“I love it and hate it at the same time.”
“It’s a love/hate relationship.”
These are phases we hear time and time again. They’re tossed around loosely and confidently, as if they explain everything about a given subject. They also imply that the issuer of said phrase has a capacity for understanding and appreciating completely opposite viewpoints. Not only do they understand both sides, they feel both sides of the story. Which, in a vacuum, is impressive.
Hang on. Aren’t love and hate antonyms? (According to thesaurus.com, they are.) So aren’t they by nature contradictory? (According to dictionary.com, they are.) Well, then, isn’t it impossible to love and hate something at the same time? (In theory, it is.)
But these phrases are ubiquitous, especially in New York, a city in which people tend to feel strongly about things. A city in which people are unafraid to take dramatic stances. Still, however self assured you are, can you be confident in polar opposite directions simultaneously?
Until about ten minutes ago, I hated writing this column. I usually love writing this column.
Ten minutes ago I was starting hour 15 of an arduous work day, so it’s not hard to understand why I would have rather been in bed, or at one of my favorite bars, Max Fish, on the night of its shuttering. Plus, I had no idea what I was going to write about. I just knew I had to write. So I hated this column, which I usually love.
I pondered whether it was possible that I loved it and hated it at the same time. I think I’ll write about these ubiquitous phrases, I thought. Then I started writing. And I loved this column again.
So really, I didn’t love and hate the column. I loved or hated the column. My feelings toward the column were determined by the dynamic of my relationship towards writing it. This is not insignificant. Like thunderstorms and mischievous children, writing is one of the few things with the cosmic juice to qualify as either loveable or hateable.
Most stuff that shares this juice and invites clichéd love/hate guffawing is similarly transformative in nature (to writing, children, and storms): going to the gym or church (you hate going then love having gone); cooking dinner at the end of a long day (odious exertion followed by smug pride); rooting for your favorite sports team (euphoric cheering then emasculating vulnerability).
Most people, I think, mistake loving and hating something at the same time for loving and hating the same thing under different circumstances.
But, then, do we just toss out the “and; same time” phrase and file it as an ignorant bastardization of human emotion and standard usage practices? That seems harsh. There must be some things that are actually possible to love and hate at the exact same time. THERE MUST BE A REASON I’M WRITING THIS COLUMN. Yes, there are—you just have to be careful about whether or not the feelings are truly able to occupy the same space at the same time.
There may be only one thing a person can love and hate simultaneously: loved ones. Why? Because the only intangibly irrational feeling in the world is love. The very nature of love revolves around placing someone else’s interests and comfort above yours, and feeling physically good about that. You actually derive more pleasure from another’s well-being than your own. Which is insane, because your personal well-being is the most viscerally tangible and feel-able thing in the entire universe.
But for family, for significant others, we do that. We love them because they mean more to us than ourselves, liberate us from original selfishness, give us a divine purpose. We hate them because in relieving us of our own grotesquely self-absorbed human nature they rob us of a fundamental power: the ability to make ourselves happy. They’re not Chinese food, which we love during and hate after but control throughout. They rob us of free emotional will at all times, and that makes things simultaneously easier and harder. Which is, appropriately, another circumstantially legitimized contradiction.
True love/hate does exist. So don’t throw it away, but don’t use it lightly. It’s as rare but ubiquitous as those we care about most.
Featured image courtesy of Find Your Tattoo