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  • Sometimes, and it often happens in bed, we face an acute test at the hands of a lover

  • to whom we have pledged our affections. We are asked, with little warning, and in a serious

  • tone: 'What do you love me for?' Few moments in a relationship can be as philosophical

  • as thisor as dangerous. A good answer has the power to confirm and enhance the union;

  • a bad one could blow it apart. As we try to make headway, we immediately recognise that

  • we can't simply say 'everything'. We're being asked to make choicesand our love

  • will be deemed sincere to the extent that the choices feel accurate to their recipients.

  • The fundamental assumption behind the enquiry is that there are better and worse things

  • to be loved for. It isn't the brute fact that we are liked that can count; the liking

  • has to target certain of our best characteristics as we define them. Which in turn implies that

  • there are parts of our minds and our bodies that feel as though they better contain our

  • 'essential selves' than others. We areif we can put it like thisnot equally

  • present in all parts of ourselves. When it comes to the body, there appears to

  • be more of 'us' in our hands than in our heels and, when it comes to the mind, more

  • of 'us' in our sense of humour than in our knowledge of the seven times table. If

  • a malevolent demon were to force us to give up a bit of our minds, it might be better

  • from the point of view of maintaining the continuity of our essential selvesto

  • surrender our ability to speak a foreign language than to wipe out our taste in musicjust

  • as it would be more bearable to suffer a change in the shape of our big toe than in the profile

  • of our nose. To be told that we have a 'loveable mind'

  • may be a good start, but not much more. There are likely to be many things that this mind

  • can do quite well: lay a table, drive safely down a motorway, prepare a household budget,

  • remember geographical facts. But such talents seldom feel gratifying when singled out, because

  • of their intrinsically generic nature. Someone who loved us for these skills alone would

  • have few reasons why they might not equally well wander away and love someone else at

  • another point, which is the very risk we are trying to ward off and are looking for the

  • right compliment to appease. The skills it's touching to be praised for

  • are those in which some of our uniqueness can be observed, for example: in the way we

  • prepare the icing of a birthday cake, pick songs for a drive through the desert, analyse

  • a historical novel, discuss a friend's love affair or lightly tease a frustrating colleague

  • without ruffling their dignityIf someone has started to notice such details, then he

  • or she starts to feel like a reliable candidate to whom to get attached. Their love has become

  • specific rather than generic. It is in the end a good deal more gratifying for a lover

  • to pay us a small compliment about the deft way we are able to dislodge a relative from

  • a sulk than to be declared a sensational human for knowing the capital of New Zealand or

  • the way to calculate the diameter of a circle. But, to add further complexity to our demands,

  • it isn't enough just to be admired. We also want a true lover to feel well disposed towards

  • our vulnerabilities. Whatever our degree of competence, we are never far from moments

  • of fear, ignorance, humiliation, childlikeness and sadnessand it is these moods too

  • that we long for a lover to have the strength to feel generous towards. It may be pleasant

  • to be found impressive, but it is more reassuring to discover that our vulnerability is ready

  • to be treated with generosity; that we are with someone who will allow us to be sad,

  • discomfited and weepy, who has spotted that we sometimes bite our nails and worry about

  • work late at night. We don't bluntly want to awe a lover, we want permission to be,

  • every now and then, at wits end. We want them to have sufficient faith in our powers that

  • they can be unfrightened by our periods of fragility. We need to know that the child

  • in us has been seen and won't appall. 'I love you for being a hero,' would be an

  • eerie pronouncement. 'I love you for being a child,' would be equally alienating. But

  • 'I love the sad child I occasionally glimpse in you beneath your resourceful adult day

  • to day self' comes as close as one can imagine to the epicentre of love.

  • Our hopes for what role our body will play in eliciting love follow a comparable pattern.

  • Here too, sweeping generic praise feels like the work of someone who might not notice if

  • our body was replaced by that of another in the night. It might be true that we have 'lovely

  • eyes' or 'soft hair' but exactly the same words could be said with accuracy to

  • millions of others, just as a host would not want to hear thanks for a 'nice dinner'

  • but rather praise for the hint of dill in the lemon sauce or for the seating arrangement

  • that allowed political opposites to be reconciled. In the detail lies proof that someone cares.

  • Some of the best kinds of praise about the body are psycho-physical, that is, they praise

  • a physical aspect in order to highlight a psychological quality. They reassures us that

  • our physical envelopes have been connected up with the most loveable sides of our personalities.

  • A perceptive lover might say: I like the way your smile is slightly different

  • on each side of your mouth. One side is warm and welcoming, the other is thoughtful and

  • a bit melancholy. You're not merely smiling, it seems like you're thinking deeply as

  • you smile. Or: There is a charming thing you do with

  • your eyelids when you are listening, half bringing them down in a quizzical way. It

  • feels like you're saying 'I don't totally believe you' but it's really an encouragement;

  • there's an invitation, as if you were adding: 'but come on, give me the real truth, I

  • know you're holding back the best bits because you worry you won't be understoodbut

  • you will be. You're safe with me.' Or: There's this great thing you do with

  • your thumb and middle finger when you get excited by an idea. It's as if you're

  • feeling the quality of a piece of silkas if you're touching a thought with your fingers.

  • Or: I'm slightly in love with the freckle on your upper left arm. It's a bit like

  • you, quietly saying 'here I am, I'm me; nothing special but I'm happy with who I

  • am.' It's poised and unshowy but confident of its power to attract those who get it.

  • I love that it was there when you were little and that it's been with you every day since.

  • In the art of caricature, an artist looks closely at the face and body of a politician

  • and then carefully pick out details with whose help we can be taught to forever hate and

  • mock them. The caricaturist will spot a slight jump at the end of the nose, a pair of unusually

  • large earlobes, a somewhat wavy curl of hair or knobbly set of knees. They will then place

  • such emphasis on these details that we will never be able to overlook them againnor

  • cease despising the unfortunate politicians who possess them. One way to think of love

  • is as a comparable yet entirely compassionate process, whereby the lover studies their beloved

  • minutely and latches on to elementsan index finger, the inside of a knee, a shoulder

  • blade or a way of closing the eyesthat become the touchstones of affection, part

  • of the many apparently tiny but in reality hugely sound reasons why one person has come

  • to admire and love another. We can add that, just as with the mind, it

  • is frequently vulnerability in these bodily details that charms. It is the little toe

  • and the little finger that seduce more than the thighs or thorax. It is the hand that

  • curls up as it must have done in childhood. It is the thin nape of the neck normally hidden

  • behind a confident mane of hair. It is a delicate wrist through which run intricate greenish

  • veins. Within an otherwise mature body, we are seeing hints of an endearing and more

  • fragile earlier self, to whom we offer our sympathy, protection and reassurance.

  • The question of what we have found to love in someone should not frighten us. We simply

  • need to give ourselves the time to trace back our enthusiasms to their authentic sources,

  • while remembering that love is liable to collect with particular intensity in the most vulnerable

  • and improbably small nooks of the self.

Sometimes, and it often happens in bed, we face an acute test at the hands of a lover

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B1 中級

你為什麼愛我? (What Do You Love Me For?)

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    林宜悉 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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