“If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.” Celine, Before Sunrise
It was as if someone was squeezing my gut and refused to let go. I felt nauseous and weak. The feeling was especially painful at night, as most pains are. It was the daunting realization that I may never see this person again. I wondered if this was love. The love they sing and make movies about. The love I was told to find if I had any hopes of ever being fulfilled, complete.
Countless times, I’ve attempted to define romantic love. How do we meet strangers and soon find ourselves enthralled by their existence, depending on them as if they were the very air we breathe? Why do we crave the entwining of our minds, bodies and souls with one another? Is such kind of romantic love real or even necessary? Have Disney, Hollywood, and Jane Austen duped us into believing the unreal as something to dream about and strive for?
Such love is the “love of the adolescent.” As adults we tend to dismiss it as unreal and unnecessary, especially once we have made a public declaration transforming our love-based relationship into a marriage, breathing commitment into it. We now have more important things to think about; 8-hour workdays have to be lived through, bills have to be paid, and the Joneses have to be kept up with. Once we decide that kids are a necessity then of course, the kids have to be fed, clothed and sheltered. Hours of our days are sacrificed screaming and instructing these small creatures to brush their teeth, to finish their vegetables, to practice their reading and to, for the last time, GO TO SLEEP! The everyday mundane existence of the adult mind doesn’t have the luxury of fantasizing about intangible ideas of love and fulfillment of the soul. At least, not until you’re dozing off to sleep tired from your long day and wondering if this is all there is. Luckily, these moments are few and far between, since, of course, you have to focus and plan to wake up the next day and adult all over again.
But even without the weight of adult existence, the intensity of the adolescent love seems to wither with time. The man who had once declared to worship the very ground his angel walked on, now looks at her with a certain kind of disdain, he can’t fathom that his once beloved beauty is this overbearing and nagging woman who seems to be overly concerned about his choice of attire and the cleanliness of the toilet seat. The woman who had once looked at her lover and marveled at her lucky stars for delivering such a brilliant and caring man into her existence is baffled with the careless, somewhat un-affectionate man looking back at her across the dinner table. What happened?!
So, in a way we know that the adolescent love doesn’t necessarily translate into adult love, it dissipates. Our inability, for some of us at least, to believe in such love and our haste to dismiss it as mere infatuation lays in this very nature of the adolescent love – its inability to last. If it passes, was it ever real?
Yes. Yes, it was and is real. (Please excuse me while my logical, younger self goes and vomits).
Ok, I’m back.
The adolescent love, whether experienced at 15 or 50, is real, practical and mind-mindbogglingly fantastic. Its transient nature should never be seen as a reason to disbelief in the realness and beauty of it. Things do not need to last for us to label them real. Picturesque sunsets last mere minutes, beautiful movies – just hours, houseflies – weeks, all four seasons – months, and our bodies’ – just years. These things do not need to remain permanent for us to be awed by them or to be convinced of their realness.
The adolescent love is awe inspiring; two separate beings immersed in bliss together – mind, body and soul, giving both a rare chance to experience the “eternal now.” When they are together, they cease to think about the past with all its regrets or the future with all its anxieties. They are just there, indifferent to the world outside, experiencing a kind of peace that comes when one no longer feels that natural nagging of loneliness.
So yes, the adolescent love is real and beautiful and if you’ve been fortunate enough to experience it, count yourself very lucky.
But, (you have to have known a but was coming), while such love is real, it would be amiss for me to not reflect on a slightly deeper level as to why it dissipates. It dissipates because, as weak and fallible humans, we expect too much out of our relationships. We demand the love and our beloved to provide more than they can bear. We tend to deify our lovers; we want them to be our heroes and saviors, we want them to complete us. We forget that they are mere humans that can neither save us or themselves. As Ernest Becker said, “no human relationship can bear the burden of Godhood.” So, once their humanness becomes too apparent, that infatuation subsides, they, all of a sudden, become too real and we find ourselves awake to a “reality” we never signed up for.
This is why adult love is necessary. This love understands reality with all its hardships. It accepts commitments and sacrifices. It recognizes the humanness of the lover and yet attempts to stick around continuing to be compassionate and understanding. The adult love also requires a kind of vulnerability that the ego finds unbearable. When we decide to love someone in such a manner we’re open to seeing the worse of who they are and still be willing to stick around and continue to love them, without judgment. We have to put an immense amount of faith in them as well. That, once they see our worse side – as we all have that side – once they see our weakness, our ugly flaws, smelled our morning breathe, they will look at us not in dismay, but will see our full humanness in our failings and, maybe, potentially, unimaginably even love us more for it. The adult love is complicated and is not for the faint of heart, which is why half the time it fails.
Thus, while adolescent love is beautiful and real, we still have to be willing to also adultify it at some point. As much as we want to remain with our hearts in the clouds, we live in a temporary world that’s constantly and harshly reminding us of its transient nature at every corner. We need not be dismayed by our practical lives that don’t necessarily involve love poems or red roses. We need to be grounded enough to understand that even mundane everyday realities of our lives serve their own purpose, can even be viewed as sacred for the simple fact that we are alive to experience them.
But if your lucky stars align and you get a chance to experience the adolescent love, I hope you indulge, swim and dance in it – not all people are so fortunate. Just make sure you take it for what it is. Nothing more. Nothing less. The magic is not in its ability to last forever; it’s in your ability to live fully in the moment, connected.