If you live long enough your life is littered with lost loves – things that burned so brightly but cooled, often after dragging you through an emotional morass, feeding you to a mental meat grinder.
Among its many pitfalls, love clouds the truth, exposes you to the sharp-fanged vagaries of the depositories of your affection, shackles you to your worst impulses when it turns to hate and, most disconcerting of all, makes you behave like a right git.
The most insightful among us come to the realisation that love is too taxing; that it just isn’t worth the effort; that it is a self-defeating emotion one must administer to oneself like a drip, if not expunge from your system completely.
Along the way I have executed myriad loves. In no particular order they include Jesus (Life of Brian is a more honest story); my childhood best friends (maintaining those relationships is like never updating your teenage-years music collection); my faith in humanity (need I say more? OK, creationists); Mother Teresa (got off on suffering); my young, naive self (you idiot); and dogs (look in the mirror before you judge me).
I now save my love for a handful of subjects, including my “new” family but excluding my “old” family: mother, siblings, etc. (out with the old and in with the new, as they say). But even with that greatly reduced output, I still feel exposed, vulnerable – just waiting for the day when my wife hates me (if she doesn’t already), and the kids turn on me and resentment seeps from their eyes like bitter tears.
A great love of mine was America. I had frolicked uninhibitedly in her powerful tricoloured glow like a hippy at Woodstock, absorbing her fascinating narratives through a ubiquitous culture.
When I told Americans I loved their country, I was sincere.
And I would impart on them that passion by demonstrating the breadth of my knowledge about the US, with a focus on “-gate” scandals – nipplegate, envelopegate, donutgate – and the Kardashians.
A married couple from Mississippi I sat next to on a plane for nine hours were fascinated by my thesis-like analysis on the Kardashians’ role in American society, and their impact on the broader world, including on the self-identity of prepubescent girls in Mogadishu.
An old love, America is the most recent love to be excised.
It was a process that involved considerable soul-searching over three cups of coffee at Starbucks. After mulling pros that include Martin Scorsese, Cormac McCarthy and Kanye West, I determined that they were outweighed by cons that included the Vietnam War, the Iraq War (they do love sequels) and Kanye West.
It was a process that involved considerable soul-searching over three cups of coffee at Starbucks.
After mulling pros that include Martin Scorsese, Cormac McCarthy and Kanye West, I determined that they were outweighed by cons that included the Vietnam War, the Iraq War (they do love sequels) and Kanye West.
One of the great regrets of my life was caving into a then-American friend of mine who said: “Sounds like you have a problem with the US?”
I should have answered with a parable, of sorts: An Irishman, an Englishman and an American are sitting at the bar of a New York pub. In a strong accent, the Irishman says: “These beers taste almost as good as me ma’s stew. I’ll tell ya: It’s great to be alive. Sure, it’s a miserable winter day. But inside here, in this fine, cosy establishment, I’m enjoying a Guinness, the warm embrace of a log fire and the company of you distinguished gentlemen. By the way, my name is Martin, Martin O’Donnell.”
In a posh accent, the Englishman says: “Nice to meet you, Martin. I’m Nigel Stopford Sackville. And yes, you are right: this is indeed a fine establishment. In fact, it could very well be the best pub I ever frequented. If I died right now, I would die a happy man.”
“Maybe that can be arranged,” the American says in a Southern drawl.
“Excuse me, what did you say?” the Englishman says.
"I said: My name’s Billy-Buck Dobbs and this here is my best friend, Smith and Wesson.”
“Good God, he’s got a gun!” the Englishman cries.
Mark Bode is an ACM journalist.