Keeping up with Kincaid: What power do I give the words “I love you”?


Laken Kincaid

Campus Editor, Laken Kincaid, examines their thoughts for the past few weeks.

Laken Kincaid, Campus Editor

Honestly, I wish I had a better explanation for why my first response to someone saying the word “love” is “it’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.” I do not own a Subaru. No one in my family owns a Subaru. I don’t have the slightest idea as to why I immediately associate undying admiration with a vehicle. If anything, I should be upset at Subaru’s capitalization of human emotion just like Valentine’s Day. Yet, I continue to quote their commercials at the first mention of the word.

I cannot help but wonder what kind of love makes a Subaru. Are the nuts and bolts made of fondness and the paint coated with affection? Is it assembled with the words of pathos and logos just like a well constructed speech (to be fair, logos sounds like it would be sturdier)? Is it possible to craft a car out of a feeling?

Yes, I understand that it is just a pointless slogan, please just bare with me on this rhetorical journey. If I keep this thought process in mind, I ponder if love can be strong enough building blocks for things as durable and needed as cars. Can love be a foundation for aspects of your everyday life? 

I thought about this one night when one of my best friends told me he loved me before we parted our separate ways. It was a weeknight and we were awake past midnight as we do as RAs; we were both exhausted from our busy schedules but still found time to talk before we fell asleep. He offered me tea and we discussed our agendas for the next day. And, after all was said and done, we both told each other that we loved one another without hesitation and walked away. We also discussed our Wordle scores which is a separate love language all on its own. 

I tell my friends that I love them when we go on car rides and look at fancy houses or when we take impromptu trips to Target. When we watch ten-year-old movies and laugh at funny videos online for no reason, there is an occasional “I love you” laced in between chortles. It is like a fleeting thought or a realization that you are surrounded by people you truly care about.

Subaru also came to mind when I said goodbye to my family not too long ago. My parents visited John Carroll a few weekends ago because they could not stand being away from me on such a big day like my twentieth birthday. We hugged, exchanged a few words, then ended our exchange with “I love you.”

And then there are ways that people say “I love you” without actually forming those exact words. The best example I can think of is one of my friends and someone I look up to helped calm me when I was having an anxiety attack during a debate competition. He pulled me aside, we went on a walk and I was able to subside my worry –– proof that actions do speak as loud as words (as a writer, I am obligated to not say actions are louder so you continue to read my pieces). It reminds me a lot of Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli’s exchange on the stage of The Oscar’s. A quick “I got you” helped Minnelli and reassured her although she fumbled with her words. While Gaga did not say directly she loved Minnelli, she showed it by being her greatest support system in that moment.

When I get past the initial word association with the car commercial, I ask myself (as I often do with multiple words in debate) how do I quantify the term “love?” To be fair, someone who loves me is someone who knows me and fully understands my thought process that causes me to immediately vocalize commercial lines when I hear certain words. They do not mind that my brain works in patterns and finds trivial things both hilarious and challenging all at the same time. 

I say “I love you” to those I admire and trust often. When they do a small favor like filling up my water bottle or buying me Mountain Dew from a gas station, I always return the favor with those three words; it’s what I say when they lend me a shoulder to cry on when I struggle with self doubt or offer me a distraction when I am spiraling. Every time I walk away from those I care about most, I always end our conversations with that phrase. In the midst of a quiet homework session with those that mean the most to me, I find it necessary to let them know I care.

I think this constant usage of “love” is rooted in a fear of the future; I worry for the time when I will not be able to tell those I care about that I love them anymore. I go back to my thoughts on preserving memories and realize how happy I am that I told someone I loved them when I did. 

I also believe that it is just as important for others to hear those words as much as it is for me to say them. “I love you” causes me to immediately smile and revolutionize my emotions. It is like a switch in my brain that tells me someone cares. My anxiety slows and it is like a dose of honey and dopamine. If I care so much about hearing this phrase, I can not help but wonder if others feel the same way. 

While young couples may hold “love” to a high standard and wait months or years to vocalize their true feelings, I think back to Subaru and how easy it is to use love to create something practical and tangible: a feeling of overwhelming joy and security. I want to use a cliché metaphor about love taking you to places like a car would, but I feel like that is self-explanatory. 

Some may criticize me for saying “I love you” too often or at the slightest of things but this is because I want others to experience the power that these words have and the joy I receive from being exposed to them. After all, “I love you” will always have a place in someone’s heart if you truly mean it and express it before it is too late.