A periodic column where Dish lets off steam.
I'll never forget the moment I got it. That love is love. It was the spring of 2009 and I was driving a close friend's daughter to a college tour. A meandering conversation about college fit led her to reveal that she was pansexual. (Something I was certain her mother, with whom she had a complicated relationship, was not aware of.) I hesitated, but when her story came to an end I admitted: "Ummm, honey I don't know what you mean - what pansexual means." She explained it like this:
"I could love anyone, really. I fall in love with the person. Their biological sex or gender identity does not factor in for me."
"Wow." I said. "That's beautiful."
"Yeah," she said. "It really is."
It wasn't that simple for me, to be honest. My first thought was how difficult that would be for her. That the world was not built for quite that much love. Why take the tougher path up the mountain of life, I worried, when she could just as well take a more groomed trail? I considered whether to say: "If you could love anyone, why not just go the easy route? (eg, heteronormative.) Believe me, there are stumbles, scrapes and switches enough as it is."
I didn't say it, thank god. How fearful and narrow a response that would have been to her exquisite, open-hearted expansiveness. Traveling down that bumpy New England road that day decades ago, the moment after I swallowed my thoughts I looked over at this lovely, loving, highly intelligent and empathetic young woman and thought I'm questioning her? "I could love anyone, really. I fall in love with the person." As between her and the world I knew, how could she be wrong?
She has gone on on to love led by her heart. It has been tough sometimes, yes. But also quite beautiful to see her forging original, loving relationships from scratch without leaning on default systems. At any rate she wouldn't have it any other way.
Whether the default systems ever worked for anyone other than a subset of our world, or what might replace them, is obviously worthy of close examination and great debate. Perhaps we will have some here.
But for younger generations debating is either beside the point or over. I hear it again and again from friends and family members. When it comes to gender/identity/love/boundaries, younger generations are moving forward like a tsunami. They are loving who they want to love. They are in charge of the conversation – literally, creating and appropriating the language. It is their hike, their pilgrimage, their parade. What we can learn from them about love is infinite, I believe. We need to step out of their way, listen, cheer them on. Maybe try to keep up.
Bring on the drums and let it roll, kids.
The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter from Dish Stanley curating articles & intelligence on everything love & connection - friendship, romance, self-love, sex. If you’d like to take a look at some of our best stories go to Read Us. Want the Dish?