A Los Angeles Times story last week got down to brass tacks.
A recent scientific study, the story relayed, had analyzed the brains of people in happy relationships. A person newly in love, one researcher said, has approximately the same brain-chemical patterns as someone using cocaine. Feeling infatuated, starry-eyed and giggly? Think dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin.
While there's a certain allure to thinking of love less romantically and more…neurally, it's hard for us to go there. After all, this is Santa Fe: We're rational about so little, love doesn't seem quite the place to start.
Then again, who are we to judge one theory scientific and another capricious? The dopaminergic reward system might seem less accessible than feng shui and Tantra, but perhaps they are not mutually exclusive.
After all, we've all experienced triggering the brain's pleasure center with food, particularly chocolate, particularly when eaten with Champagne.
And while the high from new love fades, the happy drug feeling needn't. The study further suggests that couples who do stuff together can keep re-triggering the good stuff. And when that "stuff" is serotonin-boosting, such as skiing, a long happy life is practically QED.
What effect, if any, digital mating, aka sexting, will have on our brains remains to be seen. But if there's one area science seems to have so far eschewed, it's love songs. Which is too bad, really: "You light up my right ventral tegmental area" kind of has a ring to it.
Happy Valentine's, Santa Fe. If you're not sure what you're doing with yourself, be sure to check out all your heart-tastic options.
Diamonds are Forever
This week's worth of what to do and how to do it for the lonesome, the love-addled and everyone in between.
The Shape of Love
Each house is divided into a grid according to feng shui, with nine general sections that correspond to various areas of life, such as family, wealth, career and creativity. Each section has a corresponding element (wood, fire, water, metal), color and shape. The love corner of every house is in its far right corner when one stands facing in the front door.
Given that I'm with what is essentially a group of strangers who, for the most part, met online to learn about sex arts, I feel quite comfortable and not sketched out. It isn't (as I momentarily feared while walking behind an unknown couple up to the house) a swingers' club or a cult offering Reeboks and punch.
For longer than anyone has believed in Aphrodite, much of the world has been obsessed with rhino horns and tiger testicles and toxic beetles—most have proven to be placebos at best. More recently, Western civilization has had to confront the inefficacy of cheap, mail-order Viagra.
The term Champagne applies strictly to sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France, located 90 miles east of Paris, where wine grapes have been cultivated for 2,000 years. But the term has been used—to the dismay of everyone who knows where Champagne is—for sparkling wines found elsewhere.
It's not always easy. Some couples have interests that are mutually exclusive—she gets up early to train for triathlons; he likes hitting the bars until last call. He lives to hike to backcountry lakes and cast for mountain trout. She hates to be dirty.
The Nature of Love
When I first started working as a journalist, I could never articulate why I'd chosen the environment as my niche. Then in 2007, I saw writer Barry Lopez speak, and it made sense: "It's OK to be in love with the world," he said, "and to articulate that."
I should probably mention that the reason my mom went out with my dad in the first place is he had told her he was dying and she felt bad for him, so she met him at the neighborhood park to fulfill his "last request" for a date. Of course he was lying. It only took a few years before she realized that she was only destined to become his golf widow.
Calling It Off
Love and sex are fun, but there are always possible consequences and bigger issues at stake. Local author Kate Buckley recognizes this and, with her 2009 young-adult novel Choices brings one of the most heated and emotional debates in America and the world to the forefront: abortion.
We know that American teenagers have always under-reported on surveys that gauge sexual activity and drug use, so we can be pretty sure that what mainstream media has termed the "shocking frequency" of so-called sexting has been, so to speak, lowballed as well.
Silly Love Songs?
When February comes around, bazillions of people across the globe are forced to recall how lonely they are. Thank god for music—if anyone feels your pain, it's musicians.