The Nondating Life

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Part Seventeen: The L Bomb

[Ed. note. Tired of fooling around with the date stamps and such, I've decided to just start posting these in regular blog fashion. I think you're smart enough to figure out where the other stuff is]
(Previous Post)

"Dude, Kenny, she thinks she loves me," he says. I'm on the phone with a close friend of mine out in California.

"And we know this how?" I ask.

"She told me."


"Well, how long have you been dating?"

"See, that's the thing. She thinks we've been dating eight months. I'm only really counting two."

Let me explain. My friend had met the girl (by all accounts a lovely young lady) and dated her for a month or so before the duties of a scientist called him to a land far, far away. While he told her he would not pursue other options on this trip, and while he was true to his word, the fact remains that they had very little contact during this time.

So Dr. Scientist, being both a scientist and a fool, is applying the rule of logic and pointing out that, in real time, they've only dated two months tops and they don't really know each other all that well. Definitely not well enough to go dropping the L Bomb all over the place. And, Dr. Scientist, being both a slow mover and a decent man, explained to the lovely young lady that he couldn't in good faith drop said L Bomb.

This, of course, went over like a Hitler costume at a Seder Supper.

Now, what's left of the relationship is limping along until one of them--and without a doubt it will have to be Dr. Scientist--takes it out behind the barn and puts a bullet in its head.

"Kenny, dude, you have to write about this. Chicks just say it way too soon. And, honestly, I think she's just in love with the idea of being in love."

"Ah, I see, I see," said I. What we have here is a classic case of Carson McCullers' "lover," referenced in the very first post of this series.

Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which has lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. ... Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else—but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit.

Dr. Scientist is by no means treacherous or greasy-headed and is only rarely given to evil habits. Still, I felt I had to correct him on one point.

"Dude," I tell him, "this isn't just a chick thing." Or as McCullers more eloquently put it: "this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth"

"Whatever, dude," says Dr. Scientist. "You have to tell people they just can't run around saying 'I Love You' so soon."

"Fix this," he says. "Make this right. You, Ken, have the power to do this. I? I am only a simple man with a doctorate, a humble scientist. But you?" He takes a breath as if to reveal to me the secret of the universe. "You are a BLOGGER."

Yes. I am. And while that may be a true and important thing, sadly, I cannot fix this thing. Sure, it may be within my power, but it would make me out to be the most obscene of hypocrites. Because, as I told Dr. Scientist, the horrible, embarrassing fact of the matter is that I am JUST the type to rush head-long into dropping the L Bomb, I am squarely in "the lover" camp, am besotted with the idea of being in love.

This may surprise some of you who only know me through the blog or who've only seen Ken Wheaton:American Badass and not Ken Wheaton:Simpering Fucking Fool. But it is the truth. Yes, I do go through my Ken Wheaton:Man Whore cycles and I'm quite willing and able to bed down with three different women in the same week (or, hell, at the same time). But...

But when I feel that spark. Whu-hoooaaaaa Nellly. Look out boys and girls. It's all over but the obsession, massive waves of emails, thoughtful little gifts and that horrible moment when I confess my feelings. Oh. And the crying.

And that's when the woman in question DOESN'T necessarily like me. If she is feeling the spark or fanning a flame, even if it's at a slightly slower burn? I think I'd be within my rights to quote The Heart of Darkness and say: "The horror."

Take M., for example (and I keep going back to that well because, luckily or unluckily, I've only had a few girlfriends in my life.) There was the moment in Brazil--halfway through the trip, after a night of drinking--when I looked her in the eyes and she looked me in the eyes. I knew I was going to say the words. She knew I was going to say the words. And the look in her eyes was clearly telling me: "Ken, don't do it fool. Cuz you know I'm not going to say it. And this sort of thing can really throw off a relationship." And the look in my eyes was telling her: "You know, I know that, but that's not going to stop me. Because if I don't say it, I'll pop. And I'm an idiot." (Also, my eyes were saying, "Damn, I'm fuckin drunk, yo!" ... My eyes curse more than I do.)

