Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Wrong Love Song

Are you the one Bruno Mars regrets?

When he sings, “I hope he buys you flowers, and holds your hand, gives you all his hours, when he has the chance,” is he wishing he hadn’t taken you for granted?

Bruno croons that he was wrong and that he knows it’s probably too late to apologize for his mistakes.

He says the loss of you haunts him every time he closes his eyes.

And the problem with that is:

We all want to be you.

We all think we are that girl. In so many break ups we just know that boy doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s going to regret leaving me.

Someday, like Mariah said, the one you gave away will be the only one you’re wishing for.

And then Bruno agrees: he does wish for her, for me, for you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re twelve and suffering your first rejection as I was when Mariah told me that there would be a time when that boy would be cold and lonely but I wouldn’t need his love anymore.

Or if you’re 19 and Alanis Morissette tells you he’ll feel it when you scratch your nails down someone else’s back.

Or Natalie Merchant suggests sometimes when he makes love to her he might say your name.

We all want to be the one that got away.

It softens the heartache a bit to know that breaking up was a bad choice. It’s a little easier to digest the rejection when we know it will be regretted later.

There’s a great scene in When Harry Met Sally when Sally finds out her ex is getting married and wails, “Why didn’t he want to marry me? What’s wrong with me?”

Even if we can’t see this man as our future life companion, we want him to see us as his. There are exceptions, of course, no one wants a stalker. But on the whole it feels good to feel wanted.

Although sometimes  that want comes too late to do anything but regret the way things turned out.

A decade after my last break up I still wonder if that boy thinks of me as the one that got away. I’ve written stories about the deep regret of ruining the best relationship you’ll ever have.

So I get you, Bruno Mars, I do.

The thing is most relationships are not that. Most relationships are passing ships in the night. Some more fun and rewarding than others, but all fleeting to some extent. Only the very rare relationships are lasting.

My grandparents were married 62 years. In the final years my Papa exhibited the kind of heroic devotion we see in movies, hear in songs, and dream of in fairytales. All too often that devotion is impossible. But he had the chance.

He brought her flowers. He held her hand. He took her to parties because he knew she loved to dance.

He did all the things he should have done.

And to the end, he was her man.

I don’t think Bruno has it wrong and I don’t think we should stop wishing for that level of devotion. I just think we should foster it while we have the chance. Devote ourselves to building that love. Don’t let regret be our legacy. There is no revenge that can replace the nurture of abiding love.

But a love like that doesn’t show up like lightening.

Such love is not a miracle, it’s a habit. In the things we do, the things we say, the way we treat one another, respond to one another, praise and feel proud of one another. The kind of love we want is not the achy breaky heart torn in pieces and sizzling with regret.

Real love is not selfish or unkind, it does not mock or take satisfaction in being right. Love is patient.

Not everyone we love will love us back, but given love is never wasted. If we’re lucky enough to be able to nurture it and watch it grow, it can be more rewarding than the self-righteousness of enjoying another’s regret.

That’s the song I want to hear. So thanks, Alan Jackson, for “Remember When”

Remember when you were the first and so was I. We made love and then you cried.

and thanks, Shenandoah, for “I Want to be Loved Like That.”

A promise you can’t take back. I want to be loved like that.

Have you had the good fortune to witness an abiding love? Leave a comment and tell us about it.


  1. My wonderfully insightful daughter, you have spoken volumes in this blog. As I reflect back on your Nana and PaPa's love and devotion for each other, I know now why our family has always been so blessed and why we all strive for that kind of love and devotion in our own relationships. I am so glad you have been able to witness such love and devotion and my prayer is for you and Charlie to have the same kind of relationship.

    1. Thanks, mom. I think it starts with recognizing that the love we want is worth working for and working on.


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