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What is love?

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 14, 2021 5:00 am

My husband told me early on that he is a person who doesn’t remember birthdays (except his) and doesn’t give any presents. So before today I gave my husband a rosary I made that used little crosses I received because I wanted him to tell me what it feels like to pray with those little crosses. But first I kissed his cheek and said, “This is my gift to you. Happy Valentine’s!” 

Later I came out of my workroom and said, “Please get me a tube electric fan for my work room.”

“Send the driver to get one. The sky’s the limit!” he said magnanimously. So now my workroom is one cool place. That’s what love means when you are in your 70s and 80s.

Now and then I think of what love meant when I was in my teens and thought I was in love. Now I realize I was simply rushing as fast as my rushing hormones. They are hyperactive when you’re in your teens. But it turns out that’s not love after all. That’s infatuation. 

I got married at 18 — now, I believe, for hormonal reasons. Think about it. I had three little baby girls in quick succession. After that is when I started to question what true love meant. At the age of 25 I still didn’t know the answer.

In your 20s you have tons of questions about love, passion, honor, life. There are so many men with their eyes glued on you, especially if you are separated from your mate. Once they hear the gossip they try to date you, even if you just ran into each other at the bank.

As they approach 30, women get anxious. Suddenly we feel we are getting old and life has passed us by. I remember standing at the window of my office looking at the entanglement of black Meralco and PLDT wires.

I am getting old, I thought, almost in despair. I am getting old and life has passed me by. This is the way women feel in their 30s — the time of mid-life crisis for women. We do it earlier than the men who wait until they are in their 40s, but no one ever told us that.

When you turn 30 you discover life is not so bad after all. Thirty is when you discover passion. A certain recklessness descends and sets you free to succeed in everything you do at work, at home, at play.

As I write this I shudder to remember what my 30s were like. For a moment, I smile as a thought flashes: I wish I was 35 again. But get a grip. Now all those years are memories. What was that infamous saying? “Let bygones be bygones.” 

Life is about learning at any age. You learn a lot of things when you’re in your 30s. Women look their best in their 30s. The beautiful body of your youth has not yet started to sag. I think the 30s are a special gift from God. Really!

Then the 40s come around. For me, those were the years for my career. In advertising I made it to vice president and then to president in my late 40s.

Love is when you appreciate somebody else for who s/he truly is. When you know in your bones what ‘til death do us part' means because you know you will be together ‘til then, and beyond.

I became a columnist when I turned 44. Did that, hand in hand with my career in advertising. I came out on TV, got interviewed, gave speeches, became an active member of the Management Association of the Philippines, taught at the De La Salle Graduate School of Business. I enjoyed teaching but realized that unless I had a master’s degree I would never be called “professor.” 

So in my 50s — only a high school graduate up to this time — I decided to enrol at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and got a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship. Did I teach after that? No.

A few years after that, I had a stroke and my personality changed. I kept staring into space, thinking of nothing. Maybe I should have thought about love, what it was, how it felt; but I did not.

Miraculously, I discovered the meds I sell now and one day my old personality returned. But I was already in my early 60s and had not yet discovered what true love really was. I had to wait until I was in my 70s to do that. 

Love is when you appreciate somebody else for who s/he truly is, when you enjoy sleeping together even if you face different directions and both of you snore, when you spend all day in your workroom making rosaries while he is in the living room watching TV, when you just enjoy being together, laughing together, and sometimes annoying each other but you know you will stay. When you know in your bones what “‘til death do us part” means because you know you will be together ‘til then, and beyond.

Now in my 70s, I guess that’s what love is.