Now I’m going to tell you about Spencer. You may think you’ve waited a long time. But let’s face it, so did I. I was thirty-three. It seems to me I discovered what “I love you” really means. It means I put you and your interests and your comfort ahead of my own interests and my own comfort because I love you. What does this mean? I love you. What does it mean? Think. We use this expression very carelessly. LOVE has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.
What you will receive in return varies. But it really has no connection with what you give. You give because you love and you cannot help giving. If you are very lucky, you may be loved back. That’s delicious but it does not necessarily happen. It really implies total devotion. And total is all-encompassing – the good of you, the bad of you. I am aware I must include the bad. I loved Spencer Tracy. His interests and his demands came first. This was not easy for me because I was definitely a me me me person. It was a unique feeling that I had for S.P. I would have done anything for him. My feelings – how can you describe them? – the door between us was always open. There were no reservations of any kind. Certainly I had not felt this way with any of my other beaux. I was looking for them to please me. It is a very different relationship. It’s like a wonderful cocktail party. But it ain’t love.
There is an enormous difference between love and like. Usually we use the word “love” when we really mean like. I think very few people ever mean love. I think that like is a much easier relationship. It’s based on sense. A blind spot – love.
I have no idea how Spencer felt about me. I can only say that if he hadn’t liked me he wouldn’t have hung around. As simple as that. He wouldn’t talk about it and I didn’t talk about it. We just passed twenty-seven years together in what was to me absolute bliss.
It is called love.
© Katharine Hepburn, Me: Stories of My Life, 1996