Can high schoolers be in love?


Greta Davis and Liz Rauckhorst

   What is love? Do we know? Is love that note in your locker from your seventh grade crush? Is it a warm hug from your grandma at Sunday brunch? Is it thinking someone’s cute and telling your best friend? Or is it putting the last piece into a puzzle with your husband of 54 years?

   As teenagers, we see love all around us. But, as high schoolers, do we have the personal insight and life experience to know what being in love is? Are we caught up in “whirlwind romances” or have we truly found “love”? 

   Greta: To all you high schoolers who say “I love you” to your two-week boyfriend, wake the heck up. You’ve known him for two weeks, people. Two weeks. That’s not enough time to know them, let alone foster the closeness required to say those three words. Let’s also talk about the fact that you’re like five. Okay, so maybe you’re 17, but you’ve only actually had a thought about the world since you’ve been 12… so five years. Do you really have the life experience to know this is the person you want to be with for the rest of your life?

   Liz: Woah Greta, calm down. Yeah, we’re in high school, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel emotions. We can still love. We can still be happy. We can still think. You say we have only been mindful thinkers for five years… I don’t know about you, but my momma has been hugging me and telling me she loves me 30 times a day for my whole life. And you know what? I feel pretty dang loved!  We experience love from the day we are born to the day we die, or at least that’s what I choose to believe. You might not see it, but I do. Love is everywhere. If you want to live in a loveless world, that’s fine by me, but you don’t need to drag us all down with you.

   Greta: Okay, okay… I’m not denying that love exists. I 100% love my momma. I’m not saying we can’t feel emotions. All I’m saying is that kissing your boyfriend for the first time and feeling that rush of excitement doesn’t equate to love. Going on a date for the first time doesn’t mean you two are “meant to be.” We’re giving way too much credit to our in-the-moment feelings. Just because we had an amazing date last Friday, doesn’t mean we are in love; it simply means we had a nice time with a great person. It’s super exciting, I won’t deny that. It’s exciting to tell your best friend, “Guess what?… I just made out with a super cute guy.” But does that mean it’s love? No. No it does not. 

   Liz: Okay, I can agree with that; the first kiss doesn’t equal love. But what about after six months of dating and hundreds of kisses later? This is still the same two “clueless” high schoolers kissing in the hallway, but what about now, six months later? These first experiences might seem small but they make up every relationship. Your parents wouldn’t be married today if they did not have a first kiss, a first date, a first “I love you”. Every love starts somewhere and that somewhere can be in high school. Firsts lead to seconds and thirds. Before you know it, a year flies by, and you’re still with that person you love. That’s pretty amazing. First experiences are essential. They set up expectations of where the relationship will go in the future. If the first kiss was good, the passion was there, it will lead to more. You’re right, a first kiss is just a first kiss. But it is also a stepping stone for love. 

   Greta: Is it really a stepping stone to love? Are they really in love? When I hear “I love you” 20 times throughout my day, does that really mean love? If I say “I love you” to my boyfriend of two weeks, how does that compare to saying “I love you” to my husband of 50 years? They’re not the same. Isn’t it cheapening the thought by overusing the phrase? If I say those three words as often as I say hello, it doesn’t deliver the significance it deserves. It’s just another part of communication rather than an expression of care and compassion. Why do you need to say “goodnight, I love you” or “drive safe, I love you”? Is the second part necessary? The literal definition of love is “an intense feeling of deep affection.” You’re not expressing that eternal care, you’re just saying it to say it. It’s superficial. Saying “I love you” all the time, and normalizing it, proves that we aren’t actually in love. If we have to be told twenty times a day that someone loves us, it clearly isn’t special, and it clearly isn’t love.

   Liz: I feel attacked! The phrase “I love you” is special, and you can’t take that away. Everyone feels love, and they express it in many ways. Saying “I love you” has as much meaning as the individual wants it to have. When I say “I love you” to my boyfriend, I mean it. I don’t keep track of how often I say or hear it because it always means the same. If you asked anyone if “hi” and “I love you” meant the same thing, I guarantee you that few would agree. Think about this… you have been happily married for 20 years and met your significant other at the end of high school. Every day you tell them that you love them, this would amount to over a thousand “I love you’s” to one person. Does the phrase lose its value? No. You’re looking at these relationships like they are short-lived. The fact is, we don’t know if they will last or not. That couple you are judging could very well be together for the rest of their lives or for only a few months. So why not say how you feel? If you feel so strongly about a person even after only a month, tell them, because at the end of the day no one can predict the future for those individuals. Life is all about these “in-the-moment” feelings and if this “love” is true for these people, then why tell them it’s not true? To them it’s real and they are the people in the relationship. It only matters how they feel about each other… how you feel about them does not.

   Greta: Maybe we have different definitions of love, but enjoying spending time with someone doesn’t mean you’re in love with them. You’re in high school. You don’t live with your significant other. You don’t know what it’s like to spend every second together. You based your “love” off three hours of watching a movie and making out. It takes a heck of a lot more time to develop love than that. You base your “love” off getting a sweet goodnight text. It takes a heck of a lot more commitment to develop love than  that. My point is, we’re in high school. We have the rest of our lives ahead of us. We haven’t had the life experience to know what real love is. To add to that, our brains aren’t fully developed. How can we have these mature thoughts about love when our brains are not yet fully matured? Yeah, we might like someone, we might really care for them, and that’s legit. But is it really love? I don’t think so. According to HuffPost, only two percent of married couples are high school sweethearts. Are you that two percent? Let’s be honest, probably not. How can a high schooler claim to be in love when their brain isn’t yet capable of recognizing love? How can a high schooler claim to be in love when 98% of them aren’t? The facts are against it, and that’s all there is to it. You might think you’re in love; you might convince yourself you are… but you’re not.

   Liz: To say that these high schoolers are not in love is inaccurate. In high school we have intense thoughts and feelings about people. It happens to everyone and should not be disregarded. You’re basing your argument on the likelihood that these individuals will get married, but you can be in love with someone without marrying them. To say that the only person you should love is your life partner is ridiculous. We are allowed to love more than one person in our lives. There are no rules dictating how we love. High schoolers have more life experience than they are given credit for. By the time we are 17 we’ve felt despair, pain, hope, excitement. All of these are major emotions, just like love is. So why say we can’t feel love too? Love is not this elusive emotion only attainable by those who are older than us.

   So what is it? Can high schoolers be in love, or is it in our heads? At the end of the day, we can’t tell you. Are you mature enough to know what love is? That’s up to you.