And I said it. And she didn't. And we carried on. But, yes, it stung. After all, how could someone who seemed so right, someone who seemed content to spend all that time with me, who sent ME gifts, who seemed at times trying to woo ME, how could she not be feeling the same thing?

Well, that's easy to answer. She just wasn't. There are different types of people in the world, some who fall in love easily, some who find it harder to do so, and still others who don't fall in love at all--cold, passionless people who never know the ups and downs of a tortured heart. I call these people "lucky."

The sad fact of the matter, and until now I think my good friend Cat was the only person who knew this, is that I was ready to drop the L bomb on M. after her first visit here, after only one week of sparks flying all over the place. I almost said it on the train platform as she was pulling out of town. Then again, I guess it was sort of obvious.

And this is where I run into a wall when it comes to advice for either side, lover or beloved. Typically, my overly romantic side would say "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." If you're the type who wants to say I Love You, say it. If it breaks the relationship, then so be it. It was destined for failure anyway. You two are probably a bad match if you're that emotionally out of balance.

But on that train platform that day, I summoned up all of my strength and will and kept my mouth shut. Had I said it, it probably would have derailed everything right then and there. But I didn't and the relationship chugged happily along for a while longer. Rational thinking won out for once. And I said to myself, "Good work, Ken. And you know, all those people who talk about rules and such, they might be onto something."

Then again, what did rational thinking get me? I'll tell you what it got me. It got me deeper into a relationship that may have been doomed from the start thereby increasing the misery at the end of it. That's what rational thinking got me!

So what's my advice to people who are just dying to say I Love You? Well, we all know the smart thing to do is to keep your damn mouth shut. When you feel that first urge, tell yourself "I will wait one more month before I say anything." Then, after that month, tell yourself, "I will wait another month." And so on until the person inevitably dumps you because, hell, he or she didn't love you in the first place.

Sorry, that was mean. But seriously, try to wait it out a little. Better yet, adopt the rule that I now live by. Never, ever be the first to say it. That'll solve part of the problem. Of course, if you are "the lover" sort, we all know you're not going to listen to this sort of advice, so go on. Say it. Go ahead. Now see what happened? You happy now?

And my advice for the recipient of an unwanted L Bomb? Well, I've had a long lucky streak of keeping myself out of that situation, so I can't provide you with anything from personal experience. Really, it doesn't matter what you say. Anything short of "I Love You" is going to leave you both feeling foolish and wondering what the next move should be. You should steer clear of shouting, "What?! Are you fucking crazy" or saying something like "Ohhhhh, aren't you so cute when you're emotionally vulnerable. Yes. Yes you are!" I would say that, if at all possible, you should spend thirty seconds to look down the road a bit to see if you can imagine yourself EVER saying "I Love You" to that person.

If you can't even imagine it, if you see a dead end rather than a long uncertain road, just stop it right there. Say, "I just can't say that." Then, "Maybe we should think about this."

Then you can have that sort of slow, sad sex that people have when they know their relationship is doomed. Then the next morning you can both go back to pretending everything is fine until the relationship dies further down the road, you know, after things have gotten really, really complicated.

And oh, by the way: "The horror."


  • There's a Shakespeare sonnet that i blanking out on - but the gist of it is - maybe very few people are capable of love, specifically romantic love. Most people, the poem suggests aren't capable of love - this thought had haunted ever since reading it. I'm not afraid of love, (or saying "i love you" - i used the damn saying when i get off the phone with friends. I don't know if it’s just me or it's a Russian thing - but it's not a big deal to me - i hate how in movies the pinnacle emotional love scene involves those three little words) i'm more afraid of never loving or letting someone love me. The possibility of not being in love is scarier than ever saying it at the wrong time. I’m a true believer that if someone is so scared of such strong feelings than it’s never meant to happen anyway. Eventually, like you said, they will pull away.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:38 PM  

  • Oh dear. You’ve gone and exposed me to the blog! I feel truly naked.

