Profound doesn’t even begin to describe it.

26 Jan

by Biljana Likic

~~~

Think back to an old crush; maybe the first boy or girl you really felt something for. The way they made you feel when they smiled at you, or accidentally brushed your hand. The way that sometimes, when they needed a pencil, they’d ask you for one. No matter that it was because they sat beside you in class, and you were the closest and most convenient person to ask. They asked you for a pencil, and you felt your heart soar.

Until you saw them kissing someone else during recess.

Your heart plummeted and when you went home, maybe you cried, maybe you accepted it without tears, maybe you got over them that instant. Or maybe, you went on liking them even though you knew they’d never like you back, and whenever you thought of them it made your stomach hurt how much you missed them. Oh, you’d still lend them that pencil, but maybe with more sadness than usual. The pencil has lost meaning to you. You’ve realized you’re just a convenience.

And then months later, when you’re over them, you see the situation for what it was: an infatuation.

Trivial.

But it wasn’t trivial while it was happening.

Puppy love and crushes make you do stupid things for people that sometimes don’t even notice you exist. And they have a crappy reputation. First because you often make a fool of yourself when the vulnerable situations you’ve been thrown in crumble against you, and second because, let’s face it, nobody takes them seriously. Even if you swear you’ll jump off a bridge for somebody, hardly anyone over the age of twenty will be concerned. They’ve already deduced that you are not in love, but that you are infatuated. And because you are infatuated, and not in love, that means your condition is a bit of a joke; something you’ll be embarrassed about in a year or two when it’s all in the past.

But the truth is, when you’re infatuated, to you it feels like love. To you, it’s not a joke. You really would try to give them everything. And while you’re in this phase there’s nothing more you would like than being with the person of your affections.

The reason I’m bringing this up is for the sake of all those teen protagonists that like the cute classmate but can’t approach them. More specifically, it’s for the sake of the readers that sympathize. I’ve talked to people who snub YA because the problems of the characters aren’t big enough. They don’t want to read about puppy love. They want to read about the love that makes your gut twist with longing and your heart feel full to bursting; that takes residence in your chest and presses down with the constant worry of what would happen to you emotionally if your loved one died.

They don’t want to read about something trivial.

But aside from constancy, which can’t be proven without the test of time (which books may not have), the only thing this adult love has over puppy love is the retrospective view of the situation. When it’s all over, you can look back on love and think, “It was beautiful while it lasted.” You can’t always do that with an infatuation. In fact, more often than not, you’ll end up thinking, “I can’t believe I used to lend them my pencil.”

The point I’m trying to make is that what’s trivial later in life may not be trivial in the moment. People don’t think it’s funny when they tell somebody about how they cry themselves to sleep every night. Later they might feel stupid, but while they’re crying, all they feel is a yawning black hole where their heart used to be.

So when you write about love, whether it’s infatuation or the real thing, never, ever undermine it. Never make it about how when she’s twenty-five and married to somebody else she’ll look back and flush with mortification. Don’t ever let the character know that when he’s over her, the oceans that remind him of her eyes will be easy to look at again. That’s not what the story is about. And it’s certainly not something your character is likely to believe.

Give infatuation the respect it deserves. It can be as dangerous as love, if not more so, because it’s selfish; you won’t be happy if they’re happy with someone else. You’ll keep doing whatever it takes to get them to love you. That pencil will be given away. She will never find a bridge too high. And the oceans will always look like her eyes.

And he will always be willing to drown.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

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10 Responses to “Profound doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

  1. Julie Eshbaugh January 26, 2011 at 11:45 AM #

    Hey Biljana! You make a great point. Thanks for the reminder that emotions are always intense to the person experiencing them. One of the reasons I love YA is because the characters still feel things intensely! Thanks for the great post!

    • Biljana January 26, 2011 at 5:04 PM #

      Yeah, that’s what I love about YA too… Nobody’s quite as jaded about their emotions.

  2. Susan January 26, 2011 at 3:49 PM #

    Amazing post. AMAZING. Not to mention hilarious — I definitely lent my pencil to my One True Love in 10th grade. And then again to my Other One True Love in 11th… And in 12th grade, I think I upped the ante to lending money, time, and many tears to my One And Only True Love.

    At the time, I really thought it was REAL. And you know, I’m not sure it *wasn’t* — like you said, infatuation feels real when you’re going through it, and the only thing to distinguish it from Real Loves is 1) the age, a the selfishness.

    Even now at 26 (and married for 1 year), I feel everything I did with my teenage crushes (twisting stomach, tight chest, major electricity) but I also feel a warm, tender glow that stays no matter how angry, frustrated, or grumpy I get — but infatuation only doesn’t always survive the low moods.

    And like Julie said, YA is so great because the characters really FEEL and no matter what age we are, we can identify with that!

    Great post, Billy. Thanks for sharing.

    • Biljana January 26, 2011 at 5:08 PM #

      Yes exactly. You don’t know that you’ve not in love until you can compare it to something stronger…but it doesn’t mean that what you’re feeling isn’t still strong, you know?

      And super cute, about the one true loves. I have to admit that the pencil situation may or may not have been inspired by personal experience :P.

  3. Ashley January 26, 2011 at 4:37 PM #

    Haha, I love this post!

    Back in 10th grade I swore I hated boys because of what my infatuation did to me(he ended up with another girl:(). I was so “scarred”, lol.

    I think that’s why I’ve avoided writing contemporary YA, I don’t want to go back to that,:). But keep an open mind, I guess. Thanks for the post!

    • Biljana January 26, 2011 at 5:10 PM #

      Yeah, I admit that even in my own stuff I didn’t want to write about silly crushes :P. But the more I thought about it, the more my opinion in the article grew. It’s just a different stage of life, I guess :).

  4. Rowenna January 26, 2011 at 5:23 PM #

    Great point about writing “in the trenches” vs writing from retrospect–crushes and infatuation and all that tumult feels so very real at the time, it’s dishonest to the character to write it any other way! I do disagree that “adult love” and “puppy love” don’t feel different–having been married for close to four years (how the HECK did that happen?!?) I feel–and always did feel–differently about my husband than I did Those Who Came Before. But there’s no way of seeing that without–that’s right–retrospect, and having experienced both.

    Great reminder to dig in and write where your characters are, Biljana!

    • Biljana January 26, 2011 at 5:28 PM #

      True point about adult love, but like you said, teens don’t know that :P. I’m glad you liked the article!

  5. Susan February 9, 2011 at 11:32 AM #

    This is such a great post! I love it. Thank you!

    • Biljana February 21, 2011 at 12:16 AM #

      Thanks 🙂

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