Sunday, July 8, 2012

Speaking the Language of Love: Or Tovah's Guide to Being Cool

I don’t know why I’m writing a blog right now.  It’s 6am.  I’ve been up for an hour.  My mind is racing.  I went outside.  The birds are composing a beautiful symphony with frogs on the horns and crickets on the strings.  The sky is brightening in this gold-ish way. Leftover storm water is gently dripping of the porch roof.  And while I sit and take in the moment… I’m drafting a blog in my head.  A Zen monk, I was not meant to be.

But at least my computer is placed in front of large windows looking out at this scene.  So I’ll claim I’m taking it all in, while I write.  That makes me feel better about myself.  And that’s mostly what this blog is about, feeling better about myself. 

I’ve been reading this book called The Five Love Languages of Children.  As you know, I am always looking for ways to better understand my son, (all my children, but he needs the most deciphering) and this book was a pretty nice window.  Its premise is that there are five main ways through which we communicate and receive love.  And we all have tendencies towards one, more than the others.  They are: Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service.  I won’t go into much more detail, save to recommend the book.  (A quick word of warning: I do not agree, as the authors seem to imply, that if you do not discover your child’s love language, he or she will be doomed to a life of low self-esteem, drugs and venereal diseases.)

It turns out that my sons primary love language is touch.  Followed by quality time.  And perhaps this explains why, when I think we are having a nice day, he spoils it by acting out physically against me.  He is asking for something he doesn’t even know he wants.  And that he drives me to spank, even though I never dreamed I would be a mother who spanks, also makes sense.  He wants the contact.  And if that’s the way he can get it, so be it. 

Now, I’m a pretty touchy feely person.  Almost to an annoying point.  But yesterday I tried to really turn up the juice.  I thought I was making a lot of physical contact with all my children, but I did touch on steroids.  Every time my son came anywhere near me, I reached out and stroked his arm, or tickled his back, or cuddled him.  I thought after an hour, two hours, half a day of this, he would push away and get annoyed (I mean, I was starting to annoy myself).  But he didn’t.  In fact he lapped it up like a little puppy.  More, more, more, he seemed to ask. 

Well, buddy, get ready for a whole new sport: Full contact life! At every chance I get, I am going to try to fill his apparently depleted love tank with all the physical affection I can possibly muster.  Do I feel like I’m suffocating at the very thought? Slightly.  Is it worth a try anyway? Absolutely! Are there any negative side effects? Unknown.  But unlikely.

But that’s all back story.  Here’s what I was processing in bed, that wouldn’t let me sleep.  For years I have searched out validation.  I mean, who hasn’t, right?  But for me it was in words of affirmation.  I want my husband to tell me I’m beautiful.  I want to be told that I’m maternal.  I want to be called sweetie and honey and any other name that causes a mental cavity.  I want long, sentimental letters describing all my amazing qualities.  One by one.  Preferably alphabetically.  

I thought this made me vain.  I thought this made me weak.  I thought this made me highly uncool, since cool people don’t need anyone to tell them what they already know.  But as it turns out, it just makes me normal.  I want to feel loved.  I feel loved through words of affirmation.  Perhaps that’s why, after writing each blog, I incessantly check the comments section.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve turned to writing.  Words are powerful to me.  They hold a lot of weight.  They make or break me.  A careless, or even hurtful action, I can often forgive.  But hurtful words sting me to the core.

And now I know that this is just me.  It's who I am.  And seeing that there are five love languages, chances are that a fifth of humanity is the same.  We can’t all be cool like you acts of service people.  Some of us have to remain cheesy and long for a Shakespearian-type love letter written daily.

It goes back to an earlier discovery I had which is that it is not my preferences which make me cool or uncool.  (Yes I am somewhat fixated on the idea (dare I say, hope) of being cool.)  I used to think that if I liked my coffee black, that would make me cooler than if I preferred cream.  Or that if I liked dark, bitter chocolate that would be better than liking milk chocolate.  (What is it about milk that is so inherently uncool?)  I wish I liked oil and vinegars as much as I like mayonnaisy things.  But I don’t.  And you know what?  It’s just my make up.  These are the things I cannot control.  And truly, if I spent too much energy on changing my personal tastes, I could not, with any confidence, ever call myself cool.  Cool people don't change who they are.  They embrace it, and say, "Go ahead, tell me to be someone else, if you dare..." No, I guess cool people don't really talk like that.  Maybe I am so uncool I can't even come up with imaginary cool dialogue. 

No, the things I have control over… Rather, the things worth putting energy into changing, are my behaviors.  My mother rage.  My listening skills.  My relationship to G-d.  My kindness towards humanity.  My judgments.  These are the things that can change.  These are the things worth changing.  My distaste for capers and really dry wine? Just a preference, not a character definition. I can only take credit for my character weaknesses I have strengthened.  No need to feel ashamed for them.  They were given to me.  It’s what I do with them that counts. 

So with that I say proudly, “I am a sentimental, touchy-feely woman who loves being told how loved she is. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.”

1. The air outside
2. Watching my children on the trampoline
3. My mom
4. The amazing songs my sister leaves on my voicemail
5. I still have a little bit of time before the kids wake up 


  1. You are wicked unbelievably cool. And so loved!

  2. A is for how awesome you are in that you dive into the depths of who you are and how you can can keep giving to the world.
    B is for the bravery with with you dive.
    C is for how utterly cool it is to be vulnerable. And to try.
    D is for the delicious food you cook. I'm serious.
    E is for everything about you. I love it all. I could go on but it's late and this mama needs sleep too!

  3. Oh what a SCREAM! See, I directed you to the Five Love Languages of Children before reading this next blog.

    You don't need our advice, darling! You do just find all on your own, just maybe not as fast as you expect of yourself.

    So, here's my love and support and yeah! Tovah! for finding new ways and writing about them to share with us and affirm for yourself.