Sunday, February 5, 2012

Forever ever?

I love YA fiction. Always have, and always will. But what I don’t like is True Love in YA fiction. Whether that mysterious cute guy at school turns out to be a vampire, an angel, a prince or - gasp!- an ordinary boy, I’ll tell you one thing for certain: the guy you fall in love with when you’re sixteen is not the love of your life.

Source
Disclaimer: I don’t know, maybe he is. Maybe you and he will grow up in exactly the same direction and want exactly the same things. It could happen. It’s just that it probably won’t. The reason they call it first love is that there is usually a second. At least.

Think back to the boy/girl you loved when you were sixteen. If you were still together, would you be visiting them in prison? Or the drug rehab unit? Or the drug rehab unit in prison? Or was that just my high school boyfriend?

Disclaimer: I don’t know that for sure, but I feel like I can safely malign him here because I don’t think he reads this blog. I don’t think he can read.

I don’t hate romance in YA. I don’t even hate love. I hate True Love. I hate “omigod-you-complete-me-you-are-my-soul-and-my-destiny-and-we-will-be-together-until-we-die” obsessive kind of love. My point, which I promise I have, is that you spend enough time in your teenage years searching for yourself. You shouldn’t be wasting your valuable time searching for anyone else as well.

If, after you save the world / expose the conspiracy / fight the bad guys / kill all the humans, if after all of that you and your boy/girl are still standing shoulder to shoulder, then maybe that’s a beginning of something new. (I think The Hunger Games did this well, BTW. I think Twilight didn’t.) But chances are that somewhere along the way when you were saving the world / exposing the conspiracy / fighting the bad guys / killing all the humans, you grew up a bit. You changed, and change is good. Change is necessary. 

Love is not an ever-fixed mark, despite what Shakespeare said. What the hell would he know? He ditched his wife and ran off to London to hang around with boys who wore tights. And isn't the world a better place for it? 

This isn’t just hindsight, I don't think. I was this cynical at sixteen as well. Could I picture myself with my high school boyfriend five years from then? I couldn’t picture myself with him by the weekend.

Forever ever is a long time when you’re sixteen.

True love in YA. Are you too cynical to buy it? 

24 comments:

  1. I couldn’t still be with the girl I loved when I was sixteen ‘cause she never knew. I guess you could say I was even more cynical about my chances of dating her than I was about true love.

    But yeah, true love in stories should take time. I mean, look at Luke and Leia – good thing they didn’t jump into bed at first sight.

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    1. Luke and Leia, good call!

      I'm glad I wasn't the only teenage cynic.

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  2. I don't read romance full stop ^^; I'm dead, dead, dead inside. I find it dull, especially in YA! Don't waste those years getting stuck in a relationship. Get out there, see the world and have an adventure! And just like you said - learn about who you are before you concern yourself with someone else.

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    1. Oh yes, get out and see the world!

      And I always suspected you were dead inside, Miss Cole, I just didn't want to bring it up because it seemed impolite. :)

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  3. I have to disagree. I think the modern, "mature" view of true love is far more terrible: you have to spend years "finding yourself" and shouldn't get married until you are well on your way to 30, and then MAYBE you'll find someone that you'll be compatible with, but only for the next 5-7 years and then you'll get divorced and start all over again.

    I do believe love is an ever-fixed mark. Anything that purports to be love that is easily shaken was never really love to begin with. And that's the real problem. So many things are called love today that aren't. People don't know what love is anymore, which is why their love affairs always fail. True love is possible and personally I think it more possible the younger you are.

    What do I base this on? I found true love when I was 19 and he was 18. We got married 6 months later. We're nearly at our 10 year anniversary. I know without a shadow of a doubt that we will be together forever.

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    1. Hi Sarah! I think your story is fantastic, but I'm betting you and your husband were much more mature teenagers than I was. Because if I was still hanging on to my True Love from back then, well, we'd both be miserable. And you're absolutely right - it wasn't really love, but my teenage brain convinced me otherwise. And, with my limited experience, I had no way to judge it wasn't the real thing. But I know it wasn't, because despite the fluttery feelings, there was no basis in friendship or in trust. And that, for me at least, can never be instantaneous.

      Congratulations to you and your husband on your ten years!

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  4. I'm actually having a hard time writing a comment to aptly express my love of this post.lol

    My first love when I was 15 broke half the girl's hearts in our high school. He finally settled down with a friend of my sister's. His fate? He now has four daughters.

    I think your first love is more about first lust than anything else. Real love is not a fairytale. It's something you have to work at every. single. day. It's not rose petals on your pillow or longing looks across a candlelit dinner table.

    It's about sticking together when times get rough. It's watching the other cry the first time they hold their son or pouring their drinks after they bury their mother and then pouring them into bed a few hours later. It's endless dirty socks and lifted toilet seats. It's waking up to the same face for more than twenty years, and still wanting to wake up to it for another twenty.

    It's spending way too long writing a comment they will never see and you will never tell them about because they will use it against you the next time you refuse to watch Pawn Stars.

