What Love Feels Like for Men
The feeling: A case of the chills and fever.
This sounds like a plot point from a Louisa May Alcott book, but I swear it's true: When my future wife and I had our first long conversation, it was an extremely cold night in Boston. I was already sick, but didn't want to cut off the conversation. The result: pneumonia that lasted me right through the holidays. It was worth it.
The feeling: A release from family values (for a little while).
My father is an accountant and we were raised to value each dollar. If we were to buy something, he demanded we do the proper research and consider what it would mean for our budget. When I met my wife, however, I suddenly felt the urge to buy any and everything that I thought she might like: way-too-expensive leather boots, vintage soul records and dumb souvenir mugs. Recently I was in New York and walked by a street vendor selling antique earrings. I already had more than enough gifts for our anniversary (which wasn't for another month) but they just looked so much like her. Remembering my roots, however, I offered a little less than the sticker price.
The feeling: An urge to spill big secrets.
My wife's mother might not be the best secret keeper in the world, and yet I really needed to tell her I was proposing to her daughter (having told her father two weeks prior). So, I waited until the last second, pretended to my wife I was going running and called her mom on my cell phone. She started to cry. Sob, really. And then she said, "Let me pull my car over." Next time, I will know to check if she is operating heavy machinery before passing along highly classified good news. That night, I asked my wife to marry me—before her mother had the chance to tell her first.
The feeling: A slip into open negativity.
Being positive is, by nature, a good thing. But I knew I was truly in love when I felt relaxed enough to be dark, anxious and a little whiney. Not long ago, I called her to complain, first about how much work I had to do, and then about how I needed to go to the emergency room for what appeared to be a spider bite that had gotten out of control in a matter of hours. Her response, after showing the appropriate level of concern when one may be dying (worst case) or in the process of turning into a superhero (best case): "Can you take a picture? I'd like to see it." It's like that pillow your grandmother crocheted for you: Love means looking at alarming spider bites.
The feeling: A willingness to bear firearms.
When I met my wife, I'd never been to the South, where she'd been born and lived her first 22 years. My family's New England holidays are always pretty quiet affairs; the loudest thing is a disagreement between the announcers in the football game. Thanksgiving with my in-laws in Alabama, however, was full of the tocking of outdoor pingpong, the growl of three-wheelers, the blast of shotguns and the corresponding shattering of clay pigeons. I adored it all (and her even more)—and was even told I "looked like a real shooter" despite missing the target 99 percent of the time.
The feeling: An openness to love all around.
Something about being in love made me more available to it. I went from rarely saying "I love you," to being one of those people who says it to his family, his dog, his friends, his plumber, his plants and sometimes, his shoes.
James Scott is the author of the novel The Kept.