by Meghan M '11

Teenagers Can Be In Love Too! The Chemistry of Young Love

How many times have you brought up the subject of dating with your parents, and they ended up telling you that you’re “too young to know what love is”?  Did you ever really believe them? Hopefully not, because as we teenagers have always known deep down inside, our parents are completely wrong on that front.
From the day babies are born all the way until their death, they are constantly experimenting with the mystery of love, going through different stages during which they learn details about their emotions towards others.  During the infant years, babies begin learning important life skills that develop during their acts to attract attention; they learn how to “flirt”.  [That’s right; you’ve been doing it since you were in diapers].  When anyone pays attention to them, babies will blink, giggle, and sigh at just the right times when only a couple of months old.  They usually flash their first smile at 6 weeks, when the parents are feeling the newness of their baby begin to wear off. When babies smile or carry out any other signature cute baby move, they sense the people around them get happier, and usually see them return the smile. They learn how to interact with people.  These interactions are the very first practice sessions babies will have before moving on into the war zone that will be their love life.
During the toddler years, they move out from their small interacting stages to having crushes on people.  At this stage, toddlers are extremely straightforward when they are attracted to someone, or when expressing their love for their parents.  “They love you and they really, really express it,” says Alison Gopnik, cognitive psychologist at the University of California.  The reason for this explicit expression of love is that they still haven’t developed what is called the theory of mind; they don’t understand that not everyone agrees with what they think and that most people keep their thoughts hidden. Social psychologist Elaine Hatfield, best known for her creation of the Passionate Love Scale, a survey that gets adults to discuss their romantic feelings, altered the questions slightly so they would apply to toddlers, and found that children as young as 4 years old fall in love just as adults do.  They are filled with passionate feelings towards individuals, and often become attached to people. Although this seems like a joke to onlookers, in their minds every emotion they experience is painfully real.
When puberty hits, children usually separate into same sex groups, spending most of their time thinking and talking about the opposite gender.  Remember those days in elementary school when the entire schoolyard would break out into a riot, usually boys vs. girls? That was all part of the cycle we go through on our way to our romantic lives. During this period, girls spend a lot of time dreaming up romantic fantasies, and boys in turn spend a lot of time toughening themselves up and cursing to build up their “tough guy” image.  In a sense, during this period, girls are practicing being girls, and boys are practicing being boys.  Eventually, boys and girls begin to co mingle once more, minus all the bloodshed. This starts off as very minimal interaction between the genders, with only a few courageous members of each pack daring to cross over to the other side. Once these interactions have begun, however, adolescents are not often seen returning to their old same gender interactions.  Boys and girls begin going out, but most relationships are short lived, because neither gender is accustomed to working hard to keep up their end of a relationship.  This is good in the sense that through these experiences, teenagers learn what it means to be in a relationship. They constantly work towards having the “perfect” relationship; a lifetime one.
All through our lives, we are constantly learning how to love, and learning more about ourselves in the process. Our parents’ telling us we are too young to know what love is is like saying we are too young to know how to read.  Loving is natural; we’ve been doing it since we were born. So, the next time you talk to your parents about love, have you figured out what you’re gonna say?
– Can teens really love or are we too young? Write a letter to the editor.


By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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