Liz Lemon said it best: Love is patient, love is weird. She forgot to mention that love is also confusing and a little bit scary. This week’s Average Male is Dave, a writer and non-profit Operations Director from Maryland. He’s tall. He’s hilarious. He’s married to a total babe/scientist and he happens to be my very best friend. So we went téªte-a-téªte on another burning dating question: Who should say ‘I Love You’ first? The guy? Or the girl?
I originally wrote this whole thing about how it shouldn’t necessarily fall to the guy because, unless it’s 1953 and you’re at the Sadie Hawkins sock-hop, guys generally have to do ALL the ASKING all the time. Think about it:
- Can I have your number?
- Hey, do you remember me?
- Do you want to go eat a meal with me?
- Do you mind going halfsies at Boston Pizza?
- Are you wearing some sort of special bra made with welded titanium hooks?
- Can I ask your dad if it’s okay to ask you to marry me?
- Can I ask your daughter to marry me?
- Will you marry me?
- How tired are you, exactly?
See? We ask, girls should have to TELL the dude I love you first.
But really, there are three reasons why guys avoid saying I love you. Reason number one is that we indeed don’t love you, but we like you enough that we don’t want to lie to you. I have no personal proof of this happening, but it does exist. Reason number two is that we are afraid of looking stupid. After a month of fairly serious dating, a girlfriend once left me a note that said I [drawing of a heart] you! I assumed this meant she loved me. I was ecstatic, because I assumed that I loved her too. I called her and shouted I love you too! It turns out she did in fact, simply heart me, much as an angsty teenaged girl hearts Fall Out Boy. Every guy fears a version of this will happen to them and they’ll drop a premature hard L. Nobody wants that. Reason number three is the best of them all. Reason number three is that we are actually madly in love with you. We are smitten kittens. We cannot think of anything but spending time with you. These feelings terrify us, because we’ve never felt this way before. Thus, we worry that saying such a thing out loud would terrify you, and cause you to go back to Russia (okay, maybe that worry was specific to my situation).
Ultimately, if you’re truly in love, the why or how the first L-bomb gets launched becomes unimportant. At a certain point, my now-wife informed me that if I had ideas about sleeping over her place, I should stow them because only people she was in love were allowed to do so. I only hope if we have a daughter that she inherits her mom’s scruples. I’m fairly certain I told her I loved her within 3 hours of that conversation. On my desk I keep a list of eight things I try to accomplish every single day (#6: floss). Number one on that list? Tell my wife I love you. It’s always seemed to work out for me. (***editor’s note: cue gushing from every woman who is reading this post***).
Girls also fear the dropping of the hard L, but for different reasons. After a certain age, love takes on a different connotation. In high school, love meant you would walk me to class and talk on the phone with me until we fell asleep. Now, it means we eventually will have a sensible station wagon and the same last name (what, I’m more traditional than you might think). As a wise guy friend of mine said once, “after 25, things start to move fast.”
The first time a boy told me he loved me he whispered it in my ear during a G-rated animated film at the same theatre where we went on all our parentally facilitated dates. We had eased into this by saying we “basically, almost” loved each other and then that we “basically” loved each other. Safe. Easy. Sweet 16. Every subsequent confession of love has felt like just that: an impassioned plea with a little hint of fear in it.
Saying I Love You first is an act of faith, an act of bravery, saying okay I’m going all in, I’m not just going to fall in love, I’m going to fall face first with my hands in my pockets like that one time in the subway station. It might hurt, but I’ll be able to walk it off and maybe even write about it on the Internet someday.
If Jennifer Aniston’s film career has taught me anything, it’s that love usually sneaks up on you through a haphazard series of coincidences or a madcap adventure. Despite the fact that neither of you could have seen it coming, it turns out you were falling at the exact same speed. But maybe that isn’t always the case? I’d hate to think that Hollywood is lying to me, but I also never took physics so I really have no way of proving any of this.
Verdict: Hung jury. Let’s just say whoever first says it in a drunken haze is the winner.