Sorry about that…

15 05 2010

Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

This line, from Erich Segal’s iconic Love Story, made into a film in 1970, captured the corner on schmaltz and pathos. My apologies to those who feel differently.

I remember having no idea what it meant (either in or out of context), but being too dorkily self-conscious to ever admit it. Looking back, it’s probable that I didn’t reside alone in this self-imposed atoll of shame-filled ignorance. Looking back too, it would seem the naked emperor went on being naked, and getting away with it, for an unprecedented span of time.

But back then, even if I may not have got the meaning, I knew I was confused. The confusion materialized in the way I kept trying to unpack and massage some sense out of the tag-line.  If love meant you never had to say sorry, what was it about love that actually made sorry irrelevant? Was it that love obliterated the possibility of causing a partner hurt or distress,  therefore making sorry obsolete?

If so, what would happen in a case (not too far-fetched I’d’ve thought) when a sorry was called for? Would that mean it wasn’t really love in the first place? Did a sorry negate the love? Could they not co-exist?

Or maybe love-meaning-you-never-had-to-say-sorry meant something else. Like, given the love, even if hurt were possible (something that to me seemed highly probable)  apologies expressed in words  were unnecessary because, of course, the love would reign over the hurt, conquer it, render it insignificant in the larger scheme of things. Because love was premised on an inevitable reconciliation. .

But was this superfluity of wordage limited to sorry statements in a love context?  Or was it of broader application? Was the assertion in fact one that claimed love as chemical, passionate, a form of madness, a kind of pathology like mental disease, invoking the hormones and debilitating rational thought; and being all these things (or some, at least),  was love qualitatively of a character that made words redundant, superfluous, even impositive and extraneous?  Were words out of kilter and congruence with the feeling flow? After all, a communication redolent of “sweet nothings” puts very few demands on the words deployed for the purpose.

Then again, maybe tag-lines like Love Story’s don’t need to make sense. They simply need to suggest and provoke, and in so doing, become memorable. I feel the same about the line from the Janis Joplin song – Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose but I’ll save that rumination for another day.

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