of storge and philia.
This is my personal story about the changing nature of love; yours will be different. But we will probably arrive at the same conclusion: love is an adventure with no fixed path. The terrain will have peaks and valleys, but I’ve discovered love can be splendid at every age and every stage.
Love In My Twenties: Magic And Fairy Dust
Eros was the name of the game in my twenties. Lust was the engine and alcohol was the fuel. One humid summer’s evening in Hong Kong, I navigated the steep sidewalks of Soho in my high heels to arrive at Feather Boa, a then-popular but now-defunct bar. Sweaty matted hair stuck to the sides of my face. I approached the bar and ordered a drink from the bartender.
“Lucky you!”, he said: “It’s still happy hour.” He handed me a chocolate martini – I noticed his bulging bicep – and I gave him a red one hundred dollar bill.
A few seconds later, he asked: “Excuse me, Miss, it is $50 for the drink. Would you like to pay now or later?”
My eyes shot down to the bar counter. Where was the money I gave to him? The cash had disappeared. “Wait, I just paid you.”
“Well, where is it?”
“I don’t know. That’s so strange.”
“Ah, wait.” The bartender leaned over the bar table. His hand brushed the left side of my face. As he tucked an unruly strand of hair behind my ear, he pulled out the bill from my ear. “Oh! — his eyes glinted — here it is.”
The rest of the journey was predictable. He was a bartender by night, and a magician by day (the 1am sort of day). Our relationship was built on the three pillars of eros, alcohol and fairy dust. He was one on a shortlist of my twenty-something relationships, all of which felt magical but not realistic. Even a Disney princess eventually tires of magic. In fact, if the cartoon princess ever did mature, I can almost hear her mutter: Godmother got it wrong! She should have granted me a job, helped me save some money, and build a retirement fund! I lived in the real world, and as I matured, had real-world needs. After a while, the spell faded and the eros-driven relationships ended.
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Love In My Thirties: Looking For BFF, Biceps And Brains
In my thirties, I was looking for a different type of love. I could feel myself evolving. I still wanted biceps, but I was also looking for a best friend. I spent less time in bars and more time at the office. Which was fortuitous as I found love at the turnstile in the lobby of my office building.
I first spotted him, a delicious 2-metre muscular package, snug in a 3-piece suit at the far end of the lobby. He was headed in, I was headed out, but he failed to meet my gaze. I kept spotting him at the building entrance for the next few months, and since I had no excuse to approach him, my love was a smouldering flame. But, oh my, did the flame wish to be fanned.
One evening – kismet! – we were seated next to each other at a mutual friend’s dinner party. He recounted stories of growing up with five dogs, waxed about his dream to eradicate shark finning, and showed me pictures of his diving trip in Palau. We had a magical conversation though he didn’t pull money out of my ears. Eighteen months later we were married.
As is the distinguishing trait of newly minted couples, our eros was at an all-time high. Since the entire household consisted of the two of us (and the dog), we were blissfully unaccountable to anyone while we were at home. The whole apartment was our playground. Perhaps we played too much because the babies appeared quickly and unexpectedly, one after another after another over a course of three years.
Our home, which was formerly a playground for two adults, devolved into a noisy nursery for a baby, two toddlers, and far too many of their pint-sized friends. Our love seat sofa was largely hidden under large, plastic toys of varying primary colours. Even the dog decried the chaos, skulking from room to room searching for a peaceful corner to lay his head.
The more babies we had, the more wooden I felt. I didn’t feel romantic amidst the domestic chaos. Had I fallen out of love? As my bleary eyes peered at my husband over the bald head of a wailing baby, it occurred to me how different this love looked from what I felt at the turnstile. Mere eros was not enough to sustain the relationship. Our love reached an inflection point; the affections were slowly but definitively adapting to the contours of those trying times. Love’s new shape emerged.
Love In My Forties: Nintendo Hour
We now have three active tween-aged children, which means making time for eros takes a masterful stroke of scheduling. It used to be during the children’s football training, but with pitches closed due to Covid restrictions, we resorted to a foolproof plan called Nintendo Hour. During Nintendo Hour the kids are transfixed on their screens. Except for the rapid motion of little metacarpal bones, they will not move from their beanbags. The kids love Nintendo Hour. My husband and I love it even more.
What’s required to switch on Nintendo Hour today is quite different from previous years. As our family grows, in conjunction with the wider community around us, my partner assumes roles which I hadn’t anticipated (or appreciated) in the heady honeymoon days. He became a devoted father, a faithful provider and an involved community member. Character traits I previously found dull and unexciting, are now important and alluring. Qualities like commitment, dependability, and patience are very sexy. Fire-up-my-eros-type sexy.
On the Christmas day just passed, after our children ravaged reams of wrapping paper to open presents, I spotted my husband and sons sitting on the floor, tackling the assembly of a Gravitrax. Surrounding them were an assortment of opened boxes, ribbons and bubble wrap. And there he was, patiently clicking together tiny pieces of the interactive track system, because he promised the kids he would do so. At that moment I felt a love swell in my heart; it was all Greek to me. I felt storge for a family member, philia for a friend, and eros for a lover. I couldn’t wait for the kids to get Nintendo Hour later that day.
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