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Sunday, October 16, 2011
His brown eyes are moving. Yours are following. You lock the gaze and the world stops spinning. You see the pupils widening, yours are even bigger. Then the background starts to fade away, the chatters disappear, and you begin to float on the bubble bursts of dopamine. Woo yeah, baby, the feeling is like you’ve been taking a huge dose of cocaine.
What is this? Admiration, care, affection, love, needs, desire, passion, lust, procreation’s urge, sexual arousal? You name it. Whichever it is, whatever stage you think you’re in, one thing is for sure: the wires in your brain is flooded with adrenaline syrup, mixed with some juicy pulps of endorphin, sprinkled with dopamine cinnamon, and garnished by this world famous serotonin caramel, plus a little pinch of vasopressin. Then, the tastiest dish on earth is served and you have the chance to enjoy this chef Nature’s chemical cocktail.
I remember the last time I took a big gulp of this and how I was drunk. The rush of pleasure filled my head and killed the others. Couple of years later I was sober. My wings vanished, the cloud nine was gone, and a fell back to earth. My eyesight was back and I started to see things realistically. There’s no more dazzling, charming, blinding halo on the person’s I was falling for. He turned to be regular. I was amused. I stopped idolizing him. I realized that the relationship was just a merely a relationship and not the most special, never ending, everlasting, immortal, forever one. The bond was suddenly suffocating and I surprisingly needed to loosen some ties (or even find some other to start the cycle all over again).
So what’s with this? How could this heavenly feeling vanish? How could it be gone? Relax! It’s just a matter of chemical cocktail, like what I said. Nothing’s magical or supernatural about it. Seriously? Yeah, seriously! Love is just chemical.
When you meet a guy for the first time, you are unconsciously digging your blueprint of ideal partner in your subconscious. It could be someone reminds you of yourself in appearance, someone you’ve been dreaming of, or just someone close to the crazed vampire character. You assess the look and personality and consider if this guy meets your blueprint. One thing that is there but seems to be invisible, our first cocktail ingredient: the pheromone. In the animal world, it’s the individual scent found in sweat and urine to indicate the sexual behavior and attract the opposite sex. In our world, it’s just the same thing. Even though the scientists are still debating this, to me, we are not very different from the animals (and sometimes we are more animal than the animals). Some humans do have the same organ as the animals to sense this odorless chemical. Anyway, regardless the truth if pheromones work the same way for us or not, smell play a significant role here. The little evidence? The blooming perfume industry; the force of smelling good when we meet a guy and our disgust of a guy who smells like hell.
So we meet a guy and we asses him. What drives us? Admit it or not: Lust. That’s why estrogen and progesterone exist in the first place. We are designed to stay exist, to procreate, to pass on the generation. Without lust, we might never want to look around. But, while lust keeps us "looking around," it is our desire for romance that leads us to attraction. But let alone the lust and things, I’m sure I’ll lead you to some other thing when we are discussing this. Let’s just focus on the attraction.
When we are attracted to a guy, say that, I bump into this hot pretty boy I’ve been craving for, my heart is racing, my palms sweat and my mouth’s dry. What’s this? Adrenaline.
It’s the same chemical we have when you are bungee jumping, watching a horror movie, being chased by a mad dog, being followed by a freak you think as a serial killer. Love is apparently not far from fear and danger. A study I saw in an episode of Naked Science said that, a glimpse of fear and danger gives more attractions to a girl for guys. It’s a study held by a pretty-enough lady. Once she gave a little insignificant quiz to the passing strangers on a tiny shuddering bridge far above the land level, then she gave her telephone number (which was more to be like the real significant test). Then, the other time, she gave the same little insignificant quiz to the passing strangers on a safe low bridge, then she gave the same telephone number (which was the same actual test). So guys from which bridge called more? You know it. The shuddering one. The ratio is 5:1. So girls, that is the reason why, rather than having a romantic dinner, you’d better ask your date to rob a bank. Imagine how much love he will develop to you in that more-than-just-a-glimpse of danger!
Anyway, this adrenaline is just a kickoff. Once we are attracted and it’s two sided and returned, the real chemical cocktail is just starting to mix.
