This is not the post I had planned to write when I opened up my browser this afternoon, but sometimes that's how the best posts turn out, so I'll go with it.
I had planned on writing about revisions and finding crit partners, but I opened my google reader feed to see if there was anything going on that I should know about before I posted. (Yes, I read all my blogs my rss feed. I am the penultimate lurker, hehe) What I found was this post by Natalie Whipple about love and our expectations of it, both it book & movies, and in real life.
There is a reader mentality that she talks about that I'd like to discuss.
And this is not the first time I've heard this. I hear this off kilter argument all the timewhen people start ragging on paranormal romance or praising contemporary fiction.
"Oh, that relationship is so unrealistic! That never happens. People don't just take one look at each other and end up getting together. People don't do that undying dramatic love for all of forever."
"This relationship is realistic—they break up and hate each other forever and move on with their lives. The girl loves the guy, but he never notices and that's how it is. Betrayal. Divorce. Boredom. Fights. These are real."
I understand that in the real world these are the circumstances many times. I understand that a lot of adults feel that it's a false advertising of sorts to imply to YA readers that they'll get that girl/guy they love and be happily ever after 9 times out of 10. It might be. But I've got to tell ya, that happens to some people. It may be complicated and messy, relationships are, it might be the hardest damn thing you've done in your whole life, but it happens. I'd know, it did to me.
On July 12, 2010, on our nine year anniversary, I married my best friend and high school sweetheart. I've never really talked about O and I's story on here or any of my other blogs, mostly because I assumed that anyone reading knew us and already knew the story. But I'd like to talk about it a little bit now, because this backlash that says it can't happen bothers me. It really pisses me off when we tell teens what you feel can't be real love, you're too young. The relationship you're getting into won't last, so it doesn't really matter. Seriously? F*$& that!
I spent much of my adolescent life head over heels in love with a friend of mine. It was destined never to work for a whole variety of reasons, but it was that aching, pining love you find in most YA books. Man, did that relationship ever give me angst ammunition to write YA for years. :) But if you had told me then that what I felt wasn't real or wouldn't last I would have been seriously pissed off. Ya know what? I still would be. Just because it was flawed and didn't work doesn't mean I felt it any less acutely at the time.
If anything I felt it more because I was at that age, not less. I hadn't become bitter of hardened by things going wrong, by all the crap there is to deal with. I felt with my whole heart from the get go. It was a long drawn out thing, with us falling back into familiar patterns and then breaking them and seeing other people. It was during my sophomore year that I met O. He was a senior and in my creative writing class. He was smart, funny, older and seemingly wiser/more mature. I had a little crush, but he had a longterm girlfriend and I was still in love with the unnamed friend.
We talked during class that year, flirted a little (though unsuccessfully), and then he graduated and moved away for the summer and that was the end of things. See, O and I weren't even really friends. He was that guy you talk to in one of your classes that you never talk to or see outside of school. That's all. We were both wrapped up in other things. Other people. Though he still professes to have been madly enamored with me from the get go. Silly boys.
At the end of that school year I started a relationship with somebody new. It went on for over a year, but crazy happenstance, he was acquaintances and slight friends with O, despite a 3 year difference in grades. Yes, if you're doing the math, I spent a year in high school dating a boy in the grade below me. No, I was not a cougar-in-training. We were the same age, I was younger than most of the kids in my grade.
Anyway, he was emailing O while O worked at Cedar Point over the summer, and I sent an email to O also, saying hi and asking how he was doing. We didn't keep exchanging emails, but it was a gust of air that kept a little ember burning, if you will.
We didn't really talk again for almost a year. The next April, almost the end of my junior year, the boyfriend asked me to come along to O's birthday party. I did. O's long term girlfriend and he had just broken up and she was about to move away. Suffice it to say, I am a terrible girlfriend and O and I flirted like mad. After that night we kept talking. Mostly chatting online, some phone calls. After a few weeks we started hanging out. O lived about a half hour away so I would bum rides with his best friend when he went to see O.
Soon we were inseparable. We were talking constantly when we weren't hanging out together. I was very lonely for a lot of reasons back then and O quickly filled that void. He became my best friend. And it was through our being such close friends that we fell in love. I'm not saying it wasn't messy or complicated, I mean I was still dating somebody else (though, admittedly trying to find a way out of a sticky relationship). It was extremely complicated and messy. It almost didn't work. We even broke up once. It didn't take. (Mostly because Oliver can be stubborn, said you're being ridiculous, and then proceeded to wait for me to also come to this conclusion.)
We were young and sometimes stupid (not that we aren't also sometimes stupid now) and not as mature as we thought. There were times when it was the hardest thing I could imagine, there were times when it almost didn't work, times when I threw my hands up in the air and said, "I quit." But to say that it is impossible to find true love at that age, that is can't last, that what a teenager feels is just lust or infatuation may be true for some, but certainly not all.
Of course, you could argue that almost ten years is not that long, that I have no way of knowing what will happen to O and I, that we could still get divorced. And you might be right, I have no way of knowing what the future holds, but I find it highly unlikely. We have grown into our relationship and still remain best friends. We have moved from the knock-down drag-out brawl (metaphorically) level arguments we use to have, to something else. We still fight, don't get me wrong. But now it lasts less than a half hour and at the first sign of something even remotely funny we're both giggling and the fight is over.
I guess my argument for why I know it's possible for teenagers to find that person while they're young can be summed up as this: When I was a child I asked my father who his best friend was. He smiled and told me, "your mother." I thought this was a ridiculous notion. Mom didn't count, they were married. Wasn't it the guy he went bowling with or one of his work buddies? No, he told me, your mother is my best friend in the world. I shook my head and left, thinking he had cheated and given me a cop out answer.
Fifteen years later, as I married O, I had come to understand exactly what my father meant that day. My parents met in high school and were on again off again for several years until they married. In four months they will celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary. Do not discount the love you find as a teen, it might not be the person you expect, but they might stick around a lot longer than anyone tells you is possible.