How it feels to fall in love
Happy Valentine’s Day! Surely romantic love is the greatest pleasure of all and provides the greatest thrills. These thrills are physical as well as emotional. We all know the power of the sexual response, how being near the beloved makes us tingle and swell. But other things happen as well.
In a New York Times article, neuroscientist Stephanie Cacioppo, author of the brilliant book, Wired for Love, talks about the physical aspects of initial romantic rapture: “When we’re falling in love with someone, the first thing we notice is how good it feels.”
Thanks for reading The Pleasure Principle! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and make me smile.
Ah yes: how good it feels! In the first phases of love, this dramatic sense of well-being irradiates the world. Does euphoria even begin to describe it? And all because of our sudden passion for Phyllis or Paul!
Photo by Jingda Chen
Cacioppo breaks down what’s happening on a physical level: “The brain releases feel-good neurotransmitters that boost our mood. When we find love, it is like biological fireworks. Our heart rate is elevated, our levels of the so-called love hormone oxytocin are rising, which makes us feel connected. Our levels of the hormone and neurotransmitter norepinephrine are spiking, which makes us lose track of time; our levels of adrenaline rise, which expands the capillaries in our cheeks and makes us flush.”
Although people in love look kind of dazed and stupid (at least I do) being in love seems to sharpen the brain. When people in love gaze at the beloved’s photograph, they then do better on verbal comprehension tests. One study shows that women do better on math and verbal exams when tested shortly after they’ve had sexual intercourse.
In my new novel, my adventurous heroine cannot resist the biological fireworks.
Today is the publication day for Cybill Unbound, my tenth book and sixth novel! Valentine’s Day is an appropriate pub date because Cybill, newly divorced at 42, embarks on sexual adventures for the next thirty years. She just can’t stop falling in love and losing her head!
The Midwest Book Review says:
"Readers (especially women) who enjoy candid stories of risk, transformation, exploration, and social inspection will find Cybill Unbound fun, intriguing, titillating, and thought-provoking... much in the way of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.”
Cybill Unbound is unusual in its focus on passion past forty. Past fifty. Past sixty! We can fall deeply in love at any age, a truth that is little acknowledged. As Roger Angell declares:
“More venery. More love; more closeness; more sex and romance. Bring it back, no matter what, no matter how old we are.”
I liked that quote so much I used it as an epigraph, one of four! I have never had an epigraph on a book before, but I felt nervous about this novel, with its emphasis on sexual passion and its implicit critique of the monogamous ideal, so perhaps I felt I needed validation.
Esther Perel: “Monogamy may or may not be natural to human beings, but transgression surely is.”
Audre Lord: “The erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid of all our deepest knowledge.”
Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
I’ve been writing this book for a long time. Some of the chapters began as short stories, like “Cybill at Burning Man” and “A Fan from Alabama.” One chapter, “Body Paint,” was something of an afterthought, written to justify the cover, which my publisher and I loved as an image.
The original image, painted and shot by the artist Andy Golub, was of me and my husband, Mark Thompson. I wrote about our getting body painted in Huffington Post:
I Stripped Down for Nude Body Painting . . . And So Did My Husband
When the idea of using it as a cover came up, we switched the face so it isn’t mine.
Because I’m not Cybill! This is not an autobiography . . . though I hope it feels like one. Then I’ll know that the characters and the situations feel real. Then I’ll know I’ve done my job.
Cybill Unbound is available for the first time today, Valentine’s Day! Get it for yourself or your sweetheart . . . because men like it, too!
Order the book on Barnes & Noble!
Thanks for reading The Pleasure Principle! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.