I have a friend from college, a former roommate, whose young wife has been undergoing chemotherapy for treatment of a malignant tumor in her breast for the past year. This guy's father died of cancer at the age of 50-something while we were roommates, and although we don't keep in touch so well anymore (and we've had our share of disagreements), I can say that I have seen this guy go through more than anyone's share of hard times, and that I respect his courage and tenacity in life. He's a good guy, and my heart goes out to him every time I look in my inbox and see an e-mail from him giving the details of his wife's battle against cancer.

Today was just such a day. His love for his wife, and his pain and concern for what she's going through are palpable in these e-mails. She's now finished with chemotherapy, and the doctors gave her a photo with the following quote from Camus in caption: "In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." My friend has never written about the change in his wife's body, in her loss of hair or weight, in the inevitable pain and weakness that chemotherapy brings as the radiation kills both the good and the bad inside her. He has only written about the resolve of her spirit, and how the strength of their love is carrying them through these trying times. The chemo hasn't killed that.

In the past week, I have watched with a heavy heart as our friend MIM's post about "false advertising" has been batted about the blogosphere's echo chamber, analyzed and eviscerated by bloggers who have never visited her site before, her own personality and lifestyle judged and attacked by bloggers and individuals who have no concept of who she really is or the 200 other posts she's written. If there is a lesson here, it is "do not blog about such issues lightly." A blog that has a couple hundred loving, regular readers can easily find itself besieged by thousands of angry strangers whose histrionics over the post in question have been colored by the voices that led them there.

I have let MIM know how I feel about the "false advertising" post, both in an e-mail and in a comment where I tried to identify the three things that made people most upset. The bottom line is that the whole debate has made me feel incredibly sad. It is sad to see a friend judged so ruthlessly for having an opinion, and it is sad to me how much collective neurosis there is out there about this issue. I disagreed wholeheartedly with MIM's post. But what I appreciate about the post and all the hulabaloo that has followed it is how much it has made me think about an issue that seethes below the surface of so many of us, and what it has made me appreciate about marriage and love.

As many of you know, my wife and I have been together for a long time. We're coming up on ten years since the first day we kissed (April 19) and we've been together ever since. She is really the first and only girl I've ever loved. When we met, she thought I was mildly retarded, a "special" kid that the university just kind of let hang out on campus. I was socially inept (preferring to spend time wandering through the woods at night muttering at the moon rather than drink beer), I wore pleated khakis and deck shoes, and I was obssessed with rap music. In other words, I was a real catch. But Wood saw something in me. I don't give these details idly; I can't discuss how I feel about love and physical attraction without putting our life in that context. For us there was no "advertising." We grew up together. At some point you could almost stop drawing a line between us as individuals, and consider every step that we took and choice that we made as done together. In that way, we were married before we were married. We were one.

I realize that kind of experience before marriage might put us in a minority, but I hope that most successful marriages go through that once the knot is tied. Individuality and individual interests sort of become secondary to what works as a unit. Passion doesn't recede, but grows as you find completion in another person. All of that horrible pain of loneliness disappears. What happens on the surface means nothing compared to the inward attraction and bond. One partner can't "let themselves go" because that partner is inextricably bound to the other, particularly when so many decisions are implicitely made together: every meal, every dessert, every walk around the block, every night in front of the television.

In some ways, I can't even see the changes in my wife over ten years. I am generally blind to her changes. I wrote more about that here. But when I stop to think about it, my wife has changed. She has grown so much more fucking awesome. Growth doesn't stop on the day you're married. Time doesn't stand still. Change does not suddenly stop happening. The fact that so much of this insecurity and neurosis comes from the experience of gaining postpartum pounds is so tragic. Our children are tangible proof of the strength of our marital bonds. In our children our physical selves are merged the way our individual lives and individual identities are merged in marriage. They are proof of love.

MIM is adamant that her post was not about love; she says it was about self-respect and physical attraction. She claims none of her opinion applies when changes are medical in nature, applying a individualistic sense of "control" to the philosophy of "false advertising," showing that even in her adamance MIM is capable of recognizing how un-PC it would be to remind someone who is paralyzed from the waist down or burned or stricken with cancer that their spouse may no longer be physically attracted to them. But how can one separate love from the cinderblock of terror and insecurity that she drops on our heads when she asks us to imagine whether after any change in our physical appearance within our control that our partners, the loves of our lives, could stop being attracted to us? Ultimately, despite her protestations it is a post about love. Because after all of the outrage and the pain what MIM's post reminds us is that love is more powerful than superficial attraction.

Love has a way of eclipsing superficial concerns.

Look at your spouse or your lover tonight, hold them tight, and think about your future together. Remember that death is inevitable, and that you are going to lose that person one day, or he or she will lose you. You cannot change that. Remember that if you are lucky, you will live to see your spouse put on a few pounds, grow wrinkles, grow bald and liverspotted and grumpy. If you are lucky you will see your children find love in someone else, and then see you and your spouse and a whole host of strangers live on in the children that grow physically from that love. You will see youth again in them, you will remember all the good times you had in yours. If you are lucky you will grow old and change in a million different ways with the person you've chosen to live your life with. Not everyone reading this will be so lucky. Among you there will be car accidents, lives snatched away without a moment to say goodbye. There will be hands to hold in hospital beds. There will be chemotherapy. There will be pain.

But again, if you are lucky it will come in the depth of the winter of your lives, though an invincible summer will burn inside you still, a love that a few extra pounds could never kill.