real life

Stop mocking the 16-year-old couple who "just want to keep the passion alive".

Do you remember your first teenage love?

I’m not talking about adult love, with its risk-adverse weighing up of compatibility and other grown-up concoctions of complication. And I’m not referring to the childhood affections, solemnised through playground ceremonies that came complete with daisy chain crowns and rings crafted from blades of grass. I mean the meteoric rush of hormones and endorphins that is unique to your first sexually-charged romantic encounter.

Most of us recall the object of our teenage affection. We can reel off the basic details of that relationship as part of a funny anecdote to be shared at a dinner party. How you met, how old you were, what they looked like, whether or not you ‘did it’, what deeply terrible fashion choices you were making at the time…

But do you remember how you felt?

Not just the surface-level factual details, the actual intensity of emotion you experienced at the time.

If a recent Humans of New York story is anything to go by, I suspect that you don’t.

This week, the popular online photography project Humans of New York (which has featured the images and stories of countless ordinary people all over the world) posted this picture.

Image via Facebook: Humans of New York.
 Underneath the picture was a caption; a short quote from the couple about their relationship. It read:

“We’ve been together for ten months now so we’re trying to keep the passion alive.”

What followed in the (normally uncommonly positive) comments section of the Humans of New York Facebook page was some pretty critical, dismissive thinking.

“You’re in trouble if after 10 months you’re already trying to keep the passion alive” said one commenter, who attracted more than 10,000 likes for their observation.

“You mean “we’ve been alive for 10 months”?” said another.

“If you’re trying to keep the passion alive after only 10 months….maybe it was never really passion. Wisdom comes with age” said one particularly patronising person.

I have to admit that my initial reaction was also a bemused but condescending guffaw. “Such sweet kids”, I remarked to my partner. “They’re just so incredibly grown-up and mature in their own heads”.

And then I was firmly put in my place – along with all the other commenters – by none-other than the creator of Humans of New York Brandon Stanton.

Brandon, who generally lets his imagery do the talking and his subjects speak for themselves, spoke up in the comments section on Facebook and openly reprimanded his fans.


“Not sure why the comment section is trying to force an adult perspective of relationships on two high schoolers,” he wrote.

“Let them be sixteen. Ten months is 8 percent of their lives.”

Those words made me a little ashamed of myself for dismissing the feelings of the madly in love teens.

“Not sure why the comment section is trying to force an adult perspective of relationships on two high schoolers.” (Image via iStock)

Why is it that I feel there is so much to learn from the relationships of people older than myself but nothing to be gained from the perspective of young people? I’ve shared memes on social media of elderly couples reflecting on their love and what’s helped their relationships to remain strong, many times. And yet I felt there was nothing to learn from these kids, who are quite rightly (and quite insightfully) pointing out that relationships take work if they’re going to survive.

That condescension is something I’ve learned with age. As I’ve grown further and further away from the feelings, fears and aspirations of teenage-me, I’ve forgotten their value. And I’ve forgotten their intensity. And their power.

My first love was the blonde-haired, sports obsessed Scott. I had fallen for him in the first week of Grade Seven and relentlessly pursued him (in my head, obviously I didn’t actually do anything crazy like ask him on a date) for the following two years. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that we became a couple and I recall those months as some of the most blissfully happy but terribly anxious of my life. My daily contentedness was utterly dictated by the ups and downs of that teenage romance.  I thought this was a love for the ages, a relationship like no other; I believed we had a connection unparalleled…


Then he dumped me over email, with a message that had clearly been co-crafted by his mum.


WATCH: The Mamamia team reveal the moment they knew their relationship was over (post continues after video).

It seems hilarious now, to think how much that ‘relationship’ meant to me. But at the time, just like those two teenagers in the photograph, I didn’t think I was naive or immature. I took myself and my feelings very seriously. Because they were.

There’s a precarious fragility to a relationship that could be cut short at any time by the decisions of adults; parents who forbid you from going out at night, teachers who separate you in class, elderly relatives who get sick requiring your family to move interstate. The constant threat of disinterest also looms with the distraction of mates and sporting teams or the arrival of a girl who ‘puts out’ when you aren’t ready.

The flush of first love is incomparable. Literally incomparable because you’ve experienced nothing like it before.

It’s a feeling that I had long forgotten before I saw the Humans of New York photograph and one that I’ve thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed being reminded of.

What do you remember about your first love?

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