The Importance of Feeling Like a Fool—A Love Story

A few years ago, after an amicable parting of the ways with my ex, I found myself single and as time passed, I decided to try online dating. One of the strangest, but most intriguing and redemptive things I learned in the process is that love makes everyone feel like a fool. The best thing about this very human situation, is that there is no way around it…only through it. Which means we are all in it together.

In almost any culture you care to study, there are rules and rituals of courtship. Online dating tends to warp many of them—swipe left or right, please. Still, romantic love has a solid claim on the imaginations of today’s artists, poets, songwriters and sirens of all persuasions living in the digital culture. Never mind the cold mechanics of digital life, love is still considered among the most essential activities a human being can partake in.

If seeking and finding love is something many of us, arguably those of us who might need it most, wish to do, then why do we fear it so much? Maybe it’s because courtship reveals our flaws. Done well, pursuing love demands a surrender of the ego if we are to win the prize we seek—deep, true love.

When I embarked on my quest to find love online, I built my profile, took a kajillion photos of myself, discarded all but three, and started a spate of dating that lasted three months. During that time, I was stalked, stood up, outrageously propositioned and subjected to all manner of unmannerly things. I felt like a fool. Worse, it left me feeling cynical and hardened. I nearly gave up.

Instead, I made myself a deal. I’d keep at it until the end of the summer. If I didn’t find the right person, I planned to get a dog. Oh, and I stayed true to my own values. Under no circumstances would I be rude or unkind to anyone.

On Labor Day weekend, the last bookend of the summer, I was scrolling through photos of stray dogs from the local shelter when I got a beautiful email from a man who turned out to be the guy. Today, this man is my beloved husband. We kiss, we argue, we forget things, we apologize, we kiss again. Every day is a tumble of human moments strung together to make a life worth living.

My point here is definitely not to school you on how to find your true love online. Rather, I wish to remind us all that before we can fall in love, the ego must take the first fall. I mean trip and stumble, knock over the waiter and spill the red wine on the white tablecloth kind of fall.  Without such a pratfall, the ego will lure us into wanting to look cool and be cool. It’s a sham. If it dupes you, you could end up with a hallow love-seeking persona—hardly attractive.

I learned the hard way that love is messy, awkward, cringe-worthy, goo-prone (I recall heaving a sloppy sneeze on our third date and my now husband offering me his clean gentleman’s hanky) and that most people are quirky and often strange. Discovering their kindness demands discernment. Learning how to give and take and make good love requires grit. I like what David Foster Wallace, a writer of many tragic turns, wrote about love—that it is about, “Being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”

As far as I know, there is no such thing as loving wisely if you also expect to love well. Make a mess. Feel foolish. It’s the only way.

Happy Valentine’s Day!



Photo Credit: Photo by Jordan Bauer on Unsplash