December 30, 2012

Let Me Love You

I was talking with a friend recently, explaining to him how I'd written myself off and given up hope on ever finding true love or a life partner.

My friend - like many of my others - has so much hope for me (unwarranted, I believe) that he couldn't believe I didn't have it for myself.

And then he asked me, "But Sandi, if there's no hope for you, why do you keep dating? Why do you keep trying?"

The answer, for me, was simple: because I love falling in love. I just don't think anyone is ever going to love me back.

All I can hope for, I told him, is that someone will one day just let me love them and not run away.

A little over a year ago, I actually had hope for the love to be returned. But somehow in the time that has passed, approaching two years in LA and turning 37 years old, I've come to realize: it just ain't happening.

Besides, I've bestowed my love upon plenty of people - and inanimate objects! - that never loved me back, from stuffed animals to soap opera characters to figments of my imagination.

And I'm not the only one.

There are the lucky recipients of a growing population of social robots (as reported by Pacific Standard) - autistic kids, shut-ins, stroke victims, dementia patients and the like - who fall in love, in a way, with their animate companions, who respond programmatically, expressing preferences, pleasure and displeasure, so convincingly it's easy to forget they don't actually care. They don't know how to care. They only know how to act like they care. When the robots break down, get transferred, or simply run their course, some patients become so distraught and brokenhearted that they refuse a replacement, and continue to ask after their former companion. Some people even prefer a humanized robot to their actual human friends.

And others don't even need the robot to come anthropomorphized. People treat their Roomba vacuums like members of the family, naming them and watching them scoot around as though they were pets.

Their Roomba surely does not love them back. But does that detract from the pleasure they derive from loving them?

I've tried to convince myself that the domesticated animals in my life - the pets of my many friends and family members - love me back, but I know that they don't. Not really. They are genetically programmed to elicit food, scratches, and treats by affectionating. Maybe some of them appear to love me more because they love my scratches more. Or because I let them gnaw on my hand and walk on my face. Because I love them.

Now, I don't have any pets of my own. I don't even have a Roomba. And I've got no one who's letting me love them.

But I keep dating. I keep going out to dinner. I keep kissing frogs. I keep climbing mountains that I may never summit.

After all, it's worth a try.

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