Cardboard Paper Towel Roll

In Life on August 6, 2011 by thebetweenthoughts

“Love is like a cardboard paper towel roll…

…it’s hollow,

…made from recycled materials,

…and should never be used as a substitute for sex.”

The cardboard paper towel roll-love comparison has become one of the “classic” jokes in my stand-up routine.  It has all of the elements that I love about a joke: it makes you think for a bit (which is why there isn’t always an immediate burst of laughter), it sheds some light on truths we rarely want to admit to ourselves, it has a bit of vulgarity (the first induction of laughter), and it’s a joke that “keeps on giving” (as you drill down on the joke, you can appreciate it more and more).  As with any of my jokes, the meaning behind it is a mix of my actual perspective on things and an exaggeration of what I think the world is about.

Time to break it down…

“…it’s hollow”

I’ve had a (excuse the cliche) “love/hate” relationship with the concept of love over the years.  Like most, I started out as a hopeless romantic; my vision of love fueled by the idealized interpretations of the media.  The meaning and nature of love were created in a vacuum, without any true connection shaping its design.  As I began my journeys into the romantic world, this idealized version was tested time and time again (as it should have been).  The concept of love that I had created never matched what I actually felt in relationships.  As I sought for the answer to the question “what is love?,” I neglected to connect with those who could actually inspire the feeling.  My search for meaning became more important than the feeling itself.  After being burned (and burning others) in this quixotic search, I became a jaded cynic.  I fell out of love with the concept of love.  I continued to pursue relationships, but in the back of my mind (heart?), I refused to fully engage and leave myself vulnerable enough to love.  I’m not sure how to remedy the situation.  Am I just waiting for someone to truly inspire the feeling of love?  Do I first need to figure things out alone and to prepare myself emotionally for love?  Am I just doomed to never actually love?  Is love nothing more than a concept to me?  (A concept to be debated and dissected, but never to feel?)

“…made from recycled materials”

(My favorite part of the joke.)  We never recapture that first feeling of love.  Regardless of how “true” that love was, it ends up shaping all future dalliances with the concept.  As we progress in our emotional evolution, love becomes a mish-mash of previous relationships, flirtations and obsessions.  It’s never a pure feeling.  Every smile, every touch, every slight crinkle of a nose we have  experienced feeds into our version of love at the moment.  Is that fair to a current partner?  They are subject to not only the failed expectations and bruised feelings of the past, but also to those special and world-stopping moments.  Our first brush with love creates the framework from which we construct all future experiences.  Each failed relationship (and failed courtship) builds upon that framework, but never destroys it.  Do we settle for the relationship that exists comfortably in that framework or should we search for that one true love that breaks it all down and transcends the feelings of the past?

“…and should never be used as a substitute for sex.”

Love and sex.  Sex and love.  It’s so easy to blur those lines.  We’ve all (okay…maybe not all…but I’m guessing a good majority of you out there) had sex that masqueraded as love.  Love is this amorphous and intangible concept we grow to learn about.  To understand it, to experience it…we try to ground it in the physical.  Our only way to express it is through a hug, a kiss, a fuck.  I have loved with my mind, I have loved with my penis, but I don’t remember ever loving with my heart (or maybe I’m just in denial – see the “hollow section” above).  The closest that I’ve come to describing love is that moment when your heart stops a bit when you hold someone next to you.  There is a lingering feeling of pain when you separate, but you can always hold them again to make you feel whole.  Sappy?  Yes.  But it’s what love means to me after 20+ years of trying to understand it.

I’m not sure what I want out love (and consequently, what I want out of a relationship and what I want out of lover).  Is love a distraction or the inspiration to fulfillment in life?  I’m not sure if I’ll ever find the answer.

For now, I’ll just enjoy my silly metaphors.



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