Oxytocin: This Silly Old Love Lark

Ok. Strap in. I’m about to get all ‘wikipedia’ on your derrieres.

Oxytocin. (Clears throat academically). Oxytocin is a mammalian hormone that is best-known for its roles in sexual reproduction, in particular during and after childbirth…(blah blah, other stuff, blah)…Recent studies have begun to investigate oxytocin’s role in various behaviours including orgasm (giggle), social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, and maternal behaviours…For this reason it is sometimes referred to as the Love Hormone. Oxytocin in a peptide of nine amino acids…blah… Its systematic name is cysteine-tyrosine-isoleucine-glycine-amine-bibbedy-bobbedy-boo-boo….

Basically, I googled this mischievous peptide because I’d read that it was the hormone of love, and I wanted to do my research on the little tinker because I wanted to understand why I’ve been being such a wally lately. How can we understand ourselves in love, if we don’t understand the science that controls love? We’re like puppets whose strings are on the inside. Oxytocin. Apparently if you don’t have enough of it, you’re likely to be a psychopath or a narcissist. But if you have enough of it, you are likely to be the comparable weirdo that love turns you into. Our bodies being governed by these hormones is like the country being run by Danny Dyer. Bloody chaos.

I was particularly twonkish when my boy recently went on tour for two weeks. It made my brain go a bit…stoopid. I missed him, big time. I zoned out talking to people while making internal bland observations: “You don’t have a beard. Matt has a beard.” I stood outside a newly-opened café imagining what it might look like when we’re inside it. I was idiotically candid with his parents: “Why does love feel like it’s going to burst out of your throat like an alien?” (the fact they took it for whimsical rhetoric is a huge relief.) I framed some of the wrapping paper he’d used for a book he’d bought me. I wanted to bake him pies even though he wasn’t here to eat the pies. I wanted to knit him gloves but I don’t know how to knit. It was revolting.

Then, when he got back, I stuck my nose in his chest hair and wouldn’t come out until I started to feel a bit like I needed some oxygen. I needed his smell – his pheromones, his science, presumably. I breathed him in, which is not unlike what stalkers do to their victim’s hair in scary films. IS LIFE NOT STRANGE ENOUGH WITHOUT OUR OWN HORMONES TURNING US INTO FREAKS?

I suppose I’m just not used to feeling this sense of abandon to lunacy. I have loved before, of course, but I’ve always been a bit distanced from it, like it’s a cat that might bite. I haven’t trusted it. I haven’t abandoned myself to it. Probably because I’ve wasted time with some complete and utter wrong’uns.

And yet, in addition to that gut-wrenching heart-pumping feeling of near-madness, there is also that feeling of it just being ‘right’. Of feeling dangerously comfortable, and like you’ve found the home you’ve been searching for. That is new to me in this silly old love lark. It’s amazing, but bloomin scary.

A few years ago, I was briefly married and I shouldn’t have been – and it’s bothered me ever since that I could have gone through with such a big thing without knowing that it was not right; without some instinct bristling and telling me that I did not have the right feelings. Perhaps I ignored signs. It’s scary to think you can get something so big so wrong. I like to think now that’s because I had to get it wrong in order to recognise now what it is to get it right. Mistakes are often our most valuable lessons. After all, biscuits only came about because of burnt cake. A cake got burnt, and now we have biscuits. That’s pretty brilliant.

Perhaps if we understood our bodies better – if we knew what makes our neurons whir and our cells surge, why our hormones whisper mischievous things to us – we would know how to listen to them, we could trust them and make better instinctive choices. Perhaps our lives would even be a little bit easier. After all, we can’t read Russian if we haven’t learned Russian first. Surely the same logic applies to something as intricate as our bodies?

My little research session comforted me that all the stuff that had been making me want to puke into my own cranium just to stifle the nauseating impulses of love, is actually just normal. Learning the science behind it reassured me that it’s natural to be a bit bonkers in love, that you should go with it, trust it – because it may well be the body’s signal that is it right. Even if being right means being a little bit mad, that’s ok. Know what I amino?

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