Going back to the “ancient times” of television, there was a detective series featuring actor Telly Savalas in a series called “Kojak.” He was a tough, bald-headed cop who sucked on lollipops.
What I remember most about the series was a line he made famous: “Who loves ya, baby?” As I write this, I can’t help but think of that line. When Kojak said it, usually to a petty informant or a seedy co-worker, it wasn’t really an expression of love, but a throw-away line that implied, “You do something for me, I’ll do something for you.”
He kind of envisioned our era and many people whose love, unfortunately, is conditional.
Love that Pizza
Of all of the words tossed about with abandon these days, “love” most probably wins the grand prize. Love is applied to almost everything, from pizza to radial tires to someone playing the bongos on America’s Got Talent.
Love is so ubiquitous in its use on social media; many of us don’t even have to use the actual word, but apply all sorts of emojis. And there are dozens.
If I have given you the idea that I think love has sometimes become cheapened, you are correct. Know what? I am hardly alone. There are hundreds of articles that have been written on the over-commercialization of love, from Valentine’s Day to reality television dating shows.
Indeed, there are programs where people meet and get married within 90 days to shows where people marry solely based on love at first sight. Not surprisingly, almost all of those relationships fail. They fail because of the expectation that reality is the same as fantasy.
Anyone who has been in a committed relationship for more than a year knows fantasy and reality are often miles apart. It takes work to keep a loving relationship alive. “Work” is a tough concept to handle, even when it comes to parenting.
“Love” has become so contrived that some parents in love with their careers, social lives, travel schedules, and outside responsibilities have turned the nanny and babysitting business into a $16.2 billion industry that is growing more than two-percent on an annual basis. “Love” has even become so fictitious that a few wealthy parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to cheat their kids into colleges.
To round out this portion of love-talk are numerous confrontations among adults who have taken great exception to be unfollowed, unfriended, or ignored by former loving friends on social media. What is going on here?
A Lesson in Love
Very few college courses, let alone high schools, ever offer classes on “love.” Churches might provide such guidance from time to time, but many among us feel they’re too sophisticated for such falderal and fiddle-dee-dee.
We so rarely have guidance as to what love means, that there is an entire entertainment industry willing and able to feed us a perpetual stream of fantasy to tell us what love is about. But in all of this, from the cheapening of the word, to love at first sight dating shows to yelling and screaming at “friends” on social media, there is one element that is consistently missing: ourselves. And that’s the problem.
The refrain to Detective Kojak’s famous “Who loves ya, baby?” line should be a simple response: “I do.” Where have we heard “I do” before? It is more than a reflexive response. It is an expression, biblical if you will, of: “Here I am.”
If we do not love ourselves, how can we ever have an idea of what we want in love? More importantly, how often do we take the time to turn inward and ask ourselves what we need?
Look at the contestants on the reality dating television shows, both men and women. They are beautiful and young, well-dressed, and well-rehearsed, and yet there is emptiness behind their eyes. They are playing a game with their hearts. I have known people who seethed because an online social media friend, someone they never met in person, no longer “likes” them. I’m sure you have had an acquaintance confide that someone they thought they loved, didn’t even share their values.
Love is not a dating show or an app, and loving ourselves is not an after-thought. It is basic to the heart. Now is the time to take inventory and learn to love yourself, before you can share that love with others. It’s time to realize who loves ya, baby!