In 9th grade, I wrote a love letter to a boy. I imagine it was entirely dramatic—depicting my teenage longing and the color of his eyes with gag-inducing metaphors—but genuinely heartfelt, and honest nonetheless. And while I tried my hardest to emulate the letter-writing greats, like Oscar Wilde and John Keats, my letter read like a scene from Degrassi with the raw emotion of a Dashboard Confessional hit.
Upon completion, I lifted his address from whatever internet-creeping method was available to the youths of 2004, and affixed a postage stamp to the envelope. But instead of sliding my masterpiece in the mailbox, I buried it under a pair of tube socks in my dresser drawer to forever rot with the rest of the trinkets I once considered sacred, like concert ticket stubs and my cola-flavored lip balm.
Probably best—he came out a year later.
I was adjusting to a rampant influx of hormones and studying Shakespeare at the time, and that blonde boy—with his tight jeans and retro band tee—was a teenage dream. Maybe my immersion in ole’ Will’s works possessed me to pen my hopeless confession, but I was convinced its recipient was the Romeo of my modern day romance, except with more eyeliner.
Confessing my love at the foot of a balcony in a castle garden seemed like a righteous way to tell him, but being this was high school, my next best option was theater scaffolding and an empty auditorium, and I wasn’t so bold. A letter seemed reasonable and equally romantic.
So, I set out to craft the most perfect prose–a meaningful composition offering the “you are the sun to my moon…” and the “you melt my heart like gelato on a hot summer day…” kind of cheese. I’m sure, at some point in the letter, I even touched on the aforementioned skinnies and retro band tee, as well as his piercing green eyes and perfected emo-kid haircut.
I had great taste in men, clearly.
What I didn’t realize was that while I was doing my best to clearly communicate my feelings for this boy, I was doing a better job of demonstrating that I didn’t know jack shit about love. What I was actually writing was a teenage lust letter.
My english literature teacher assigned Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in the spring of my freshman year of high school—an assignment which I now find perfectly hysterical given the subject matter and our limited frame of reference. I wouldn’t experience the throes of passion for many more years—my experience with boys was limited to crushes from afar. My expectations? Adapted from fairy tale plots of Disney classics and Nicholas Sparks novels.
At 14, I fought hard for the notion of love at first sight. It was most certainly possible, and completely realistic, to lay eyes on a stranger and immediately fall to a love so powerful, it was worthy of a dagger to the heart.
We were a class full of hopeless romantics pining for the same plot line, minus the double suicide. I like to imagine my teacher heading home and pouring a stiff Manhattan after listening to us debate the concepts of love and lust, and slamming the glass down in fits of amusement as she regaled our arguments to her husband. I bet she had a ball.
Then, as is expected en route to adulthood, I experienced a healthy relationship, a not-so-healthy relationship, a handful of flings, a handful of mistakes, and a little bit of growing up, and my views on love changed dramatically.
I could never fight so hard for lust.
In fact, I would be that weird kid crying “lust at first sight” from her soapbox in response to Romeo and Juliet’s shit-show romance, and preaching a more realistic stance on the components of enduring love. That everlasting love had less to do with theatrics, sex, and passion, and more to do with mutual trust, respect, and compassion. That kid existed then, there’s always one—I just thought they’d lost their goddamn mind.
Given the choice between passionate love (intense feelings and sexual attraction) and compassionate love (mutual respect, trust, and affection), I would’ve thrown my minimum wage earnings down on passion with the reckless abandon of star-crossed lovers. We are taught that fire, with all of its intensity, is the stuff of happily ever afters.
But that weird kid was on to something.
Turns out, I’m not much of a dater. I much prefer investing the time and effort to build a solid foundation with someone in a more relaxed, organic fashion, and my history speaks to this notion; both of my long-term beaus were close friends. Probably because I recognized the endurance and depth of the compassionate love that followed the death of each honeymoon phase, and valued it more than our lust.
As the cliché goes, I fall in love slowly, and then all at once.
It happened once, it happened twice, and nearly a third time. When I recognized the symptoms weeks ago, I returned to the love letter as my method for communicating my tumble, knowing I could produce something with more substance and more understanding than its predecessor, and with more clarity than a verbal confession. I wanted its recipient to fully grasp the depth of my affection.
I wanted him to understand that he gives me balance in a world that threatens to tip all of us, and that a person I deem worthy of my whole heart is someone who propels me toward a better me.
So, I set out to craft the most perfect prose—a meaningful composition offering the “everything you are has granted me an unwavering feeling of wholeness in your presence…” and the “I am home at your side…” kind of cheese. I’m sure, at some point in the letter, I even touched on the amount of days I spend wishing to choke him, but that I would go to the ends of the earth to protect him from harm.
Because that is what love is. It is a partnership, a support system, a commitment, a bond, a blessing, a struggle. It is all of the good paired with all of the bad, and everything in between. And it is unrefined, enduring, and formidable.
Upon completion, I prayed to God for a little strength, patience, and understanding for both of us before sealing the envelope. But instead of sliding my masterpiece in the mailbox, I taped it to his front door. Because unlike the last, and regardless of his response, my heart deserved an opportunity to make its feelings known to someone other than the tube socks in my dresser drawer.