Where does "like" end and "love" begin?
I'm often troubled by what I think of as the cheapening of the word "love" through misuse and overuse. I frequently hear people using the word "love" for things I struggle to see how they could really "love." I accept that there is a range of feeling that can be captured by the word, and a range of relationships, objects or experiences that could come under the mantle of "love". Even as I look at a formal definition of the word which allows for some pretty broad applications of the word (with synonyms ranging from fondness to passion to adoration, you've got a lot of ground covered), I still think "love" has lost some of the gravity I think the word should carry.
Recently driving home my discomfort with this has been our son's propensity to tell us all day long how he really loves "X" - it might be his Tinker Toy airplane, his Hummer that is missing three wheels, a flower he has picked in a friend's garden or the smoothie he is drinking. I always try to respond with some version of "I'm so glad you really like x, y or z." My one attempt to try to explain "love" versus "like" was met with a blank stare from Quinn and with Ryan rolling his eyes. Maybe kids are such zen beings, so in the moment, that they lack the context by which to weigh one thing against others and create the mental map to really assign the proper weighting to the things they "love" versus the ones they merely "like."
I also struggle with this issue in some email exchanges, even with people that I actually do love. If they sign off an email to me with "Love" am I a jerk not to reply in kind? Somehow signing off from a discussion of what kind of pizza people want for dinner (particularly after its gone back and forth several times) with "Love" seems excessively sentimental to me and somewhat out of place. Along with the "love" email sign-off is the equally or more common "xoxo" sign-off. Again, from the closest friends or family, I'm mostly okay with this (although I could never really bring myself to write this sign-off to anyone but Ryan), but I've gotten emails signed that way from people I barely know or have just met. Here I find it somewhat odd, have a moment where I wonder why I'm such a cold fish and then reply with a friendly, yet not emotionally presumptuous smiley-face sign-off.
I was recently writing a gift card and I went through the same
challenge I have at Christmas time when I'm signing a big stack of
holiday cards. Outside of our innermost circle of friends and family, I
just feel uncomfortable using "love" as a sign-off. The dilemma of
course becomes, what to use instead. "Fondly" seems uptight, "Cheers"
seems more appropriate for an English Pub, "Regards" seems too formal.
Each holiday season (and in sending cards generally) I go through this
angst, and I have yet to come up with a satisfying answer. Some years
Ryan just implores me to get over myself and write "love." Other years
I have simply signed our names or closed the note with "Best." But as
someone who values accuracy in language, my inability to come up with a
satisfying sign-off continues to trouble me.
Ryan of course thinks my distress at all of these things is just one more sign that I was dropped on my head as a child.