Imagine the feeling of your world filled with the thoughts of him. It’s him and only him. You spent hours thinking about him. You stalk his facebook. You get crazy when he says hi. You display his smile in your mind. When you meet him, your heart melts like a vanilla ice cream. You’re craving and insane to meet him again. You’re addicted to this new brew of cocaine. What’s kicking in here? Dopamine. Norepinephrine. Together these two bastard chemicals produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and focused attention. All is just for him. You’re crazy about him. This is the most beautiful state. You’re happily drunk, ecstatic, on a high. Then the level of serotonin decreases, which makes everything even deeper. Low level of serotonin will cause the so-called obsessive compulsive disorder. So then be it, hungry like a wolf, thirsty like a vampire, you explode like a bomb, yet you like it like a mad man.
Somehow, that’s the beauty of it. Love has to be blind. You need to idealize your beloved, stay blind and craving long enough to reach the situation called by Helen Fisher as the state of attachment. That’s when ones finally decide to tie the knot, getting married and having babies, tighten the bond. Some others don’t survive this, the connection is not strong enough so they decide to end the relationship when the craving is over. Cause when the time goes by, this euphoria will finally end. It’s not like a firework anymore. It becomes a warm steady candle light (I’m lying, let’s rephrase, it becomes a boring on and off dying miserable dim of light). Some are ok with this nature of Nature, but some are not and increase the statistic of dumping and being dumped.
The passionate love fades and attachment grows, that’s what the anthropologist said. What ingredients do we find here? Oxytocin and endorphin, plus a little vasopressin. Oxytocin plays role in maintaining a healthy interpersonal relationship, creating an emotional bond. Endorphin is a natural painkiller. It indulges you with a general sense of well-being, including feeling soothed, peaceful and secure. Vasopressin takes part in the memory department. This chemical which has been associated with the formation of long-term, monogamous relationship, makes it possible for you to remember your beloved when you see some other hot sexy guy walking by your side and some lust strikes and you become mad not to grab him.
So these chemicals are really something to our emotional relationship. You know when they were produced, don’t you? Yep, that’s right. It’s during and after the-you-know-what-kind-of physical contact. The more ones have it, the stronger the bond. That’s why the scientists have this kind of joke, ‘Don’t copulate with someone you don’t want to fall in love with.’ Cause you will have the bond that you don’t want to have. The chemicals attack but you aren’t prepared, which means: you’re screwed; your head is messed up.
This makes me think about the famous Javanese jargon, ‘witing tresno jalaran soko kulino’ which means, you can fall in love to someone you don’t actually in love in the first place, that you can be in love because you are used to a person. Well, it means copulating can grow love. That’s why my ancestors stayed married and said to be in love after (not before) getting married, even though they barely knew each other when they got married. Apparently some chemical party was messing up with their heads and faded away the non-supporting feelings, creating the bonds.
The short story is: passionate loves do lose their strength over time. The gang of chemicals responsible for this drops off. Suddenly your lover has flaws. Why he has changed, you may wonder. In fact, no body hasn't changed at all, it's just that you're now able to see him rationally, rather than through the blinding hormones. No body is changing, it’s the relationship that’s ageing. At this stage, the tie is either strong enough to endure, or the relationship ends.
So when you see some stranger brown eyes moving. Yours are following. You lock the gaze and the world stops spinning. Enjoy the cocaine effect! When you are craving and madly in love, get drown! That feeling doesn’t last forever. When the party is over, don’t panic! Nature has prepared you with a back-up plan to maintain the monogamy. Nature has been serving us anything we need, all we have to do is living. Yes, it’s as simple as it sounds.
Don’t even be bothered when you lust after someone you don’t love. That’s normal. We are primordial. We carry this nature of survival, maintaining the existence, passing on the generation, selecting the best gene for the offspring, continuing the species. When you are in a fading relationship, and you feel like you are not lusting after him anymore, or maybe (in an extreme case) even lusting after some other hottie limottie. Science said that it’s normal. It’s just the dynamic of our chemical cocktail compositions. No sins involved, I promise! The beauty is how we deal with it and how to be more lyrical.
So, to me, nothing is magical here. Love is just chemical. In my more provocative view, we are not actually falling in love. It’s just Nature’s way of keeping the species alive. We call it love. It feels like love. But this strongest of all human emotions is probably just the nature’s beautiful way of keeping the human species existence. With an irresistible cocktail of chemicals, our brains compel us to fall in love. We believe we’re choosing a forever love. But we may only be the happy victims of nature’s sweet plan.