    Good work Ken! Not sure I agree with all of it, but that's to be expected (and don't worry, you're still the badass Ken Wheaton that I met in Opelousas who drank Boones and did 'whip-its' with me in a dark parking lot and who took heroic measures to save my job during that drunk and very blurry night). I will say in an attempt to clarify my situation, I could've seen myself saying 'I love you' in the future (not saying I certainly would've said it, but could've). I think the problem was while I was gone she was extrapolating our future without a solid basis of past experience to draw upon (2 months isn't that long). Besides, she’s the ‘rockstar, struggling actress who parties every night until 3am’ girl, and I’m the guy who works 12 to 20 hours a day and is very insecure about not getting the sleep that he deserves. And, according to other women I've dated, I'm a machine (in the bad, emotionally unavailable way, not the 24/7 sex machine kinda way).

    But I do wonder if I take the 'love' word (romantic meaning) too seriously. I've only said it to two women in my life (one you know quite well). Should I relax and say it at the first signs of a strong liking? In this case, because I thought there was a possibility of loving her in the future, should I have gambled and said it back? And another question (for you or anyone in the blogger realm) of a more specific and practical nature: when you’ve dated for 2 months and leave for 6 months (and agreed to remain loyal to each other), have you ‘dated’ 8 months, 2 months, or something between the two?

    Yes, I’m clueless, so feel free to help me see the error of my ways.

    Long live the Nondating Life!

    By Blogger on Bushmills I stagger, at 7:19 PM  

  • so if you're never the first one to say it, and your significant other isn't the first one to say it, then who will say it? conundrum?

    By Blogger writersbloc gal, at 8:57 PM  

  • Needy people are (generally) not attractive and saying it too early seems needy. I don't really get the big deal about saying it anyway but maybe that's because I'm a big fan of silence.

    By Anonymous Karol, at 12:49 AM  

  • This became an issue once with a boyfriend who wanted me to say it back, and I was all "I'm not sure I can say that." At some point, he said, "look, I know how you feel, can you just lie occasionally, and say it?" So I did. Was that wrong?

    By Blogger pearatty, at 1:06 PM  

  • nice blog. i really liked your subway chronicles.

    By Blogger Sub Girl, at 2:09 PM  

  • This may sound crazy but I’ve actually found it possible to stave off the emotion that would prompt such a saying. And I say that as a girl who’s concluded she loves pretty much damn near every guy she’s liked. Except the latest.

    On that one, I prayed: “God, please help me guard my heart.” And you know what? He did. Or if you’re an atheist, somehow I managed to like the guy without going all the way emotionally. And I felt healthier for it.

    Besides, in this case the gentleman had blogged that “for once - just once” he’d like to like the girl before she likes him. And I figger he feels the same on loving.

    Of course he’s done neither toward me - liked or loved (at least that I know of) - but somehow this heartguard has worked out. I’ve liked him ... but not to the unhealthy degree of vulnerability that characterized past hopeless crushes. Now that I’m slowly coming down off liking him it doesn’t hurt so bad either.

    Bottom line: I recommend God. Or at least heartguard. ;)

    By Blogger Anna Broadway, at 5:06 PM  

  • Karol, I agree with you that needy people are not attractive (generally, of course). If I'm involved with someone, I want them to like me for who I really am. Not because they're insecure about themselves and want to rush into something and 'secure' it so it doesn't get away. It really annoys me when people (like this last girlfriend, in my opinion) say they love me, but truth is they really haven't done a whole lot to even get to know me. Anytime I've said it, I've known the person for well over a year. I can't love people I don't know, it's im-fuckin-possible! I can definitely have a badass crush and the like, but not love.

    By Blogger on Bushmills I stagger, at 7:14 PM  

  • You had me at "the horror."

    Thanks for the high school flashback, I'll be sure to keep reading.


