"I love You"
What does it mean?
Three simple words. Eight letters, two spaces. Punctuation optional or variable, which affects meaning. And, no question, the meaning is variable.
When we are children, and use the words with parents, it means one thing. No, at least two things- the meaning the parent gives, the meaning the child responds with. Or four - the meaning intended, and the meaning heard. Part of the confusion of the meaning is that speaker and listener do not share the same meaning, always.
As children, we also learn that an "I love you" after a good report card means something different than the "I love you" after a vase is broken. And we learn early that the spontaneous "I love you" we first uttered as learned response, joyously, perhaps, can be a tool, a weapon, a trading card.
For adolescents, and then adults, the simple sentence gains even more nuance and subtle shades of meaning. Does it mean "I want to have sex with you", or "we had sex, it was great, let's do it again" or just "I need a date for the prom"?
With additional years, perhaps a few tears, even more depth is dug. "I love you" may mean "I want to spend the rest of my life with you" or " my biological clock is ticking" or "please don't leave me" or "I need a date to the office party".
At what stage does the cycle turn and we say it to our children as they said it to us? And as we age, does it become a sad final goodbye?
And of course, sometimes "I love you" is just "let's be friends", like on OS.
I love You.
(what does it mean to you?)