Fairy tales and movies tell us from an early age that the words “I love you” are sacred- three magical syllables meant to be uttered in the most perfect of situations by the perfect person. I live in a rather magical world known as the Harry Potter Fandom where this phrase is treated less like a holy incantation and more like a housekeeping spell used for tying shoelaces. In the Potterworld, we say “I love you” like we say “good morning.” It’s casual, it’s frequent and it’s light. But does this mean that it’s lost its meaning? Is it possible to be too casual with love?
Within the Harry Potter books, love is a powerful force, even described as the ultimate weapon against evil. As devoted readers, we’ve embraced this idea wholeheartedly. The more love the better. Maybe we’re just a group of people who were always meant to love eachother. Maybe the whole world would say “I love you” just as much if they were as lucky as we are. Have we just learned to love better than the rest of the world’s population, or have we deluded ourselves into thinking that we have?
Nothing is more annoying than the cliche, dramatically timeless question, “What is love?” That’s a question I’m not willing to ask, at least not in so many words. I refuse to believe that love can be defined with some kind of dictionary definition. It takes so many different forms, for so many different people, kind of like a boggart. Okay, it might be less predictable than a boggart, and doesn’t necessarily hide in your closet, but is still just as scary. It can jump out at you without warning, consume your life and linger, or disappear without warning. Love has so many textures, shapes, colors and attitudes.It’s impossible to make it stand still long enough to get a good look at it, to examine it from all sides. We’ll never really know what it “is.”
It seems, in the “muggle” world (a world where people’s primary friendships aren’t reliant on the internet) , people in relationships wait for the words “I love you” like waiting for a marriage proposal. It’s as though once “love” has entered the equation, you become merely two embodiments of this “love” and you’re supposed to both work toward the same goals, share the same pleasures and endure the same tragedies. This is all beautiful and lovely, etc. etc. but what if “love” in its nasty, tricky way, takes on different forms for each person? I’ve had people tell me they loved me because they genuinely felt great affection for me, because they wanted something from me, because they felt obligated, because it felt socially correct to do so, or simply because it was convenient.
Since becoming so absolutely consumed by this community in which love is everywhere and everything, I’ve been forced to question whether it is still just as sacred, important and powerful as I thought it was all these years. How can something that is so abundant and so constant remain so valuable? A basic understanding of supply and demand tells me that the more cans of pasta sauce you have, the less your pasta sauce is worth. If pasta sauce is less valuable in abundance, certainly love, which is far less delicious on macaroni, is too.
This may come as a surprise, but I’m forced to conclude that love is different than pasta sauce after all. Even when I tell people who live miles, states, worlds away from me “I love you” every day like I’m offering them a piece of gum, and even though they tell me I’m loved just as often, and even in all of loves many confusing, fleeting and frequently torturous forms, I’m convinced that love is not all those fairy tales made it out to be. It’s more. It retains is value even when supply is high. It’s the greatest weapon we have. God, I hate that sometimes. Just three little words overrule the law of the pasta sauce.