    By Blogger Daisy, at 10:18 PM  

  • Lovin the blog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:18 AM  

  • Thanks to all the new readers for swinging by and dropping comments. Bushmills, how dare you disagree with me? On anything? To be honest, I think that lover/beloved people can switch, sort of like anemone fish can switch sexes. All it takes is the right catalyst. Because while I've gone nuts over other people, I've had others go nuts over me and was like, "What the hell is THAT all about." In such instances I sort of lose sight of what I have a tendency to become and just assume that person is batshit crazy. I think it's a fairly rare thing when two people develop the same sort of "OHMYGODILOVEYOU" feeling at the same time.

    You also brought up a good point about "knowing someone." That might be part of my problem, as deep down inside I think all people are pretty much the same and I have a tendency to think I have people figured out early on in the game.

    Which always leaves me surprised when, two months later, I stumbled across them hanging out with the CHUDS and eating rats in the sewer system.

    By Blogger Ken Wheaton, at 10:52 AM  

  • It turns out you can sort of agree to say "it" or not say "it." With a bf of two years ago, I was really feeling a lot of love, and I could tell he was too. I said, "I really want to say it, but I think it's too soon. I'm sure feeling it now." He knew just what I meant (I think). By the time another month had gone by I'd "lost that lovin' feeling" and we broke up. No harm, no foul.

    In another example, I'd been waiting for my bf of several months to drop the L Bomb for a few weeks. I knew he wanted to say it and, for some reason, I knew he wanted say it first. I also knew I would say it back. He went and got himself all liquored up and dropped the bomb one night. I was angry and upset and refused to reciprocate. Actually, that was my first ever adult "I love you" (I was 22, he was 26) and I I wanted it to be real, not drunken. He said it again in the morning and I finally reciprocated. Lord, I was tough on that guy.

    I link to you, so if you want to link to me, you can:

    By Blogger Jamy, at 7:02 PM  

  • God, that's depressing.

    By Blogger Sami, at 12:09 AM  

  • Hearing those 3 words less than one month into the relationship totally freaked me out, for there was absolutely no way I could say those 3 words back to him. Talk about pressure. No one should have to be put into such a charged situation. Your advice for waiting to say it - good, sound advice.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:51 PM  

  • All this can be solved by screwing on the second date. I'm totally serious about this too. People get lust and love confused. If you screw on the second date, you know you are only lusting. You now can tell the difference between the two.

    The other thing is that women tend to love the guy you are going to be. In other words they love your potential and they fall in love with what you could be, when in reality you are not that person they built up in their head.

    To solve this problem, I force myself to see who the guy is, not what he is going to be. This allows me to love him as he is and it usually takes a little longer.

    Another point to make, what constitutes love? I think this is different for everyone. For instance, I don't love someone unless I know I would cry and feel abandoned if they died. This is kind of extreme, but this is what I consider love.

    As a result, I'm in the same boat as your friend. It takes me a long time to decide and confess my love. I do welcome guys dropping the L bomb, but not after 2 months, that is hardly sufficient time. I figure if you stick around for 4 or 5 months and you want to drop it, its fine by me, but I might not reciprocate.

    By Blogger astrocoz, at 9:30 PM  

  • ...Or, it could be solved by not screwing at all until you're married. That way, you both know you're both in it for the long haul! :)

    Seriously - this whole thing of relationships being based on love is sooooooo modern and trite! It's supposed to be about respect and admiration and C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-I-O-N!!

    The trouble isn't the "L-bomb" - it's what that word implies for the future that scares the poopy out of people. (Hence the obsession, etc.)

    I'm just sayin'...

    By Anonymous lawyerchik1, at 9:46 AM  

  • Hi from New Zealand, am enjoying reading it and have passed it onto some friends here! EC

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:07 PM  

  • Oh man... that is hilarious... awesome punchline. I've just read a couple of your articles in your 'relationship series' and I must say the writing is top-notch and extremely funny, especially 'the flipside'.

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