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If you manage to avoid romance and avoid children (and never even allow yourself to fall hard for a niece, a foster child, or any of the kids in the closest elementary school), love may still catch you—in a friendship that surpasses your expectations, one in which you are not only grateful for the friend you have found, you have become the friend you always wanted. This is not the love that fires up advertising agencies (babies and airbrushed models do that), but it is risky, and as powerful as the others. Although I appreciate just-lunch friends and tennis-partner friends and mothers-of-my-children's-playmates friends, they are to true friendships as Britney Spears is to Aretha. True friendship is not about convenience, or even propinquity (although both may help get it started); it is as big an adventure, if not as wild a ride, as romance. In friendship we find jealousy vanquished by trust. We revel in compatibility, secrets, joyful recognition, unexpected understanding, and a communication which rivals and sometimes surpasses that within our family.

And in romance, in friendship, in parenting—in every kind of love that matters—it's just one damned risk after another. We have to love and know that loss hovers nearby. For some of us, that prospect of loss darkens everything. These are the lovers who reject before they are rejected, the ones who seize on every excuse to end it (too short, too old, not enough money, not enough hair). The knowledge that love ends—by divorce, by death, or sometimes by our own or our partner's limitations—makes some of us, crying about the unfairness of life, end it before it begins. Others of us only manage to love with denial; these are the people who react to other people's breakups with anger and drop the divorced and the widowed from their social calendar, as if loss is contagious; they treat their adolescents as little children (and their dogs as babies) and fight all signs of age with graceless, even pointless weapons.
 
And then there are the rest of us: lucky and scared, hating to be disappointed, sorry to be disappointing, but unwilling to do without. For all the ants at the picnic and the jellyfish in the ocean, for all the love we have that goes astray or is never returned or is shared until old age, only to have our hearts broken by a parting no less painful, we clamor for that chance and we wouldn't have it any other way. If you love, there is no other way.

Amy Bloom is the author of
 A Blind Man Can See I Love You.

More on Relationships
Martha Beck helps you make the lover's leap
Why disappointment might mark the beginning of real love
How not to lose yourself when you finally meet him

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