When I was a teenager, I had promised myself that when I had children and they fell in love as teenagers, I’d give them their due. I’d not say “whatever, you’ll get over it” but listen to them and respect their larger than life feelings. Because young love is big love – it’s I’ll die for you, Romeo and Juliet love and not the “prenuptial agreement” grown up love where you want to think about separate bank accounts.
Recently, my twelve year old told me he was in love. I asked him if he knew what it meant to be in love and he smiled a goofy smile and said, “Just that I’m in love, mama.” And my husband told me to stop being so “rational.” When you’re twelve, love means just what it’s supposed to mean. He’s crazy about a girl. He can’t stop thinking about her. He thinks she’s fabulous and his heart aches.
I told my son that falling in love is an awesome feeling and he should have a ball with it. And he gets it that this is a different feeling and that it makes him different and he’s enjoying it as he’s trying to figure it out. As he tries to figure it out, he asks us what our parents said when we told them we were in love for the first time. Both my husband and I looked at him blankly and informed him that we didn’t tell our parents – it wasn’t something we would ever tell our parents. That would’ve been weird!
In the aftermath of my son’s grand announcement, my husband and I got talking about our first crushes. I had entirely forgotten about mine and then I remembered and realized it wasn’t a nice story. My husband asked me to tell him and I warned him that it was really a sad story, especially when I look back now.
I was twelve. My army officer father had just gotten posted to the ass end of nowhere in the Himalayas. My mother wasn’t well and was in the hospital for surgery so my sister and I were in a completely new place at the start of summer, which meant we had made no friends in school. Luckily, we got friendly with the kids of the other army officers who were in the same cant as my father.
And there was a boy.
It was my first crush. I remember feeling different. I remember feeling the thrill of it. I had no idea what it meant but it was a rush.
We spent all summer together as a group, watching movies, going on hikes…being kids on summer holiday. When the summer ended and school was about to start – I decided to tell him that I liked him. I didn’t know to what end but I felt I should tell him. And I did.
What followed was awful. He laughed at me and told everyone that I had told him I liked him. My parents found out and were furious. My mother was convinced that this is what happens when she isn’t around to monitor us. My parents felt I had humiliated them in front of their peers and were worried that I had made things difficult for myself.
My crush and I were to be in the same class in school. You get the picture?
So I started school with all the boys in class knowing that I liked this boy and I had told him. God, the humiliation. My ears are burning even now as I remember it.
I got over the boy of course – as soon as I found out that the boy I had a crush on was at the bottom rung of the academic ladder in school (these things mattered to me then). But that bittersweet feeling of falling in love was probably bruised a little.
To give that twelve year old boy some credit, he was just twelve and we were after all in India. It wasn’t what young girls were supposed to do and young boys had no idea how to handle such a declaration.
I fell in love again as a teenager and in all honesty didn’t remember this experience at all except now as I see my kid in love and I hope that when he’s my age and he looks back he smiles. Because the truth is you never fall in love as a grown up as you did when you’re a teenager. That love when you’re twelve, fifteen, eighteen is incandescent, larger than life – untainted by responsibility or even reality. And the heartbreak is just as real then – strong because your heart is not cynical enough to learn to deal with it. The heart mends, of course, but maybe that’s what it means it grow up.