Hamlet lists “the Pain of Despised Love” as the worst of life’s burdens, along with ageing, the oppressor’s wrong, the law’s delay, and the insolence of office. What is this thing called Love? It has been defined by God, priests, poets, Freud, pop stars – even the market – as being generally a good thing. In our day we tend to believe the biologists. Love is a brief flirtation with madness.
It could be argued that we do not take many risks when our hearts hook up. The loved one is usually of the same social group and well within our standards of attractiveness. We do not try to get off with a Hugh Jackman or a Katie Cassidy. Still, the girls of our heart’s desire seem towers of desire swaying on five-inch heels, gorgeous legs right up to the start of their strumpet shorts, a décolleté like a bungee jump, diamond-studded nostrils, mascara and eyelashes as false as a phony Monet. (You probably think this piece is about you, you’re so vain). Guys by comparison look feeble in their covering of tattoos, or their grim suit and tie (hardly changed in a century). Amazing that we ever succeed at all.
One guarantee of successful reproduction is that we go slightly nuts, so as to overlook any blemishes and shortcomings in the partner-to-be. So say the biologists anyway. A hormonal rush to the brain arrives, cancelling good sense and logic long enough to get a loving couple to mate, conceive children and perhaps even stay together long enough to raise them. This is an ancient process observable in most mammals – just take a look at your doggie spinning in madcap circles when he sees a pretty poodle across the street. Yet animals can reproduce only when they are in heat. We humans learn to regulate the hormonal love-rush by employing courtly manners and poetic utterances to calm the feedback from our lovey-dovey affliction.
Speaking of birds, a lot of our love chatter references our feathered friends (in the Sixties your “bird” was your girl). Or consider the mating dance of the Bird of Paradise, or the way poets use bird song to announce the coming nuptials. Yes, birds look upon love with a bright and beady eye. Recently I noticed a couple of quarrelling pigeons in our courtyard. It was sad to see one of them had but a single leg – it seems she had been attacked by a seagull. I hurried down with breadcrumbs to cheer them up. Cheer them up? They danced around me like rappers. Every day I took a handful of bread down to them – and a real understanding grew between us. One day Pa Dove really wanted to demonstrate something. Ma Dove stood there on one leg. Pa Dove hopped up on her and made love, the two of them supported by the one trembling leg. Pa just wanted to prove that one leg did not exclude conjugal rights. Soon after, the hurt leg healed and it emerged from Ma’s downy undercarriage. But when I came down the next day with breadcrumbs, she hauled it up again, perhaps in case I was thinking of halting the mercy meal. Every day I was greeted with joy and as I dropped the breadcrumbs the two hovered above me, their wings fluttering in benediction. Perhaps this is the closest birds can come to making love to us.
Over the last couple of days the couple have changed. The birds do not look at me now. They eat my bread, but only when I’m gone. I do not exist as far as they are concerned.
What went wrong? Something I’ve said? Something I‘ve done? I’m sick as a despised lover…<3