I’ve been involved in a lot of conversations about love lately.

First was Partygirl, who recently wrote to her two children (grown, single) saying that she hoped they would know the beauty of mature, married love such as their parents have known all these many years, which is so much better than the first flush of romance. I thought that was sweet, whether they laughed at it or not.

Then of course there were all those madrigals. I translated them and wrote the introductions, so I had the chance to savor all the varied views of love they offered. This one pines, burns, and unravels himself (my Italian is not good) in spite of his knowledge that the lady does not return his love. Another gazes in adoration, hoping only that she will think of him a little. Another murmurs endearments in an extravagant stream — good morning my heart, good morning my sweet life, good morning my all… — in what must be a joyfully requited love. All of these are valid experiences of love, now as in the 15th century. Some things do not change.

On Sunday, we sang a terrible hymn about families. The families that we make for ourselves, “partner, roommate, friend,” as well as our birth families, with a verse about abusive families. It sounded like a memo at some terribly priggish hyper-progressive school. There are plenty of unemployed poets who could have done it better. Even the madrigal in which the wooer offers to, um, service his lady all night like a ram was better music. But the sentiment — that there are people throughout our lives whom we love and value, not just our spouses and nuclear families — was true. And important to some of the listeners, and to some of the singers as well — though Egypt made gagging gestures. It is sadly true that people in our culture who choose something other than marriage and children have to live with others’ questioning the value of their choices.

Then the Water Jar (http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=TheWaterJar) wrote about the lust for love, the desire not for a particular person, but for someone to love. This comes in a variety of flavors, too. The skin-hunger that probably keeps the species going, a wish for affection that is near to loneliness, the movie-driven fear that one is the only single in a world of couples. The romance of “Someday my prince will come,” the wish to get on with the next stage of life: adulthood, which for many of us includes marriage and children. The nagging feeling that life could be better, and the hope that someone else could fix it.

And #2 daughter is having a little trouble with suitors. Since she is happily unattached, she is paradoxically more attractive to guys than if  she were looking for love. She is getting excitement and fulfillment from study, work, and art. But there are boys hanging around all the time. It’s hard to get your work done under these circumstances.

Her older sister and I have pointed out that they can’t help it. Not that boys are like ravening beasts who cannot control themselves, but there is a time in a boy’s life when he can’t help paying excessive attention to girls, whether they encourage him or not. It shouldn’t give a girl a swelled head when she is pursued by guys at this stage of life. Later, they will write madrigals or something. (I think girls go through this stage at around 14 or 15, a time when the boys they go to school with are as unattractive as they will ever be in their lives, so they mostly swoon harmlessly over pop singers. It has been designed this way to protect us all.)

We (#1 daughter and I) helped #2 daughter make a list of criteria for a suitable partner. This will help her sort them out and avoid getting too distracted from schoolwork. We are divided, within the family, as to whether she is inclined to choose guys who are not emotionally stable, or whether she drives them mad, but we made sure she put mental stability at the top of the list. High intelligence, too. She put cuteness on the list herself. Good manners, integrity, and the ability to manage without mind-altering substances are also on the list. So, when some Galahad arrives and sweeps her up onto his saddlebow (or however they do it on campuses these days), she can quickly whip out the list and make sure not to commit herself without being certain that he fits the criteria. We are taking care of her.

So I have thought about love this week. I have come to no particular conclusions. I have the good fortune to have a strong marriage and a happy family, and a few piratical adventures to look back on if I ever miss the excitement of single life. I can contemplate these topics, as does the Water Jar, in peace. And I offer you another affectionate picture of the DNA scarf and its mate, the Paris-Match beret, showing how much they have grown together.

They haven’t grown much since yesterday? Maybe not, but this is the last row I can fit on the circular needles. I will switch to the dps today. The band seems too big, so I am also thinking about clever ways to narrow it a bit. There is a row of small eyelets which could accomodate an I-cord, or I could single crochet along the surface of the inside (so it doesn’t show) with elastic thread. Then, with my #3 circular needle free, I can begin the next DNA scarf. I am about settled on the fisherman-color Wool-ease, although I also have some very nice grey wool. Would the cables show up well on such a dark color? Deep questions, these.