The Whole “I Love You”… Thing

My teenagers are a sophomore and a junior and I’m noticing that everybody, I mean EVERYBODY in high school, including my two daughters, are saying “I Love You” to everybody else. Everybody else that is, except their sister and parents. What’s all that about, seriously?

Guys say it to girls seemingly regardless of whether or not they are The Girlfriend and I myself have witnessed several studly, 18 year olds shout out “I Love You Man!” to other teenaged guys. These same young men will pack at least one more body onto my sofa than it is designed for and all sit there, jammed in like sardines but grinning like the Cheshire cat and pretending to be just as cozy as can be, some with their arms around the other’s shoulders and sometimes there’ll be one or two guys sitting on another guy’s lap. I see strong indications that the Personal Bubble space has shrunk in this last generation and is all but ready to pop! And thankfully, the message seems to finally getting through that Real Men can hug and say “I Love You” without losing their Man Card, yay!

Today’s teenaged girls seem to be on the same page because they not only say “I Love You” to their girlfriends, they also write it, and sing it and my girls in particular like to shout “I Love You” from the open window of my car at anyone they see and might possibly know (and that’s only a slight exaggeration) as I’m driving them home from a school function. I’ve heard girls say “I Love You” to guys where there is no Girlfriend/Boyfriend relationship there. I hear my daughters say “I Love You” at the end of nearly every phone conversation and in-person goodbyes, IT’S EVERYWHERE! Either this generation is a bunch of first class saps or maybe they’re on to something…

To quote the Princess Bride: “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means…” We all know words change in meaning as cultures change, for example to be “gay” used to mean you were happy and now it has a homosexual connotation. So has “I Love You” changed in meaning as well? Or maybe I never learned the true meaning of love in the first place.

I grew up thinking there were two kinds of love – romantic love between a husband and a wife and family love between parents and children. Anything else seemed to be wrong. (Yes, the more I write about my childhood the more I realize it was pretty screwed up and heavily contributes to the mental mess I am today. Thanks Mom.) Needless to say my growing-up years saw very few hugs, kisses or touching of any kind that was not discipline and I’m struggling to remember my mother ever saying “I Love You”. Once I turned 17 my mother seemed to see that something was wrong with me and she started to say “I Love You” and tell me that I was pretty but by then I didn’t believe her.

To have feelings of “love” for my best friend in high school meant, to my mother, that I was on the verge of becoming a lesbian. I don’t think I ever told Mom that sometimes we would hold hands, hug each other or wrap our arms around each other’s waists just to be affectionate. As much as I craved the physical affection and desperately needed it – I felt evil for participating. My best friend from high school is still my best friend now and to this day I have a hard time saying “I Love You” to her in our phone conversations even though she’s always saying it to me. I am so grateful she’s hung in there despite over 20 years of my crazy weirdness in trying to figure myself out. I wasn’t very nice to her sometimes and she just stood back so I could work things out and when I finally looked up she was right there, waiting for me to be ready to be friends again. Girl, I know you’ll be reading this – I Love You!

I have one more best friend, unfortunately I moved 8 hours away from my high school best friend so while we have great phone conversations we don’t get to see her much. My “new” best friend is a gal I used to work with and we’ve been friends now for just over two years…wow it seems like longer than that though! She is only about a half an hour from me and we try to hang out as often as we can. I love her too.

I’m afraid I’ve become far more like my mother than I intended to. I don’t say “I Love You” to my children nearly as much as I should – although I saw it far more than it was said to me. I try to give hugs to them but it still seems so foreign to me, almost wrong, because that’s not how I grew up. All I can do at this point is pray that when they’re parents they do better with their kids than I did with them. I think that’s every parent’s prayer for their kids.

I used to say “I Love You” to my husband all the time, hoping desperately that he would say it back and believing that if I said it enough with my mouth that my heart would start to feel it. Neither happened. The people who say that love is a choice are correct. I have chosen to stay with my husband of almost 19 years because I made a commitment to him at our wedding ceremony and it’s the right thing to do. I choose to love him by staying in this marriage and by trying to make our house a home. I do not have feelings of love for him and as far as I can tell he feels something that he thinks is love for me but cannot properly express it. I’ve always been a good girl and tried to do the right thing and so I will stay with him.

As far as the whole high school fad of saying “I Love You” to anyone and everyone I’m thinking I approve. At least their hearts seem to have something in them and they are getting affection from their peers. May their lives be fuller than mine!

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