the 21-kind-of-something love: the adolescent flirtation that is perhaps deeper than your sweet 16 crush but not as profound as to what you will feel for a man in your post-transformative years.
we shape-shift our way through the majority of our 20s. the ‘i love you’ at 21 is as meaningful then as it is now but in cultivating ourselves as women, as our emotions become more authentic, as our heart ages, we become genuinely intuned with love. more than a feeling it becomes a moral, a virtue, a logic–the stitch that sews our personal fabric together.
i become aware of this the other day while waiting to board a plane in melbourne. without choice i found myself eavesdropping on a group of 21 year olds chatting behind me (their age is revealed when the evident leader of the pack shouts “dudes, i turn 21 on this trip, we’re totally getting wasted!” ah, youth and their tubular language, man.) loud and obnoxious as they are their interpersonal communication with one another is endearing.
“fantasy love is much better than reality love.” (andy warhol)
there is the birthday boy who all the girls pine over. the self-identified cool girl who flicks her hair and recites everything the boy says with exaggerated hand gestures. the other girls imitate her. the boy’s male entourage talk about the surf; a couple of them with wandering eyes each time the girls flick their hair. then there are the outcasts: the silent youngster who timidly plays on his phone minding his own business (i like him) and the quirky, chatty chipmunk who scurries around the group as she vies for attention but to no avail. they are an eclectic group as social creates are at this age. the most amusing thing is the crushing tension i can detect between them. love is always a curious beast but heightened with naivety at a young age i suppose. as we board the plane the group is divided by their assigned seats but they chat and flirt from row to row.
this scene made me smile and take stock of my own heart and its evolutionary trail–from my first “i like you” at 15 to a boy who would become a dear friend; to my first “i love you” at 21 to a guy that i betrayed and who i lost too soon; to my first “i don’t love you” at 27 to a man i should have never kissed; to my first “i lust you” at 28 to an enigma that still moves me to this day; to my first “i love me” at 30–all of these ‘firsts’ evolved from innocent flirtation and undefinable chemistry.
in observing these young, smitten strangers i don’t endure any anxiety, or humility, in being a singleton, because their amusing awkwardness reminds me that my heart is an open, one-way ticket; passenger for (romantic) adventure as with each new (love) trip comes an entire itinerary of firsts.
“i wonder if its possible to have a love affair that lasts forever.” (andy warhol)