Jackie blogs at The Struggle is Real (Solo Boulevard) about midlife as a single woman. This post was originally featured there.
I always did pretty well in school. I had to work really hard at it, but I made decent grades. Except when it came to chemistry. It was always my worst subject and I barely passed the class. Who knew that it would be an issue that followed me around through life?
In the simplest of terms, which is all I can relate to anyway, chemistry is the changing state of matter. This actually describes my love life perfectly. An ever-changing state. And it does matter.
I have recently become curious about the ‘Chemistry of Love’. You hear the phrase all the time about how much chemistry two people had or didn’t have. It is a crucial element (get it?) in the love equation. But it is a huge mystery to me. Where does it originate What causes it? In my experience it seems to bypass all the traits one would associate with a great catch.
I have met guys that on paper were fantastic. A full checklist of attributes that would make anyone proud. Hold a good job. Mature. Stable. Manners. Hair (okay, fine, that’s just on my checklist!). But still. Once they’re off of the paper and actually in front of me? Face-to-face? Nothing. No sparks. No giddiness. No chemistry.
Why? Why is that? Is it subliminal? Am I self-sabotaging? Do I have defective pheromones?
There is a recordable and actual chemical reaction to falling in love. It includes a racing heart, flushed skin, sweaty palms, loss of appetite and focus. Hmmn. Sounds a lot like the flu. Makes me wonder why we try so hard to get there.
In reality, it is the release of dopamine, which is the ‘pleasure’ chemical. Not sure we studied this one in 10th grade … not in class, anyway. And norepinephrine. Together they form a ‘Love Cocktail’. The Ultimate Happy Hour. Which, when served up, is pretty powerful. It mimics the characteristics of elation and adrenaline. But it’s not a tangible substance (matter). It’s elusive. It floats around in the atmosphere like the pretty blue-green Argon gas just waiting for the right two people to meet and ignite it.
So – can we – do we – set ourselves up to miss it? Or is it beyond our control? What factors do our backgrounds, experiences and beliefs play in our own personal chemical energy that surrounds us? Can we reformulate it? Or is it just who we are? I truly have no idea.
I understand the theory of it. I have experienced the reality of it. I still don’t understand the mechanics of it. Why does it work sometimes, and then not others? I guess that’s part of its beauty. If we could break it down and constantly recreate it, say in a lab, for example, then a generic form of it could be sold at the local pharmacy.
Would we want that? Sometimes I think I would. Sometimes I think it would be highly beneficial for me to find the ‘right’ guy, slip a dopamine-mickey into both of our lemon waters and the rest would be history.
I know. It’s too Frankenstein’s creation-like. Plus, I’d somehow manage to screw it up and offer the married choking guy in the next booth a sip of my water and … well … like I said, chemistry just isn’t something I should play with.
There are some who offer advice and hints on how to artificially simulate this feeling to try and trick yourself (or your date) into thinking it is there. Sounds a little underhanded to me. But I’m not above trying it. One suggestion is to ride a roller coaster together. (Actually, this probably wouldn’t work for me. The sweaty palms and nausea would not be the dopamine – but would be the need for Dramamine.) Another idea is to take a walk on a high bridge over rushing water. The physiological response to moth activities mimics the Love Cocktail and whomever you are with will associate this feeling to you. The problem with this approach is having to move to Six Flags or Niagara Falls to stay in love.
So, is it absolutely necessary? The butterflies and fireworks? It wears off anyway, right? Just like that Argon gas, those glow sticks do not glow indefinitely. At some point, you still need a good old fashioned reliable flashlight. Can’t we just jump to that stage? I wish I knew the answer. I’m sure that there have been moments in my life that would have gone more smoothly had my decisions been more logic-based and less elation-based. If I could just shake off that twinge in the pit of my stomach and go straight for responsible and reasonable. Why do they have to be exclusive? DO they have to be exclusive? I hope not.
Personally I do think that chemistry is necessary. It’s those fireworks that light the way through the dark moments that can tear down a relationship. It’s intimacy that forms the unyielding bond that holds everything together. Of course I want reliable and trustworthy. I just want the steady hand that holds mine to also be a little bit sweaty.
The bottom line for me is that I want both. And even though I can’t explain or understand it, I’m holding out for my very own Love Cocktail. I can’t say for sure if that’s a smart choice or something that will ever happen, but this much I do know … it’s 5 c’lock somewhere.