Perspectives on Youth (Love)


It’s so much easier for people my age to compare their lives to those depicted in movies and television – it lets you seem glamorous even in the midst of your unglamorous foibles.

When I binge-watched the entirety of the J.J. Abrams drama Felicity my freshman year, I was struck by how much the show made Keri Russell cry. She was always crying, but she always cried so artfully. Like it was a tense, poignant, incredibly emotional turn of life that only crying could rightfully capture. Everything was always an all-consuming crisis and with every passing episode I wanted nothing more than to reach into the TV screen and forcibly shake some sense into the girl. “The guy you threw away your entire future for? He’s British, kind of dim, and isn’t that hot.”

Okay, Scott Speedman was way hot, but that was totally beside the point.

Movie love is so powerful and wistful and on the edge of constantly being lost that if you ever wanted to be in it, you’d have to train for it like a marathon. So then why? Why did Felicity put herself through so much agonizing and self-doubt and loss of stability for some hot tail?

Because he was hot tail and she needed extra WB-y reasons to pour her heart out. And with every stirring set of violins plucking away at me as Russell’s oculars swelled with tears I felt the same pangs of regret, fear, and adoration she seemed to be constantly feeling.

When I watch teen dramas from the ‘90s and early 2000, I’m always jealous of how easy it was to fall in love and be in it with all your heart, always knowing that it was a sweeps episode away from breaking – but it was all worth it because those tears would be so cathartic and pathos-ridden that it was like a de-emotionalizing exercise for all kindred hearts.

I envy how Felicity had that off-white, shiny, picture-in-the-dictionary phone with little square numbers that had a long chord that trailed behind her as she carried it around the room with her, pining for that elusive man who she just couldn’t get to love her.

It was so much easier when he didn’t call you. Or when you kept seeing him and he didn’t say anything and you wanted to say something but you thought, you’ll have plenty of chances to confess your love and you’re too scared to do it now, so don’t.

Now there’s Facebook. Facebook: where you can look into the boy’s life you love everyday for every second, wondering, pondering, yearning to know if he’s doing the same and is fraught with the same rush of indecisiveness and anxiety as you.

Except you can’t call each other to dispel any of it.

Calling is antiquated and dumb and no one likes it and you should just send a text but you can’t because somehow Apple hasn’t figured out a way to make your emotions, irony, and sarcasm come across as effectively and powerfully as speaking in person.

I fell in love with the boy who sat next to me in my biology class freshman year of high school and he’s possibly the greatest dream I’ve never dreamt: He went from short and tubby to tall and sexy and now he’s a pre-med student with a sweet smile and crazy-soft baby hair that makes you second guess every ounce of food you eat, word you read, and thought you try to hide.

He’s a doctor waiting to carry you off from the porch of a southern plantation house into a sharp red convertible. He’ll drive you to that rustic, beautiful home where you’ll just sit together on the couch in pajamas and smile and laugh and look into each other’s eyes like how can there be anyone else for me like you?

With Facebook that’s all you have: fantasies. And your fantasies within those and those fantasies to which you put yourself to sleep. It encourages you to be fanciful because all you feel inside is that none of it is actually real.

You don’t know each other well enough – he goes to another school, far away, in a country setting where pretty girls can bat their lashes and be attractive in ways you can’t.

So you just sit there in front of the computer and refresh, checking every post, picture, and comment for a clue that maybe, just maybe he’s thinking about you and wanting you, and hoping, just hoping that one day you’ll rush across that bridge to each other in the rain to a passionate, beautiful kiss.

But you can’t. You’re busy cataloging your thoughts, turning them into their own crises, like a harping, numbing question wanting to be answered, which you refuse to acknowledge and claim as your own.

You start thinking about all the decisions you’ve made up to that point. Who am I doing this for? Me? This man whom I’ve only been in movie love for? Are my plans good enough? How can I live with myself if all I am is an epilogue to an arc of thirtysomething? You’re still in your 20s.

You get the feeling that that plan, the one for your future, where you’re happy and things are great and you make money and you have someone around to love you and hold you and fall asleep with, might kill you before you ever get to see it through.

And you wonder, is there anyone else dealing with this because I don’t know if I can handle being the only one, and you imagine a car scene with him in the passenger seat, where he says that he too has the same worries and precautions.

And then you pine and you look and you wonder why: how could this bear on you for so long and with so much strength as to crush you completely? Because I’m in love with him.

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image – Felicity