Falling in Like
Yes, let’s leave Love out of it. The word is too loaded. Saying “Like” is, in most cases, much easier and safer, and probably more accurate. There are too many songs about Love, and too few about Like.
But aren’t we really talking about Friendship? True, there aren’t many songs about that either. But it gets us a little farther from the mawkish. I know what I like, even if I don’t always like what I know.
Some friendships are slow to develop, and may arise from a chance encounter. But what’s really exciting – because it doesn’t happen very often – occurs when you meet somebody, and know immediately that you’re going to be good friends. That is what “falling in like” is all about.
What makes two people like each other? Of course, there need not be anything sexual about it. But they must have something in common.
One thing that draws people together is laughing at the same things. Nearly everybody has a sense of humor, and people tend to be resentful if you question theirs. But different people think different things are funny. And when somebody else’s idea of what’s laughable coincides with yours, you already have something to build a friendship on.
You might think that proximity generally leads to liking – but that isn’t necessarily true at all. See my book entitled Be a Good Neighbor, And Leave Me Alone, in which I point out how seldom it is that good neighbors are also good friends. In fact, it’s often easier to like people at a distance. That may be why some of the people we like best tend to be movie stars or other distant celebrities with whom we never have any personal contact.
We may also think we like somebody because we like their work, especially if it’s creative. But once again, that may not follow. And I’m sorry to have to admit that I’m one of those to whom this applies. Over the years, my productions, especially my illustrated epigrams, have brought me a great deal of admiration, as expressed particularly in “fan mail.” And of course, people don’t publicly proclaim their disappointment after having met me in person. But, sad as it may seem, I’ve always felt that the best part of me is in my work, beyond which I personally have little to offer. Not that I have, or have had, no friendships or deeper relationships – but they tend to be in spite of, rather than because of, my creative talent.
This disparity may be found in many cases historically. One example which immediately comes to mind is that of James Joyce, the world-famous author of Ulysses, and other even more enigmatic works. His relationship with his wife, Nora Barnacle, scarcely involved his books, which he could hardly even get her to try to read, and which she thought obscure and lacking in sense.
Fortunately, that was not my experience with my own wife of 50 years, Dorothy (née Tucker), who always encouraged me in my work. In fact, our relationship began when she bought two of my paintings.
Incidentally, trying to sell those paintings led to my becoming a writer of epigrams – because I always put some words, as a kind of title, at the bottom of the art. I found that people were often intrigued more by the title than by the graphic, and might even buy a piece because of the words on it. This caused me to start making lists of possible future titles, which, at first, I called “Unpoemed Titles.”
Another factor in our liking certain others can be our common taste in music. This can also be a major dividing factor. If one of us adheres to the classics, and the other goes for rock ‘n’ roll, the chances are that we won’t like each other that much either. As one of my early epigrams put it, “I like the right kind of music – what kind do you like?” And this can go beyond mere individuals. The chances are that, unless you like each other, your friends may not like their friends. And – who knows? – even your dog may sense a rift, and shun their dog.
The hackneyed expression “there’s no accounting for taste” may indeed apply. But we ourselves may have reservations even when it comes to liking another person wholeheartedly. If I may again quote myself:
“A large percentage of me likes a large percentage of you.”