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I’m not sure that I’m capable of unconditional love, because I don’t believe it really exists.
How can you even define what it means to love someone or something “no matter what?” The variable of “what” in that statement only includes the changes you can conceive of in the present day. It’s a statement that you could love something’s status quo forever, and maybe also anything within a few degrees of difference.
I know this is a silly measuring stick but I always try to define this sort of unwavering commitment via musical fandom. Sixteen years ago this week I lamented that Ani DiFranco websites were shutting down left and right, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would quit her. I was in my sixth year of listening to her, but some of those fans were in their twelfth. At the time, I said:
I don’t expect her to reproduce the same album over and over, and i don’t expect her to stay the same. The people shutting down their website’s now might not have expected her to do either of those things, but i suppose on some level they were hoping she would.
Now I’m in my twentieth year, and Ani’s new albums barely register with me and I no longer see her shows. She’s not too different and I’m not too different, but the two of us have each changed by enough degrees that love has turned into like. I Now I’m just loving the old her, and that’s not love. It’s nostaglia. The new her can’t change that, and I still have affection for her, but it’s not the same love I had before.
I think the same holds true for anything you love – not just always-changing things like musicians or family members, but static things like a song, a board game, or a statue. That’s because one side of that loving equation can change: you. So, even if you love something unconditionally now, you can’t predict all the future conditions.
That’s how Against Me!’s beautiful, rambling, three-chord “Unconditional Love” resonates with me. It’s off of Transgender Dysphoria Blues, the band’s first release since lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman. That’s a pretty big change in conditions – one that most people don’t account for when they express their unconditional love. It’s a change that finds a lot of people reaching out for the unconditional love they were promised and finding a void in its place.
Laura knows that. She understands the fundamental lie of love. Unconditional love isn’t really about the future, it’s about the present.