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When Should You Say I Love You?

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When Should You Say I Love You?

Dear Uncle Slash,
When is it too early to say I love you in a new relationship?
A couple weeks or a couple months? Help!
Sincerely,
Lost at sea

Dear Lost At Sea,
Up until I moved to New York, I’ve always been a jump-first-tumble-head-over-heels-ask-WTF-later sort of guy. Ask my mom, my sisters, my friends and my exes and they’ll all tell you the same thing – I am a romantic nut wrapped in a very unique romantic nutshell.

As a result, I rarely land on my feet.

The problem with being me is that I often end up waking up in strange bedrooms in not-so-exotic locations with no memory of where the last three years of my life went while repeating the lyrics from the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime “You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” while dreaming of a well-lit Thomas Kinkade painting.

Romantics like myself are as likely to fall in love with clouds and the moon as we are dogs in the dog park. Many of my first dates have been known to last between six hours and a year and I’m famous for falling in love at least a dozen times each day on my way from my apartment to the subway.

In my estimation, there should be more love in the world, not less. Unfortunately, the rest of the world never got the memo – something confirmed by my recent “I Love You Cashier” experiment.

A few weeks ago, I decided to test my hypothesis that our culture is more attuned to dealing with negativity and hate than positive vibes and love. As a result, I wanted to see how strangers reacted to hearing the phrase, “I love you.”
For an entire week, every time I made a purchase I decided to say “I love you” to the cashier. During this time, I said, “I love you” exactly 24 times (I saved the receipts for the sake of of science) to 24 different men and women in 24 different locations around New York City.

Here’s what I discovered. 1) There are 24 simple ways to create a deer-in-the-headlights look 2) There are also 24 simple ways to make yourself feel really awkward in public. 3) Sometimes when it’s silent and you’re uncomfortable you can hear crickets.

The interesting thing I find (although I have no plans to test this theory) is that if I’d said “I hate you,” to these same 24 people, I suspect their reactions would have been very different. Most of us react to negativity immediately. We either get sad or angry. Yet, when we hear something positive, like a compliment or the words “I love you,” most of us get uncomfortable and silent.

Which makes me curious, Lost at Sea, why you’re in such a hurry to use the “L” word. What are you hiding with your need to give your love? Perhaps, behind it is a fear of receiving love? Perhaps, you need to look at this fear and begin to cultivate your skills at receiving rather than giving. And why so quick to call it a relationship? When I said “I love you” to those 24 different cashiers, it didn’t change the context of our relationship or our relationship status.

Metaphorically speaking it will always and never be the right time to tell the cashier at Wal-Mart that you love him if you don’t know him. The secret is to create the right context. Spend some time getting to know this cashier. Ask him out. Go out on a few dates. Go out on a few more dates. Got out on a few more dates. And then wait.

We live in such a fast world these days. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an app soon that will answer your very question based on some obscure algorithm – once you type in your prospective lover’s vitals it’ll give you a timeline for saying the “L” word.

Since moving to NYC, I’ve found that the dating world is full of people wanting to give so much so soon. They want to give their lips, their bodies, their money and their lives to someone else so fast, that they’re missing out on the very secret to love. Love is something that happens through us. It’s not something we’re in control of.

If you find yourself “in like” with someone I suggest saying, “I like you.” Then, when you’ve moved beyond that phase, I suggest using the phrase “La, La, La, La” (borrowing from a song I wrote that includes the phrase, “I La, La, La, La, La, La, La I really La-ike you. You can google Slash Coleman Love Doesn’t Lie to listen to it). Just whispering, “La La La La,” in a guys ear will be a total turn on. Then, when you’ve moved beyond the like phase, and you’re not quite at the love phase yet, I suggest adding the word “L@ve” to your repertoire. It’s a safer way to spell what you’re feeling.

If love is meant to be it just happens. It has a mind of it’s own. You can’t slow it down. You can’t speed it up. We just don’t have the ability to control love by using the words “I love you” too soon or too late. The best you can do is to prepare yourself for the fateful day when love arrives. Until then, chill out on a beach blanket somewhere and enjoy your slightly uncomfortable view between like and love and something entirely unknown.

Best to you,
Uncle Slash

Author’s Books and Downloads

Best known for his PBS Special and Off-Broadway one man show “The Neon Man and Me,” and a recipient of the 2012 United Solo Festival award for Best Drama, award winning storyteller Slash Coleman has been a featured performer at nearly every storytelling festival in the United States, dozens of universities, conferences, community art organizations and most recently in the NPR series, “How Artists Make Money.” The author of the “The Bohemian Love Diaries” (Lyons Press), a recent TEDx speaker, and a regular contributor to Storytelling Magazine, Slash’s latest work was published in Unstuck (Voyageur Press) and the internet dating anthology Robot Hearts (Pinchback Press). He is also a personal perspectives blogger for Psychology Today and contributes under the title “The Bohemian Love Diaries: How our Quest for the L-word Impacts our Creative Spirit.” Currently at work as the writer/host/producer of a second PBS special entitled “The New American Storyteller,” Slash currently resides in New York City and splits his time between performing and writing new material for the stage, film, and television.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jason Matthews

    Oct 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I love you, Slash, for doing this experiment and sharing it even though I too would feel awkward hearing it from a stranger. It’s a shame that I would but our alerts go up like, “what does this person want from me to say that out of the blue?” Love can hint to things like sex, commitment and more. There’s a similar thing I do with strangers that is way less polarizing but does have some notable effects. I say with conviction “God bless you,” when strangers sneeze. Not “bless you” but “God bless you” because the reaction is more interesting. I think some people really like it and others wander of contemplating why it bugs them.

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