My Search for Love at the Mall
There have been many songs written about love. Many musicians have tried to define it, many filmmakers have attempted to depict it, and the rest of us have tried to find it.
For some love is about as real as pink unicorns and mermaids and for others it’s as true as the sky is blue.
My love of spending money which I shouldn’t be spending means that I’m in malls a lot. I will then, unintentionally, find myself on a mall safari.
Mall safari, you ask? It is an excursion in which one is free to meander in the habitat of wild adolescent couples.
This species wastes no time in finding “love” and showing it to the world which encouraged them to find it in the first place. They make their way around the mall, hands tightly gripped from Ster Kinekor to Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Momentarily they pause for a lover’s glance before batting their eyelashes and planning how they’re going to elope (okay, so maybe I’m joking about the last one).
There are usually ripped jeans involved and sneakers so expensive I could snatch them off their feet and buy lunch for a whole month.
Learning Love at the Mall
Once I’ve used up enough money to consider myself half-broke, but with enough left to pay the exorbitant parking fee, I have no choice but to go window shopping. I then learn more about what love is.
Love sounds like the ring of the tills at La Senza. It tastes like chocolate milkshakes from Mugg & Bean, and smells like cinema-style popcorn. Most significantly, love looks like a happy feeling coated in pink lipstick, winged-eyeliner and blonde tips.
The trip doesn’t end there. I am as fond of teenage romance as one can possibly be, but the heart melts at the sight of elderly couples. Their “oldness” hasn’t blown away the shoots of their love as wind does the leaves in autumn.
Here love echoes the tap of a walking stick. It resembles the sheen of silver-grey hair. It has the taste of early morning coffee with two sugars and no milk. It smells like comfy car seats on the way to Sunday Mass. To an elderly married couple, love means something quite different to the teenage lovers at the movies.
But back to the mall. Since my desire to “ooh” and “aah” at clothes has not been sated, I trot along to a shoe store, promising myself that I will buy leather boots. On my way, I will pass posters and big screens advertising make-up that I should wear once I’m in love, and fragrances that I should own once I have decided how I would like to show this love.
Shopping malls have a funny way of playing music that I enjoy so that I stay in them longer. So, while I’m on my way to look at shoes I’ll never buy, I have countless voices in my ear saying “oooooh baby” and “I’m so into you”, and most noticeably, “this is love”. By this point I’m not sure what type of love to believe in or hope for.
It is usually then that I’ll come across the in-between couples. These are the serious, all-knowing he/she-is-the-one couples. There’s maybe an engagement ring somewhere, and future in-laws close by.
I will from time to time see a bridal party, sashes and all. Somewhere, somehow there is a best friend panicking about what gift to get and whether she’ll make the upcoming bridesmaid elections.
Love for the in-between couples seems to be banter of “Where are we going for dinner?” and “I miss you”, and most importantly, “I love you”. There’s usually also a secret plan to export undesired relatives.
We’re Left Wanting by this World
By the time I’ve reached my car and start travelling home to procrastinate studying, the many folds of love have entered my brain and I’m pondering the meaning of them all.
What is love? Is it out there? Is it bad that I’m too afraid of getting heartbroken, that I’d rather cross the Serengeti, lions and all, than to fall in love? Doesn’t love make people all soft and gooey? Yuck. Do they mean it when they say love is blind? What does that even mean?
Which brings me to Christopher West, whose visit to South Africa I am keenly anticipating for the answers to many of my questions. He’ll be speaking at a conference in September on love and everything that goes with it.
He doesn’t approach love with the same childishly tentative rationale that I do. This world-renowned Catholic speaker on life, love and sexuality is married with five children. If that doesn’t require love I don’t know what does.
He has already helped me understand how God wants us to understand love.
For more information on Christopher West’s visit go to www.tobsa.co.za or call 078 584-0886.