Illustration by Lauren Tamaki
For me, the coolest thing about love is how enormously we trust it when we find it—believing in it so completely with an all-in/nothing-can-move-us commitment. Our minds follow our hearts, take all the fear and uncertainty and swap it for a blind faith we didn’t even know we had. That is what I love about love.
When my daughter was 13, she told me in no uncertain terms that if she ever had a boyfriend he would be a “side dish”—direct quote—because she had too much to do in her life. Trust me, she came out of the womb this way. She arrived in the world with very precise ideas of what she wanted. And to my shock, she remained unwavering in all of them.
It became incredibly clear that I didn’t have anything to do with her headstrong discipline when in preschool I caught her wincing in pain as she hung outside in the dark from a tree branch. When I asked what she was doing, she explained that she needed to practice hanging so she could be the first preschool girl to get all the way across the monkey bars. After she won the monkey bar ribbon, I began referring to her, in my head, as the alien. I’m kidding...but not really. Her younger brothers never shared even one iota of her life mentality; we all just looked on and watched. There was nothing that could knock this kid off her track, and not surprisingly, she stayed true to her “side dish” boyfriend mindset—until recently.
A couple months ago she called me from New York City, where she had moved for her first job. “Mom, listen, I’m not kidding, I’m in love. I mean really in love. He is the greatest person I’ve ever known.” I immediately think to myself, this doesn’t sound like a side dish.
She brought him home to LA, and I instantly saw what I’d experienced myself a long time ago. I saw the “nothing is going to move me, we’re a full-on team” between her and this great guy. The girl who only had time for a side dish is now all-in.
I remembered right then: This is how it all begins. We forget, because life happens. Kids are born, we work, we fight, we run the house, the family, the schedules, and eventually that very specific, all-encompassing love morphs into something else. Whether we’re content with the person we picked, or we divorce and start over or feel stuck in the rut of a seemingly loveless situation, most of us forget to remember that at some point, we were a team. We were once the couple who refused to do anything but make room to be together.
All of us battle in some way inside the relationships we have with the people we love—some more than others. But from what I’ve seen and heard, a solid, steadfast partnership is rare. If pushed, I imagine most of us would answer yes to wanting to be two people who root for each other, who know that beneath the challenges, the other person cares more than anyone else about who we are. The conflicts, the stuff that makes the road hard, will always be there. But it’s the team beneath that conquers the hurdles. The team is the bedrock that keeps it from toppling. And some part of us knows this, because it’s how it began a long time ago.
And isn’t it just like life to choose my daughter, the little alien, who thought love would be only a side dish, to innocently smack me over the head with the simple reminder that at its beginning and best, love is two people on the same team.