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February 14, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

Happy Valentine's Day! Yes, everyone gets a Valentine!
Every day!

In BG's world, every day's a good day to send flowers or chocolate (well, in MYmy world, cheese). It's always the right time to show someone you love them.

"Show," yes. But tell?

Those Ten Little Words:
"When is the Right Time to Say
'I Love You?'"

In months that contain the letter R? On those three special days (yesterday, today, and tomorrow)? Okay, okay. But what about the first time?

This is, of course, a topic on which I could write the equivalent of oh, 100 sonnets. But just for today, here are three little rules to guide you:

1. "I love you" should not be said when followed implicitly by the three other words "THAT'S YOUR CUE."

Or, for that matter, by any other implict "in order to." So the first time you feel like saying It to someone, don't. First, do a little love scene with your intentions; make sure those three words come from the most ivory (99 44/100 % pure) of impulses. Is what you want to say in the first place the real thing, or do you mean, say, "I love you because I'm afraid you're going to leave me but if I say I love you you'll feel guilty and that will make it harder," or some other "I love you" with lots of other unspoken words tied to the end, clanking in your mind like cans on a bumper? No fair. Remember, you're stating your feelings, not doing a project or forcing a play. Hey, there's time. If you love that person today, you will love him/her tomorrow.

2. "I love you" should not predate...dating ("Let's get dinner!")

You guys, when I say, "I love Marc Anthony," it is a figure of speech (and will remain so until we actually meet, at which point it will instantaneously become an actual -- requited -- verb). In general, "love" is not what you do (or say) before you -- or cite as a reason to -- ask someone out. It is not what you blurt to someone on the veranda after your first drive-in (as "reentry blues" posted on my message board,,* "I freak when a guy says it on the first date.") Whuh?! What is that?!

Well, what that is is all one's relief and joy and terror and hormones forming themselves into the word L-O-V-E like a marching band at halftime. It's sort of the opposite of the way my friend R. tends to psyche himself out: "Why should I flirt with her, I don't even know her?!" (Exception to the "first, date, then 'love'" rule: when you're already really good friends, in which case I still don't recommend using the proclamation as an icebreaker.) So -- as I told Phillip -- your feelings may attend the game, but try to keep them in the stands at first.

3. Robin's Rule (Or, Why Robin Rules)

It's always time for BG to say "I love you" to the fab horde at the message board.* Breakup Girl Friday posted this column's central query there, and of the many brilliant responses came Robin's (change genders if you like):

"It's time to tell him you love him when you know you can trust him to respond with honesty and compassion. That way, if he loves you back -- ZING! And if he doesn't -- well, at least he doesn't use it against you."

Right on. Now, yes, as Jade posted*, before you take the plunge you should at least sense that there's "water in the pool." (She adds: "It would be wonderful if there were some kind of gauge on the side of the other person's head that told you when their emotions had reached that point.") Still, even the most honest, compassionate, well-adjusted, in-love-with-you people might have one big button that gets pushed by those three tidbits. Just as the "I love you" sayer can have his / her personal agenda going, so can the "I love you" hearer. Bottom line: when it comes to The Return, well, you never know. Eeeek! I know. If weirdness results, be sure to debrief and decode. Nice thing is, what Robin's Rule allows and accounts for is the notion that -- all nerves and fears aside -- your declaration, perhaps even by definition, should presuppose a level of comfort and trust that it's All Going to Be Okay. Someone who gives you that electric-blankety feeling to begin with? That's love. (So's this.)

* If you are reading this from the archives, the message board link may no longer exist. Sorry!

Three not-so-little letters...



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