Time for a confession. My wife knows this, my daughter knows this, pretty much everyone in my family knows this, so it’s probably appropriate to tell you – the tens of followers of this blog – so you can know it too (and perhaps decide if you want to continue following). I’m not a loveyoubye guy. I’m not. Never have been. I don’t practice it, have never practiced it and really don’t think I’ll ever practice it. And, yes, that puts me out of step with virtually every other human being in the western world (and probably the eastern too – I just don’t understand the languages enough to know for sure). And since this confession doesn’t come with repentance, I probably should explain myself. I should explain why it is I’m willing to live on an island all my own and sow my loveyous a little more sparingly.
What I’m talking about, of course, is the practice of always adding ‘I love you’ to every goodbye spoken to a loved one.
It seems like it started becoming prevalent in the early to mid-nineties. I might be wrong about that – and I’m certainly not saying that no one did it before then – but as far as it being so commonplace, it seems like it’s developed over the last few decades and really hit its stride in the 2000s. I don’t remember my parents’ generation doing it nearly to the extent that it’s done now. We certainly didn’t do it as a family when I was growing up and I don’t remember hearing it all that much at friends’ houses either.
Now, however, EVERYBODY does it (and I realize that sounds like a teenager explaining the rationale for doing something stupid, but in this case it’s not an exaggeration). I honestly don’t know anyone other than me who DOESN’T do it. Even my other family members do it.
Why have I opted out? I just think it’s too much. It’s too much love. It’s too much of a good thing. I know, you’ll say that’s impossible (like complaining about being too rich or too thin), but to me it’s a matter of cheapening a precious phrase. When you say something so often that you stop thinking about what you’re saying, you take the meaning out of the words. In our effort to make sure that everyone we love knows it, I think we’ve lost sight of the weight of the expression. We’re all – okay, YOU’RE all – saying it so often that it’s changed from an expression of commitment and encouragement to essentially a colloquialism. ‘Goodbye’, ‘see you later’, ‘love you’ – they’re all equal words now.
I do understand the origins behind it. It’s partially a response to prior generations’ reticence to ever say it at all. Men – mostly men – in the past weren’t overly effusive in their expressions of love. They took more of a, “Vera, I said ‘I love you’ on our wedding day. If something had changed since then, I’d tell you” approach. I get that. And there’s certainly something to be said for saying it more often than once or twice a year (or decade). But going from rarely saying it to saying it every time we part company seems like going from one ditch to the other. Just because at one time it wasn’t said enough doesn’t necessarily mean we should say it so much that it loses its meaning.
The other thought behind the loveyoubye is that it ensures that if we never see that person again, they at least know we loved them. We don’t have to go through life regretting that we didn’t tell them we loved them when we had the chance. Can I address this directly? I’ve been married 30 years. I have a great marriage to a woman I dearly love. If something tragic happened to her and my last words to her were, “I’m going to work” or “Are you cooking tonight?” or “Keep it real” or “Do we really have to go to the Johnsons’ party this weekend?” or “Yes, I promise I won’t embarrass you by talking to your book club friends” or “Chicken again?” or any number of other run-of-the-mill goodbyes, it’s not going to bother me. As a matter of fact, if something happened to my wife, my last words to her will likely be far down the list of things I’ll worry about. And I know for certain that as she enters paradise it won’t be on her mind either – “Oh thanks for the welcome Saint Peter, but I just can’t get over that husband of mine saying ‘Later dude’ as we parted ways this morning. Kind of ruins heaven for me if I’m honest.”
I realize there IS the other side of this argument. What if I’M the one who dies? Would it be nice for my wife to know that my last words to her were, “I love you” versus “Remember, we’re out of Wheaties”? The reason I bring this up is that this exact scenario came up during a funeral I recently attended. The man giving the eulogy expressed how nice it was that the deceased always told his wife he loved her when he ended any phone call or said goodbye. In this case, it truly was the last thing he said to her. My wife and I weren’t sitting together at the funeral (long story – but we didn’t sit separately because of my refusal to say ‘I love you’), but I could feel her virtual elbow in my ribs as he was speaking. I must admit, it DID make me think. But even so, it doesn’t change my position. I still think making it so ubiquitous cheapens the weight of the expression. No, my wife may not have a great story to tell at my funeral, but I think she might appreciate the ‘I love yous’ more if she knows I’m actually thinking about what I say when I say it.
My last argument against it – and I’m guessing we’ve all had this happen – is that I’ve had people say it to me by mistake just because they’re so used to saying it. Parting ways with a coworker and having him say, “Okay, see you later – love you” and him going on without even realizing what he just said. “Well gee, Bob, I didn’t know you felt that way. How about tomorrow we just eat lunch on our own?” Doesn’t that show it’s lost a lot of its meaning? If we’re so in the habit of saying it that we don’t have to think about it anymore, it’s become rote instead of weighty.
Now please understand, this is a defense not a persuasion. I’m not an anti-loveyoubye evangelist. I’m not trying to bring anyone over to my side. That said, I AM wary of the militant loveyoubyers who won’t tolerate my opt-out. I won’t mention any names, but I have some people in my life who won’t accept the manly goodbye that travels alone. They’ll throw down the loveyoubye and then after my return of serve they’ll come back with, “Hey! What else? And…?” My response to this is typically, “What? Okay – I love you! Whatever!” which doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the loving goodbye.
I also have no problem with people who say it to me. My wife actually read an earlier draft of this post and then later said goodbye to me and threw in a ‘loveyou’ and then immediately said, “Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to say that.” That’s NOT what I’m after (even though it was pretty funny to hear my wife apologize for telling me she loves me and thinking about what that would’ve sounded like if someone else had heard her). I’m totally fine if you’re someone who now says it to me. Feel free to rock on. This statement of faith affects only me.
So there you go. That’s my confession and defense. I realize it’s not exactly worthy of posting on the doors of Wittenberg, but it’s the best I have. And now at least you know who you’re reading. And while you may be thinking to yourself, “I’m so glad I’m not married or related to you”, don’t you also have to admit that I made some valid points that cause you to think? No? Then perhaps you can print this and put it on your refrigerator as a reminder to pray for my wife.
Thanks for reading.
See you later.
Keep it real.
We’re out of Wheaties.