Shopping Malls, Desires and Love

Marie-Anne te Brake

There have been many songs written about love. Many musicians have tried to define it, many filmmakers have attempted to depict it while the rest of us have tried to find it. For some love is about as real as pink unicorns and mermaids and for others it’s as true as the sky is blue.

My love of spending money I shouldn’t be spending oftentimes means that I’m in malls a lot. I will then, unintentionally, find myself on a mall safari. What is this you ask? It is an excursion in which one is free to meander in the habitat of wild adolescent couples. This species wastes no time in finding “love” and showing it to the world who encouraged them to find it in the first place. They make their way around the mall, hands tightly gripped from Ster Kinekor to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. They pause momentarily for a lover’s glance before batting their eyelashes and planning how they’re going to elope (okay so I’m joking about the last one). There are usually ripped jeans involved and sneakers so expensive I should snatch them off their feet and buy lunch for a whole month.

Once I’ve used up enough money to consider myself half-broke and with enough to pay an exorbitant parking fee, I’ve no choice but to go window shopping. I then learn more about what love is. Love sounds like the ring of the tills at La Senza. It tastes like chocolate milkshakes from Mugg & Bean and smells like cinema-style popcorn. Most significantly, love looks like a happy feeling coated in pink lipstick, winged-eyeliner and blonde tips.

The trip doesn’t end there. I am as fond of teenage romance as much as one can possibly be but the heart melts at the sight of elderly couples. Their “oldness” hasn’t blown away the shoots of their love as wind does the leaves in autumn. Here love echoes the tap of a walking stick. It resembles the sheen of silver-grey hair. It has the taste of early morning coffee with two sugars and no milk. It smells like comfy car seats on the way to Sunday mass. To an elderly married couple love means something different to the teenage lovers at the movies.

In seeing that my desire to ooh and aah at clothes has not been sated, I trot along to a shoe store promising myself that I will buy leather boots. On my way, I will pass posters and big screens advertising make-up that I should wear once I’m in love and fragrances that I should own once I have decided how I would like to show this love (I will leave this to the imagination).

Shopping malls have a funny way of playing music that I enjoy so that I stay in them longer. So, whilst I’m on my way to look at shoes I’ll never buy, I have countless voices in my ear saying “oooooh baby” and “I’m so into you” and most noticeably “this is love”. By this point I’m not sure what type of love to believe in or hope for.

It is usually then that I’ll come across the in-between couples. These are the serious, all-knowing/he/she-is-the-one couples. There’s an engagement ring somewhere and future in-laws close by. I will from time to time see a bridal party, sashes and all. Somewhere, somehow there is a best friend panicking about what gift to get and whether she’ll make the upcoming bridesmaid elections. Love for the in-between couples seems to be banter of “Where are we going for dinner?” and “I miss you” and most importantly “I love you”. There’s usually also a secret plan to export undesired relatives.

By the time I’ve gotten to my car and started travelling home to procrastinate studying, the many folds of love have entered my brain and I’m pondering the meaning of them all. What is love? Is it out there? Is it bad that I’m too afraid of getting heartbroken that I’d rather cross the Serengeti, lions and all, than fall in love? Doesn’t love make people all soft and gooey? Yuck. Do they mean it when they say love is blind? What does that even mean?

Fortunately Christopher West doesn’t approach love with the same childishly tentative rationale that I do. This world-known Catholic speaker on life, love and sexuality is married with five children. If that doesn’t require love I don’t know what does. He has helped me to understand how God wants us to understand love. He will be speaking at an upcoming conference in September on love and everything that goes with it. For more information check out this website or call 0785340386

Marie-Anne te Brake

About Marie-Anne te Brake

Happily married to Christo since 1980, mother of 4, and has half a dozen grandchildren! Enthusiastic Catholic, Lay Counselor, Sexuality Educator, Theology of the Body enthusiast and Chairperson of Foundation for the Person and the Family

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