By Anna Koppelman, 15
“I’ve never felt this way before,” she Facebook messages me. It’s 12:02 a.m. My alarm is set to wake me up six hours from now. I should be asleep. My parents definitely think I’m asleep.
“It’s like this bubbly feeling — like I’m going to throw up glitter or something.”
She had just finished a five-hour Skype call with him. She should have been doing homework, but when a boy makes you feel like you are about to throw up glitter, everything else can wait. "I’m in love with him," she says. They have been dating for a week.
Someone once told me that the problem with teenagers is that we are so in love with the idea of love that we’ll say we feel it for just about everything and will do anything to feel it. We love the new pair of shoes we got for our birthday. We love the TV show that just premiered. We love the boy we’ve been dating for a week.
When I was in the sixth grade, I fell in “love” with a boy in my science class. He was all I could talk about for weeks. I knew his favorite color (green), his favorite show (How I Met Your Mother — it quickly became my favorite too) and his favorite food (Chinese).
After him came the boy in my after-school program who slicked his hair back. Then the boy in my history class who wore flannels. I dabbled with a few of my older brother’s friends — the one who liked popcorn, the one who let me scoop the ice cream out of the tub and the one who bought me a stuffed animal after my eye surgery. They were soon surpassed by the boy who sang songs of lost loves in talent shows, the mathematician and the actor.
I loved all of them and dated none of them. It was simply the idea of having someone to hold. To talk to. To be with. No matter how many friends you have, how much time you spend with your family or the number of extracurriculars you participate in, being a teenager can be lonely. For me, these boys were a way to leave the loneliness. I would create a future of us together in my mind and escape to it when I needed a way out of what I was feeling.
It’s 12:04. She messages me again. “There’s a lump in my throat. Like, he’s perfect.” I stare at my computer screen trying to calculate the best answer. Do I tell her that no one can really be perfect? Everyone’s flawed? No, that would be annoying and unnecessary — even I know that. She waits, and then she sends another: “He makes me feel like I’m beautiful. Like I could, you know, float or something.” I wonder if she knows how trite it all sounds as she types it. I still haven’t messaged her back.
The first time the fantasy of a boy became the reality: It was the summer. He was British and a runner. He made me laugh, he made me cry. He held my hand when I needed him to. He would look at me, and I would melt. I didn’t care if a counselor yelled at us for making out. We knew our time was limited, but it didn’t matter if we only got three weeks at a summer program; we would make the most of it — we would make this something we could never forget.
For the first time, I felt like “throwing up glitter.” I thought I had felt love before, but it was nothing like this. He would touch my arm, and my entire body would tingle. He would smile at me, and I would forget about every other worry I had. He would laugh, and I would feel pure happiness that he was happy. But I never told him I loved him.
Love had lost its meaning. I had loved all the other boys. I wrote full diaries about some of them. Yet this feeling was completely different. This was stronger, realer, crazier. It made me wonder: What about the next boy? What if the feelings are stronger for him? Then what do I say? There aren’t gradations of love — you can’t tell someone you “low-key” love them or “for real” love them. How do you know if love is what you are feeling? How do you promise someone you love them when you are not even sure what love is?
My brother’s girlfriend, with curly black hair, dances around the kitchen as she makes him breakfast. They are in love. My parents have been married for 25 years. After a long day of work, my dad will still massage her back or rub her foot. They are in love. My step-grandmother offers to make my Pop-Pop drinks every night before bed. They are in love.
Love is an emotion. It can't be quantified. No matter how many poems are written or songs are sung, we can’t compare the feelings of love. We can’t be sure that the love we feel is the same as the love that’s being given to us. We can’t be sure if the love we feel even qualifies as love.
It’s now 12:09, and she messages me again: “HELLOOOO!!! Should I tell him I love him or what?!?!?” I finally start to type my response. Tell her to wait. Tell her she could be wrong. How does she know that this is love? Didn’t she love the last guy, too? Wasn’t that like, four weeks ago?
But before any of these responses have the chance to leave my computer, she messages me again: “OMG I AM FREAKING OUT.” A second passes. “HE JUST SAID IT!!! HE JUST WROTE: I LOVE YOU! AHHHHHHH." I shriek and laugh, and write back an infinity of exclamation points and a ton of OMGs.
I am happy for them. I don’t question if what they are feeling is love anymore. I don’t wonder if it’s love that she feels, or if it’s the desire for love -- the idea of love. I don’t ask about the next boy -- what she will tell him, if she will have anything to tell him.
They may only be dating for a week, and he may live in another state, but that’s how they feel. You can’t deny someone else feelings. Maybe love is like magic. It’s only real if you believe in it and try your hardest not to question it.
It’s 4:45 p.m. the next day. This time I message her: “OMG YOU HAVE TO LOOK HIM UP! HE’S LEGITIMATELY PERFECT FOR ME.” I watch the typing bubble move up and down slowly. She replies: “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD HE’S SO CUTE! YOU HAVE TO TALK TO HIM” I excitedly write back, “ I KNOW!!! I’M LOW KEY OBSESSED LIKE I MAY ALREADY BE IN LOVE."
Hey, we all have to believe in something.