In past relationships I’ve said the words “I love you” and I’ve heard “I love you too.” I wonder, how do I know if this is true? What’s the real meaning of love? I’ve said it to three people. It was exciting each time but I questioned when I should have said it and even if I should have said it.
It was the summer after fifth grade when I first met Alton. I was spending my summer vacation in Mississippi visiting my relatives. I was only 9 and he was 11. One hot day we were chilling on the porch when three boys approached and asked who me and my sister were. We introduced ourselves and talked for a couple of minutes.
About a week passed and one day my cousin Carla ran in the house telling me that Alton liked me. I was shocked and happy, because I thought he was cute.
We returned to Mississippi the following year and that’s when Alton and I started talking. We were both shy so we would write letters to each other and when we did talk it was in a group. He asked me out two weeks before I was leaving to go back to California. I opened his letter while sitting on the porch and it said, “Do you want to go out with me?” I wrote back saying, “I would, but I’m leaving in two weeks.” After reading it he looked up at me with a sad face. He folded it up, put it back in his pocket and rode off on a four-wheeler.
A day or so later he gave me another letter asking me to go out with him for the second time. I said, “I like you too but you’re in Mississippi and I’m out here. It’s not going to work.”
When I came home and started seventh grade, we started talking through Facebook and when I got a phone we exchanged numbers and talked often. After a few months, we weren’t officially together but it seemed like we were.
I hoped he felt the same way I did
One afternoon we were texting about the fact that we could have talked in person but we didn’t. I said that now that we were in different places I regretted not talking to him when I had the chance. Out of the blue I decided to text “I love you.” I was anxious. What is he going to say? He said it right back. I sent a smiley face and he sent one back. We kept talking but there was no discussion about the fact that we said it.
After that, I was always the one who said “I love you” first. I felt super happy when I would get the text “I love you too.” But I wondered, “When are you going to say it first? Are you saying it back just because I’m saying it?”
I looked forward to seeing him the following summer but we never went back to Mississippi. I don’t even know how it ended. We just drifted apart.
At the time I thought I loved him but looking back on it now, I’m embarrassed that I was telling someone I loved him when I was that young. How did I even know what love was? It’s something we hear our parents and older couples say and then we decide to say it. I was shy so it was easier to say “I love you” because we weren’t face-to-face. When he received the message his facial expression could have been shocked or confused or unsure how to respond but I’ll never know.
The second time was different because I was older and I felt I had a better understanding of what love meant.
I met Terrence at his auntie’s house toward the end of seventh grade. That was the place my sister and I would go after school. I would hang out with his cousins. He would be there too sometimes but we’d be in the backyard listening to music and he’d be in the den on the computer.
We were at the house one day in eighth grade and one of his cousins told me, “You know Terrence likes you.” I thought he was cute but nothing more. His auntie had a big van and every day she’d take us home. One day it was just me and Terrence sitting in the back seat. We asked each other, “What do you like to do?” He was eating Oreos so I asked him, “Are Oreos your favorite cookies?” After that day, we talked more.
Around late February he asked me out through a text message. I said yes. Terrence and I would hang out on the bench before school started. Throughout the day I’d be with my friends and he’d be with his, then after school we’d meet up and hang out in the hallways and go back across the street to his aunt’s house. Terrence, his cousins, me and my sister would listen to music, dance, sing.
Every time I’d see him, I’d blush. After arriving home, I loved to text him, even though I’d seen him all day.
One day after a month or two, he texted me that he loved me. I thought, “Why so quickly? How do you love someone after dating them for one or two months?” I wasn’t sure if I loved him. I always thought I’d know I loved someone when I was married to them because I was committed to them. After he told me, it was all I could think about. I like you so does that mean I love you too? I felt bad that he said it to me and I didn’t say it back.
I was ready to say it
A couple days later, we were at his auntie’s house sitting on his couch. I thought, “OK I’m going to say it now.” I said, “I love you too.” His face lit up and he smiled. I did too. It felt like we were the only two people in the world. What a perfect couple, although we had no idea what love was. Saying it to each other made the relationship official.
After that we’d say “I love you” when we were hanging out at his auntie’s house. We’d be on the couch talking and I’d say it and he’d say it back.
I thought I was in love because we were really close. I knew his favorite song, “Heartless” by Kanye West, and I’d think of him whenever I’d hear it. I felt comfortable sharing things with him and he’d share everything with me. I felt like “I love you” is what you’re supposed to say when you really like someone.
But one day close to graduation I told him that since we were going to go to different high schools, we should go our separate ways. I said that in high school, we’ll meet different people and start new relationships. He agreed and we broke up.
The third time it took about a month to say “I love you” after he said it to me, and that’s how I knew I really was in love.
Diondre and I met at school after lunch. The bell had just rang for everyone to start heading to fifth period. I was a freshman and he was a sophomore. He said “hi” all excited. I said hi back. From there we started talking during nutrition and lunch. There was a big group of us and he would always sit next to me. After a few months he would do stuff that was unlike friends, like massage my shoulders. If I said “it’s hot,” he’d say, “I know you are.” It was awkward. Uh, friends don’t do that.
One day he asked me, “Do you want to go out with me?” and I said no. Over the next year Diondre asked me out so many times and I rejected him each and every time, but he knew how I was feeling. He’d say, “I don’t know why, you know you like me” and I wouldn’t say anything. I had started to like him but I didn’t want to risk our friendship by getting into a relationship and something going wrong.
A week before school ended he told me he was moving to Utah. I thought it was a joke, but he didn’t come to school on the last day. I didn’t have his phone number but he found me on Facebook. We started talking. How have you been? Those simple conversations.
One day he messaged me on Facebook and told me he loved me. I wrote back, “You love me? How do you know that? It could be a strong like.” He said, “I’m telling you I do.”
After that he kept saying “I love you” and I didn’t like that. It was pushy, like he was forcing it on me. I’d write, “Oh I know you do, you keep telling me this :)”
I fell for him
But the more he kept saying it, the more I believed it. I started to like him because I knew how much he liked me. I loved talking to him because he wanted to know everything about me. How are you doing? How’s your day going? When I would ask, “What about you?” he’d say, “Don’t worry about me, it’s about you.” He made me feel really important.
One day I told him that I had liked him and I didn’t know why I pushed him away when we were at school. He said he knew I liked him. After that we were closer.
I was at my cousin’s house one night and we’d been texting each other all day. I couldn’t get enough of talking to him. Out of the blue I texted “I love you.” I was eager to see his reply. I knew it would be good but I still wanted to know what he was going to say back. He said “I love you too” and “You finally said it. I’m so happy.” We were both happy.
I’m not sure how it made him feel but for me, it didn’t change things. I had known that I really liked him but I hadn’t told him. We’d talk every day. As soon as school was out and I would turn on my phone, I’d always have a text message waiting. It would say, “Hey, how was your day?” or “I miss talking to you.”
Now we consider ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend but we can’t see each other. The only thing in the way is the 700 miles.
Teens say “I love you” too quickly and when they’re too young, even me. Love isn’t like saying hello. In the future, even if I feel it I’m not going to say it too early. I’ll wait because I want it to really mean something. After we’ve spent more time together I’ll eventually say it. I’ll know more about that person so it’ll make it more meaningful.