A post on Facebook asked, “Do you say ‘I love you” to yourself?”
My first response would have been something snarky, but I’m trying to lessen that impulse. The second would have been a simple “No” and then getting back to work on something useful. The third, just trying to think it through.
The motive of the question, I think, wasn’t literal. It was a roundabout way of saying that if you don’t value yourself, if you think, “I’m a scumbag,” then you’re likely going to be one.
For me, the question is difficult—apart from the fact that I don’t much talk to myself—because of that sneaky word LOVE. To me, it’s outer-directed. Yes, I can say that I love Elizabeth, meaning that I value her, I’m attracted to her, I’m curious about her, I feel responsible for her and to her, I’m grateful to her, and her times of happiness are essential to mine. Yet she’s the Other. I’m not her, will never be, and it’s that strange interplay between Self and Other that’s for me so much a part of what I mean by love. Love isn’t evaluation; it’s a desire to be together.
So responding to the initial question: no, I don’t love myself, I’m stuck with me, and that’s okay: I think I get better with time.
Contradictions are part of the deal. I think I combine an intrinsic sense of self-worth, instilled by a very loving single mom, and a brutally objective satirist’s eye, perhaps instilled by a very dark view of the world and what I share with that world, though given spin by an impulse to laugh. I’ve described my near-pathological sense of responsibility—knowing from the age of four that my mom needed money and not knowing how to make some—but I can usually tell the difference between self-flogging that serves a purpose and what’s just for the gratuitous pain of it.
So I can’t really pass the “love me” test. I have the same responses to myself as I do to the characters I write for stage or page: they have a million contradictions, self-doubts, grandiose expectations, blind spots, times of sweetness, noble aspirations, embarrassments—and I try to empathize with every one of them, including me.