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Words: Loved

Martini, on a dark bar, with liquor bottles in the background
Martini. Image source: J. V. Speyer

How do you perceive love, when it’s shown to you?


I guess you could say this relates to “love languages,” or “languages of appreciation.”  It’s not so much about how you show love or appreciation, but about what flicks that switch for you. What makes you sit up and take notice that someone truly loves you?


For me, it’s little gestures that demonstrate a knowledge of me as a person. My mom has mobility issues, and she can’t get out and about much anymore. She clips articles from the local paper back in my hometown – yes, a physical paper, with newsprint and all – about research items that will interest me or which of my classmates have gone to jail. She personally finds… well, almost everything that interests me to be morbid beyond belief, but whenever she sees an article about the 1918-9 Influenza epidemic in Syracuse she cuts it out all the same.


Because my mom loves me.


I went to a conference this weekend, and I ordered a martini from the hotel bar. I won’t get into some of the quirks about this hotel, but suffice it to say my expectations weren’t high. I still craved the comfort of a simple gin martini. Those of you who know me in person know how I feel about a martini, even a mediocre martini in a red Solo cup.


I was expecting something at about the minimum level. Not only had there been some issues before, but the bar was getting slammed. I’d have screwed up my martini, and I can make martinis in my sleep.


The bartender (Cheryl) didn’t make my martini like there were thirty other romance writers all looking to get their drink on. She took her time. She chilled my glass. When it wasn’t chilled enough to her satisfaction, she let it sit a little while longer until it was ready. She crafted this simplest of cocktails like her life, or mine, depended on it.


I felt perfectly loved in that moment.


Now, realistically speaking, Cheryl does not love me. Cheryl loves doing her job well, and she loves tips. She probably loves the people in her life very much too. But the way she made me feel, when she paid so much attention to that one drink, did make me feel loved.


I know some people who feel most loved when they receive gifts from their partner. The gifts don’t have to be big, or expensive. What makes them feel loved is that their partner was thinking of them while they were away from them. While this is a perfectly valid way for adults to show affection for one another, it’s also a great way to put a smile on a kid’s face.


Some people need physical contact in order to feel loved, and the more of it they can get the happier they are. These are the people who always need to be holding hands, or draped over their person on the couch even on a 95 degree day with six more feet of couch space left.


One of the workshops I took this weekend was about building characters, and making them more three dimensional. Something I know I don’t necessarily include in the planning process is exactly this – what makes Bob The Beer Faerie or whoever I’m writing about feel loved?  I know I should include it, and put more into it, but I’ve also generally assumed they all perceive love the same way I do.


Which doesn’t make sense, if you think about it. Half my characters don’t drink. No one’s going to win their heart with a well-crafted martini.


In all seriousness, I think I’ve been overlooking a great opportunity for conflict and drama. Who needs a super villain when you could have a character who needs a lot of physical contact to feel love paired up with someone who loves them, but finds that level of PDA off-putting?  Or just winds up needing their hands free a lot?


Not that you can’t have a super villain and that kind of incompatibility.


Part of the challenge in writing romance, in particular, is that so many of our responses are hard-wired, it can be hard to recognize they exist never mind plan for them in our characters. It’s a fun challenge, but it can still be hard to tease out the little quirks and the reasons.


Seriously, I want to know. How do you perceive love coming from someone else, be it romantic love, familial love, or platonic love?  How do you show love, and is it different from how you receive it?

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