    That is true love. But it's not the kind you can sell to most teenagers.

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  5. I love that your high school boyfriend boy now has four daughters - karma's a bitch! Also, this:
    It's about sticking together when times get rough. It's watching the other cry the first time they hold their son or pouring their drinks after they bury their mother and then pouring them into bed a few hours later. It's endless dirty socks and lifted toilet seats. It's waking up to the same face for more than twenty years, and still wanting to wake up to it for another twenty.
    This is perfect!

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  6. I've had the recent experience of uncovering some high school/college journals, in which I pour out acres of love and angst for my then-boyfriend. It didn't last, although we gave it a fair shake even when we went off to different colleges. It didn't last, but I still remember the utterly intense life-or-death longing of it...and that's why it makes for such good writing and reading fodder.

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    1. Acres of love and angst...and now acres of hilarity!

      I once found an old high school book where I'd written my initials and some boy's initials in pretty love hearts everywhere. I spent the rest of the day wondering who the hell that guy was. Starts with a T, but no idea where it goes from there! Apparently our love wasn't as eternal as I'd anticipated.

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  7. Jen, loved this post. Laughed out loud at "is it just my boyfriend?" and "I don't think he can read". LOL -- LOL -- LOL. It's so true. That first love feels like the be-all end-all of it all, but it's not, and sooner (if you're lucky) or later (if you're not, like me), you realize it. The growth you'll need in order to become a Responsible Adult does not jibe with True Love in YA. Like you, I think YA would do much better to explore that personal growth instead of the Twilight-Edward-is-everything romance that makes no sense--*and* perpetuates that Cinderella tale that screwed up so many of us. Great, great post.

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    1. Thanks Guilie! True love, like Marsha said, is dirty socks and lifted toilet seats. Your True Love should be your best friend, not some object of worship. Because that will not make for a happy ending.

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  8. I met my husband when he was 19 (I was 21). I think the timing was perfect - he still had a little growing up to do, but I'd been ready for a serious relationship for a little while.

    I agree that the teen romance thing is taken way too seriously - even if you think it's life or death when you're that age, distance and maturity puts those obsessive feelings into perspective. Getting a dose of reality in the real world helps too ;-) If you can pay the bills and grocery shop with someone and still love them madly, it's probably a sure thing.

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    1. Great point, Charlotte! Teen True Love never has to worry about grocery bills, does it? And, really, I think that's what your twenties are for - finding your way towards being a grown up. And I also think there's a huge difference between 16 and 19. At 19 you might be almost there but at 16, if you're anything like I was, you have no idea of how to be an adult. You're too busy being misunderstood by your parents and dying your hair strange colours... :)

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  9. I broke up and got back together with my first love so many times that, at the age of 19, I moved across the country away from him. Not because I didn't love him, but because I knew we would destroy each other.

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    1. It sounds like you made the right decision, Sarah, and good for you for recognising that at 19. I wouldn't have.

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  10. I agree with you for the most part. In most cases, at sixteen you're not with the person you'll be spending forever with. But there are exceptions.

    My parents are the first example that comes to mind. They started dating at 16 and 17. (Though they didn't get married until their late-20s after being a part for some time). Maybe that seems old-fashioned because it's my parents. But I also know a couple around my age who first got "together" in the 7th grade (whatever the 12-year-old equivalent of dating is) and continued on trough high school. They did get some time apart (she went to college across the country) and dated around, but eventually ended up back together. It's too early to say it's forever, but they are now in their mid-20s and going strong.

    Maybe it's rare, but it does happen in real life. Just maybe not in the way it happens in some YA books (or Boy Meets World). I think it's a good idea for young couples, even if they're meant for each other, to eventually have some time apart and not hop into marriage too early.

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    1. Cacy, in your parents' case I love to be proven wrong! I think the important thing though is life experience. Obviously your parents and your friends got some in!

      It's the obsessive I-love-you-so-much-I'll-DIE-if-you-don't-love-me-back that really annoys me. Or the idea that when you're a teenager you need to find someone who completes you.

      Grr. Nobody completes you. You're you, completely, and then you're you with a boyfriend. But you're still you!

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  11. Gave you an award! Pop on over to my blog to check it out. Congrats!

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  12. Hello there,

    Stopped by via a link through a tagged list of bloggers - you being one of them - and whilst reading through the various blogs and posts I kept encountering the letters 'YA'?

    Forgive my ignorance, but could someone please explain what they mean?

    And if I might be so bold to address you by your first name, Jen, I hope you don't mind, but I like the look/feel and content of your blog so I've now joined your merry band of followers :)

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    1. Glad to have you here, Mark! I like the idea of a merry band of followers, it makes me feel very Robin Hoodish!

      YA stands for Young Adult.

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    2. Thank you for that - you can tell I'm out of touch with what's going on.

      Robin Hood, eh? So long as I'm not cast as Friar Tuck!

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    3. How about Will Scarlet? We all know with a cool name like that, he should have been the hero. 😊

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