Do you remember those “Love is...” cartoons? They had them on stickers and key rings—some cute naked male and female figures looking bashfully at each other? Back when I couldn’t get on with the world, they used to make me sick.
Nowadays, after I’ve endured a cavalcade of mad women and a failing, lengthy marriage—and finally had the sense to go out with someone who clearly likes me—I reckon I could write some of them.
Love is... your girlfriend introducing you to Family Guy, Die Hard, mustard and the books of David Sedaris.
Love is... your girlfriend not complaining when you ring her company and waste her and her staff’s time by pretending to be a business client called Rodrigez Hernandez (every day).
Love is... when your girlfriend takes you to the Belles Rives Hotel in Cap d’Antibes, France, and then laughs when you whip your trunks off and dive into the sea naked to shock the other guests.
Love is... still staying awake for hours in bed giggling after you’ve been going out with each other for a few years.
Love is... the joy of finding the right person—a choice that only age and experience allow us to make. I never got that “old and lonely” thing. I always felt the older you were, the more people there’d be to go out with. I’m just glad that I broke the cycle of choosing inappropriate people to fall for and have finally realised how fun and rewarding a relationship can be.
I was telling this to my mate Liz the other day and she said, “Well, you had enough practice.” I can admit it: I’m having a really good time and it’s never been like this before.
Can Love be Fun?
I’d seen a glimpse of what fun a relationship might be when I was on Mariella Frostrup’s chat show with Bret Easton Ellis and Jane Horrocks years ago. During the show, Horrocks admitted that she and her husband liked to get down on all fours and roam around the house, barking like dogs. That sounded great. Afterwards, she came up to me and in her broadest Lancashire accent said, “I like cocko van,” which sounded, even more, fun.
Sir Paul Smith, the great British fashion designer—and the most playful knight of the realm—once said to me, “It’s important to be childlike, not childish.” We were talking about business but it works in a relationship, too.
My girlfriend often asks me about my “vivid imagination”, if I’ve been “so unusual with other women”, and I reply, “No, you just make me really happy.” She capped this by saying, “I’ve always wanted to go out with someone… mental. I love you.” When I posted that line on Facebook, it got a lot of “likes” and “thumbs up”, not least from people who’ve been very successful and singularly driven, and probably aren’t very normal.
Learning to love
The real thing I’ve learned—particularly from no longer being able to live with my son (I was divorced five years ago)—is that you have to nurture a relationship. You also have to have tolerance, or, at least, be able to say it. The first time my girlfriend and I had a serious row, we were driving and she was really angry with how short-tempered I was about her map reading. In the middle of this tense row, she demanded I be more “torelant” of her. I let her finish and then said with a smile: “Sorry, you want me to be more what?’’
Catching her solecism punctured the heat of the row and she couldn’t stop grinning back. Since then, I’ve tried to be a lot more “torelant” of her.
Kingsley Amis said that losing his libido was like being unchained from an idiot he’d been with. I do feel a relief now that my private life is full of fun, not resentment and anger. A key thing that helped was when my girlfriend told me, “It’s important that the two of us are together and not against each other.” That was a new one for me.
Just before I sat down to write this, I truly discovered the Meaning of Love.
Love is... when you thrust open the door of a darkened bedroom, turn a light on, ask your girlfriend to turn off Radio 4 and insist on reading extracts from Shut It!, the new book about The Sweeney —a programme that aired the year she was born. And her being “torelant” enough to go along with it.
Discover what love is... with Reader's Digest Dating.
James Brown, founder of Loaded magazine now edits Sabotage Times—an online magazine with the motto: "We can't concentrate, why should you?" Since November 2010 James has written over 50 of his popular monthly Reasons To Be Cheerful column in Reader’s Digest, you can read more by clicking here.