Guest Blog: It's Not a Crush. It's Love. (So Stop Calling it Puppy Love)
When I was a senior in high school, we got to take a health class. Nowadays, that’s no big deal but back in the 1980s, sitting in a classroom talking about sex and relationships was fairly radical.
Sadly, despite my excitement about the course material, I remember practically nothing from the class. The one thing I do remember is the day we talked about love. No, we didn’t spend forty-five minutes reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets or sharing the songs we liked to cry to after getting our hearts broken.
Instead, the teacher gave us (and I am completely not kidding you here) a set of guidelines that could be used to determine if the emotion you were experiencing was real love or puppy love. These guidelines included such questions as: Does the person return my feelings? Does this person really know me? How long have I been together with this person? and How old am I? Sadly, I did not keep the answer key, but you don’t have to be a relationship expert to figure out that if you answered “No,” “Kind of,” “Twenty-four hours,” and “Fourteen,” that achy feeling in your stomach would be dismissed and you would be informed you were merely experiencing “Puppy Love.”
Every time I think back on that questionnaire, it makes me furious. I wish I could find the people who created it, grab them by their shirt collars and demand, “Why can’t you love someone you’ve only known a week?!” or “How can anyone ‘really’ know another person?” or “How dare you tell me I can’t love someone who doesn’t love me back?!”
Long after my high school boyfriend and I broke up, I still loved him (though he’d moved on within a week of our breakup), and though I fell in love with my husband when we were first dating, I’m still (after almost fifteen years of marriage) learning who he ‘really’ is.
When we call it ‘puppy’ love instead of ‘real’ love, we are telling a person that she has no right to feel what she is feeling. I have no idea why grownups do this. Have they forgotten what it feels like to fall in love? Do they really think teenagers’ emotions are somehow less intense than adults’? Do they not want to deal with the joy (or the pain) kids are feeling, so they tell them, Oh, you’re not really feeling those things…it’s just a crush.
Love, I believe, is love. You can love people who do not love you back and you can love people you do not know very well. You do not have to be eighteen or twenty-one to fall in love, and you do not need a license to do it either.
While love grows and evolves and deepens over time, while it is nurtured by common interests and and shared experiences, it can be born suddenly and inexplicably. Can it last? Am I happy? Will I get my heart broken? These are questions to which it is worth having answers. Is it puppy love? I say: don’t bother asking. There’s no such thing.
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Melissa Kantor is the author of The Darlings in Love, The Breakup Bible, Girlfriend Material and If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. To read the first chapter of The Darlings in Love, go to www.melissakantor.com.