Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Remember How it Feels to be a Teenager in Love

This one goes out to all the YA writers, the creators of teens, and especially the writers who aren't, well, teenagers anymore. If your teen character is going to fall in love, you need to remember what it's like to fall in love at that age. If you can't remember or never experienced it, my high school diary and I are here to help.

Disclaimer: I married my high school sweetheart, so I've never fallen into new love as an adult. I can't compare new teen love to new adult love. Buuuut, after you read my diary excerpt, you'll probably agree that new adult love wouldn't look the same.

A little background on my highschool love story:

In sixth grade, my family moved into a new house, where I met my future husband, who lived next door. At first, I thought he was a weird creep because he and his siblings stood on their side of the hedges and just watched us move in all our bags and boxes. Then, to my dismay, he started coming over to our house to hang out with my brother. Little did I know, he was only befriending my brother to spend time closer to me! I can't remember how or when it happened, but suddenly I started caring how my hair looked when he came over. I found out he thought Donna from That 70s Show looked cute in her school uniform, so I started keeping on my school uniform after school, but in a totally chill way, like, "Oh, I forgot to take off this outfit I'm forced to wear every day? Huh." I giggled over every little thing he said and couldn't wait to come home from school so we could play dodgeball together.

We both like liked each other, but we pretended not to until the summer before ninth grade. Everything changed the night of the Miss America Pageant. He was watching the pageant on TV with my family and me (I know, he REALLY liked me), but we were bored and passing notes. Because you don't just have a conversation right there with your parents and siblings listening. And we didn't have cell phones quite yet. I asked him if he liked anyone, he said yes. Someone I knew? Yes. How many letters in her name? Seven. (SEVEN! OH MY GOSH, THERE ARE SEVEN LETTERS IN JESSICA.) And then finally he sent a note back that said, "YOU." My face erupted with heat. I couldn't breathe, couldn't form a response, and definitely couldn't look at him. Because it was the only answer I wanted, but at the same time...when you're a teenager, falling in love for the first time feels like:

Source: giphy.com

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You get the point. Lots of emotions backed by lots of hormones.

Okay, so I mentioned a diary excerpt. My old diaries should probably be burned, but instead, I'll share pieces of them with the internet because that's a good idea and not at all embarrassing.

The diary:

First of all, check out this cover.

I was obsessed with Hilary Duff. But not as obsessed as with Gary, my crush and now husband, as you can see from the inside cover.

I mean, when I was fifteen and he was fourteen, I actually thought that a marriage proposal was in the realm of possibility just because he said he had a surprise for me.

And then here are a couple just in case you don't understand how consumed I felt.

As an adult with normal amounts of hormones and some life experience, it's tempting to tell the teen who wrote these diary entries, "Whoa, calm down because you're kind of desperate and obsessed and there's more to life than this boy." But my feelings were real. Healthy? Ehh, probably not. But real. And that boy was the great love of my life. My forever. (And you know it's real love because he has since seen this diary and did not run away.) 

So when you're writing teen love, checking to see if you pass the Bechdel test, and writing independent young women, don't forget what love actually feels like to young people. It's HUGE. Love consumes. Love is wild, torturous, good, emotional, physical, and oh so real. Don't be afraid to go there because teens need to see themselves in books...even the parts of them that are desperate and obsessed.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, thanks for sharing!

    I have a diary too from when I was a teen, where I wrote about a certain guy I liked. This guy had moved away, but he came back and now lives right across from my parent's house! It brings back old feelings, and I wonder if he and I have a chance now...