love.

Love.

We should fall in love like teenagers. There is nothing lukewarm about their relationships. They’re bold, unafraid and hopeful. Teenage love has the ability to be the rawest, most simplified version of love we will ever experience. They’re sappy, walking around on Cloud Nine, doodling names on their notebooks. Love at this age is often dismissed and yet they open themselves completely, willing to take what we as adults call a “wild risk”. They are labeled as irresponsible and careless because they have no worry about consequences. This comes with the lack of experience of negative effects, but it also comes with simply caring about nothing else quite as much as that other person. Their selfishness puts their own wants and emotions at the center of the universe and that love drives them, regardless of who it affects. Maybe being young, dumb and in love was actually the smartest, most honest thing we’ve ever done.

As adults, we’re more guarded with our emotions. Our hearts are less open and vulnerable. We think about consequences, compare life goals, and have ten-foot walls of brick and mortar. Only the strongest of wills can break through. What if we never experienced heartache and could go back in time? Would we still love with blinders on?

We throw the term around like it’s confetti and often lose sight that it’s bigger than we are, like a force of nature that can’t be controlled. It comes by grace, of its own will and its own timing, subject to no humans planning. You can invite it but you can’t dictate how, where or when love expresses itself. You can choose whether to surrender to it, or not, but it’s like lightning. Unpredictable and irrefutable.

Love is one of the most studied and least understood of all human behaviors. What is it about a person that makes us fall in love with them? The sense of euphoria, intrusive thoughts and desire creep in and grab you with both hands in a choke hold. When you talk about falling in love, you sometimes sound deranged. You feel a sense of consummate passion, obsession, and possession, swept up in something over which you have little control. Your only hope is that they have a straight jacket in your size and it’s a flattering color.

Women are romantics, even if they won’t admit to it. We continue to believe in the fairy tale of happily ever after. We think at any moment we’ll walk around a corner and bump into our dream man, just like they do in Hallmark movies. Life isn’t like the movies and there is no perfect man. He’s flawed, just as you are. What makes this fairy tale come true is acceptance of the imperfections, the willingness to compromise and most importantly, trust.

The older we get, the less tolerance we have for anything that doesn’t bring us joy. That includes men. Especially men. We don’t want drama with ex-wives or ex-girlfriends. We don’t want them to have debt higher than your net worth. We don’t want bad habits and we don’t want games. A strong woman wants a strong man and too often women settle for second best. Perhaps it stems from loneliness or lack of self-worth but a content woman can choose to be in a relationship or not. Either way, her life brings her happiness and if a man can’t add to that, their time together will be short.

Italian women are unique in that we’re born with a bullshit meter. If you lie, we’ll find the truth and you’ll become nothing but a memory. If you cheat, you’ll be lucky to take your next breath. There are two things an Italian woman will never share. Her man and a recipe. The biggest lesson taught by Italian mothers is to do all things with passion. Life without it is bare and colorless. Love without it is futile. No matter what your nationality or upbringing was, all women are the same. They love with all of their heart and soul if you’re worthy. Their expectations are high but not higher than the ones self-imposed.

Dating and finding love seem daunting. As we get older, our needs shift. We don’t need a man to raise a family with, we already have one. We don’t need a man for financial security, we’re already set. What we do need is a man who makes can make us laugh, who listens and is trustworthy. We need a man who makes us feel like a teenager again, feeling an intense passion that’s overwhelming and disorienting but where are these men? There are 1,500 dating websites and apps to assist you in finding your “perfect” partner. Want to put on a pair of overalls and find a farmer? They got you. Want to find a man who shares your devotion to Star Trek? He’s out there on an app, all geeked out and waiting for you. Want to cheat on your partner? You can do it with ease. Your semi-perfect man isn’t going to walk up to you while you’re having dinner with a friend, or is he?

At this point in our lives, we should be settled with minimal baggage. A carry on is acceptable but packing for a month-long trip is not. Overcoming the obstacles of a relationship take time and patience. You need to ask yourself if they’re worth your time, focus and energy. If they are, forge ahead. If the answer is no, glace at them in your review mirror. If and when you do invest, the foundation needs to feel like you’re on solid ground, not feeling as though you’re standing in quicksand.

I’ve been told that women try to “fix” men and we suffer from broken-wing syndrome. If a man admittedly tells you he’s broken and doesn’t want to give love or receive it, we should listen to them. Women are hard wired to be nurturers and caregivers and think we can overcome their obstacles. We can’t nor should we make an attempt to repair their broken wings and we aren’t meant to fix or change anyone other than ourselves. Self-reflection is painful but the answers are there if you delve deep enough. Self-love seems unreachable but if you can’t love yourself, you can’t love another. Accepting our imperfections, our mistakes, and our regrets can open the door to a great adventure. Accepting differences in each other as valid and intriguing qualities, to be creatively blended or separately enjoyed and expressed, brings harmony and contentment.

We should love with a young heart and know the walls we built to protect ourselves can also keep out real connections, real joy and real love. Know that you haven’t met all the people who are going to love you yet, nor have you met all the people you are going to love. You should be smiling at the possibilities.