Saying “I Love You to the Moon and Back” is an Empty Sentiment
"I love you to the moon and back." What does that mean? Can someone please quantify this for me? Love is measurable in distance? If so, why only to the moon and back? That’s 477,800 miles of love. Is that enough? Is it too much? Either way, it makes love a pretty finite thing, which runs contrary to the way love had otherwise been packaged and sold to us.
I see people saying this to their kids, their spouses, their parents and their grandparents almost daily on social media, and I wonder why they aren’t loved to Venus and back, or just to Saturn. One way. That’s approximately 746 million miles! That’s a lot of love! But I don’t see that. It’s to the moon and back. So, then I wonder why everyone seems to love the same amount as everyone else. Apparently, love is just as homogenized as every teleplay produced by the Hallmark Channel.
Now, I have seen some people shake things up by saying “I love you the stars and back,” and it’s nice to see some originality. But which stars? All of them? That’s pretty broad. Doesn’t sound very sincere. Sounds like hyperbole — the kind of thing you’d say to someone you don’t really like but really want to go down on you.
So, is it a specific star? And if so, is it our sun? That’s 92.96 million miles away — just one way. That’s a lot of love, though not as much love as loving someone to Saturn. And it sounds even less impressive when you convert the distance to light speed, which puts your love for someone at a distance of eight light minutes. That sounds pretty lame. And it is. Because as far as stars go, the sun is pretty close. And yet, it’s still farther than the moon (and back). Maybe the star is V762 Cassiopeiae, the star farthest from Earth still visible with the naked eye. A one-way trip of love to V762 Cassiopeiae is 2,764 light years. That’s a lot of love!
But my God, that’s a lot of traveling for our love to do. Is it even worth it? Why isn’t love here on Earth enough? Why do we keep exporting our love? What’s wrong with saying, "I love you to the Challenger Deep in the Marina Trench and back?" Yeah, it’s a mouthful but it’s impressive. It may only be a 12-mile round trip but with the darkness and pressure and cold your love would have to face on that trip… man, that’s saying something. And it’s keeping things local! Earth First! #MakeEarthGreatAgain
If we’re measuring love in distance, should that distance grow and lessen with the passing of time as love does ebb and flow? I can say that I love my wife to V762 Cassiopeiae and back now, but when I first fell in love, I really only loved her to the end of my block and back. Then it grew to the Southwest corner of Division Street and Hoyne Avenue and back. And sometimes, like when we’re annoyed with each other, I might only love her to the moon and back.
Or is the saying "I love you to the moon and back" just something we have collectively agreed to say in order to quantify and qualify our feelings as we struggle against ourselves to let everyone know just how much feeling our feelings feel?
It’s such a pithy thing to say. I was convinced it first came to the collective consciousness off the cutting room floor where the chimps are typing away in an effort to bang out Shakespeare. But its origin is even worse. It came from the 1994 children’s book Guess How Much I Love You. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s about an emotionally troubled father unable to accept the love of his child.
It begins with Little Nutbrown Hare requesting Big Nutbrown Hare to guess how much he loves him. It starts simple enough with the little one's arms outstretched saying, "this much," but it quickly devolves into Big Nutbrown Hare showing off his size and abilities, and bragging to Little Nutbrown Hare, which leads the little fella to experience waves of envy, perhaps for the first time. The battle of who loves who more culminates when Little Nutbrown Hare spots the moon. Figuring nothing is farther than that, he tells his father, "I love you right up to the moon," hoping to win his dad's affection. But dad won't be beat, so he takes his child's sweet sentiment and shoves it back in his stupid little fucking face by whispering, "I love you to the moon — and back" just as the kid is drifting to sleep, thus winning the competition.
What an asshole.
And now this empty sentiment is everywhere — painted on the wall of your aunt’s house in the suburbs, on coffee mugs, painted by Chinese assembly line machines on faux distressed wood sold at Target and on keychains likely available at the nearest Francesca's or Casey’s General Store.
So, what the hell are you saying when you tell someone that you love them to the moon and back? Nothing. You’re just flapping your lips, spewing out a cute line you read on someone else’s Facebook wall.
OK, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that you really do love your kids/dog/parents to the moon and back. If love is to be measured to the moon and back, it may not be the best way to love someone. Just as the trip to Challenger Deep is fraught with danger, so too is a trip to the moon. Remember Apollo 13? Is love really worth nearly losing Tom Hanks? I don’t think so.
I love you is enough. You don’t need more than that. All that extra to the moon and back stuff is just blowing smoke up your kids’ asses. Unless you want your kids to go down on you.