February 5, 2010

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

The true reality of love shines through in many ways

Patti LambLast week, I watched a segment of a popular reality show on television.

The premise of this matchmaking show is that a couple of dozen women are courted by one man until he whittles the crowd of his admirers down to one woman. This happens over the course of several months, and drama unfolds in every episode until the conclusion of the season’s series. That’s when the man gives the woman a multi-carat diamond engagement ring.

The women from whom he chooses are gorgeous. Their teeth are bleached white, their skin is flawless and they never have a hair out of place. And, of course, their bodies are those of fitness models.

Why they call them “reality” shows is beyond me.

At one point in the show, a woman was telling her suitor, after just having met him, why she is qualified for the role of wife-to-be. The dreamy bachelor gazed into her eyes and listened intently as she talked about settling down—at age 23. Then the camera zoomed in on the couple, both in bathing suits, as they embraced.

Agitated at the superficial display and the mockery it made of love, I called my husband into the room and spun into a tirade.

“Don’t these people know that there is more to a relationship than looks?” I spouted. “I hope they like what’s inside of each other once the wrapping comes off.”

The next afternoon, I visited my aunt and uncle, now in their 80s. The husband and wife, married 57 years, have seen their share of bumps over the course of their relationship. They lost a son at a young age. My aunt’s health has declined. She has poor eyesight, and her body is crooked from arthritis. Still, my uncle remains her biggest fan. He walks behind her like a shadow, taking care that she does not fall.

During our visit, I noticed their wedding picture on a table beside the sofa. They were the most glamorous-looking couple that I’d ever seen. My uncle was tall, dark and handsome, and my aunt looked like she was straight out of a fashion magazine.

As we age, our bodies change. That is the reality. Gravity sets in. Our bones weaken and curve. Our hair thins and our waistbands thicken. Wrinkles and age spots appear. Aches creep in. We slow down. Perhaps our memories and our eyesight begin to fail us. All of this happens despite our attempts at restoration.

But we must remember: The body is merely a vehicle for the soul.

I realize there is a physical element to it all. But despite what the reality show editors claim, sex is not love, and love is not sex. That’s just one expression of love.

Love is manifested in so many more ways. It’s driving to three stores to find the perfect tie for your son’s first Communion. It’s bringing a milkshake home for your daughter after the surgical removal of her wisdom teeth. It’s spending your savings on a page magnifier so your wife can read her favorite books despite macular degeneration.

I don’t think love necessarily subscribes to the Valentine’s Day Club. Love is not as obvious as chocolate, roses and diamonds.

It’s a subtle elbow nudge between sisters when something funny is said.

It’s a yellowed, handwritten note from an old friend, a note that you run across in an old book.

The physical, what we can see, fades. But love remains.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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