DOWN AT THE DOCKS the other day I overheard an argument about whether or not you can love a boat. One man insisted that he was looking for a Folkboat to buy because he had “fallen in love with her lines.” His friend insisted that it wasn’t possible to fall in love with a boat. “It’s lust, not love,” he said. “It’s desperately wanting something you haven’t got.”
Listening to them made me wonder whether I’d actually been in love with any of my boats. I would probably have said yes; at least until I’d thought about it a bit more. I have had boats that almost took my breath away when I looked at them, boats that would make me stop after I left them, and turn back to stare at them. If that isn’t love, what is it?
Well, here is what Louis de Bernieres has to say about love. He’s the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin:
“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being ‘in love,’ which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being ‘in love’ has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
He’s talking about the love of one human for another, of course, but that surely doesn’t preclude the possibility that a human may love a boat, even if the boat doesn’t love the human back. Love doesn’t have to be reciprocal. A man can love a woman with passion unrequited. And love does not necessarily involve sex. Nor does lust for that matter, though either may. I’m thinking of the love of a father for his son, for example, or of a wife for her daughter. And lots of people say they love their dogs; at least they think they do, but they probably haven’t thought about it much.
As for lust, here’s what author C. Joybell C. has to say:
“I don't define lust as anything evil or nasty. Lust as defined by me, is the feeling of desire: a desire to eat cake, a desire to feel the touch of another's skin moving over your own skin, a desire to breathe, a desire to live, a desire to laugh intensely like it was the best thing God ever created . . . this is lust as defined by me. And I think that's what it really is.”
And a desire to own a pretty boat, of course.
But I think Louis de Bernieres brings more light to bear on the subject. I think he’s saying that love is what should remain after lust inevitably runs its course. So, in fact, what starts off as temporary lust eventually turns into permanent love (of a sort) if you’re lucky. In which case my boats have generated in me both lust and love — but always unrequited.
On the whole, I haven’t found men unduly loath to say, “I love you.” The real trick is to get them to say, “Will you marry me?”
— Ilka Chase, This Week, 5 Feb 56
The nice thing about kleptomania is that if you suffer from it, you can always take something for it.
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)