Did you know “what is love?” was the most searched item on Google in 2012? What does that mean? Does it mean we, as people, don’t understand the concept of love? So poorly that we’re resorting to a search engine to tell us what love is? There are songs about it, movies dedicated to it, books built around this thing we call love. Love is foreign to us, but we spend our lives on the hunt for it, while making sure to fit society’s standards of what love is – and that’s a topic for another day.

Merriam-Webster has nine different definitions of love and each with multiple parts. There are numerous loves and in loves. Love is sexual desire. Love is warm attachment or devotion. Love is a sexual embrace (read: copulation). Love is a score of zero, as in tennis. Love is an assurance of affection. Love is an unselfish loyalty and benevolent concern about others. Love is a strong affection arising out of ties to one another.

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With all this in mind, how am I supposed to know if I am in love? Psychologists say a crush only lasts for four months and anything longer is considered being “in love.” Now, being in high school I’ve had my fair share of crushes. I had a crush on the boy in my Physics class, who wears sweatpants and a blazer, boat shoes and a Rolex. He’s pretty pretentious, but he has beautiful lips and can hold an intelligent conversation between his racist jokes and leering at girls in Spandex. That crush lasted the whole school year. Was I in love with him? I felt a pull in my stomach every time I saw him, but when he went away, the yearning subsided.

I could be in love with my best friend. For three years now I’ve thought she’s beautiful. She makes me laugh. I feel a connection to her. No matter what happens (even that time she backstabbed me, then came crying on my shoulder when she needed someone), I’ve been there for her. I feel so much affection for her. I’m a devoted friend. But I’ve never felt sexual desire for her. I’m tied to her. I’m loyal and unselfish in my love for her. I have put myself at risk for her and I would do it all over again. But I can’t say I’m in love with her.

I had a crush on a coach of mine that has lasted for two years now. Am I in love with him? The flamboyant, thirty-something year old man that isn’t even my type. He’s the only reason I’m interested in lacrosse. His voice is magnificent. His hair is always perfectly messy. It could be bed-head if it didn’t appear to have so much gel in it. His shirts fit him just right, accentuating every muscle and unbuttoned to see just a peak of his chest. He has freckles and beauty marks. He’s the man of everyone’s dreams. Maybe I’m not in love with him, but I could be. In another world, where things were right and the universe was on my side, I could love him. But now I just pine over him like an angsty schoolgirl.

Are all these crushes love? Does falling in love have a set time to it? In a study conducted by a well-respected scientist (read: me), I asked people from all demographics (read: white teenagers) “how long does it take to fall in love?” One person reported that it only takes an instant. He believes falling in love is not the process itself, but the moment when you realize, “Holy shit, I love this person.” That instant could be a simple blink, when you notice their eyes are actually green and not hazel, like you’ve been thinking for years. It could be walking down the street, side by side and there’s something electric just pulling your hands together and it finally shocks when you touch. However, I don’t know how informed his response was, considering his moments never come and he’s always been alone. Or maybe he’s had too many instants and has resigned to love never being true. But as a completely unbiased and reliable surveyor, I must report the facts.

One person seems to think love doesn’t exist. Not platonic, romantic, etc. Love is a construct that we as a society have made up. We push RomComs and erotica on each other like it should mean something. Love is simply something we all agreed would be a good idea and use it as an excuse for constant sex and abusing each other. Now, as someone who firmly believes in soul mates (even if I’ve yet to find mine), I respectfully disagree. How can we just float through our lives, loving no one? Feeling no affection or desire to be with anyone or anything? I get it, society is very oppressing and controlling and all that jazz. Media tells us to find an all consuming, powerful, heterosexual, and probably white soul mate. Preferably one at a high social standing and “well-educated” (again, another topic for another day). We’re supposed to make sure our love fits into pre-approved guidelines and love a certain, politically correct way. But what’s wrong with loving something different? Or loving something at all? I guess the same goes for not loving, but I’m still working on being truly open-minded and liberal.

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One of my favorite responses to this survey was by an outlier in the group: an adult. But he was still white, and also a male. He says love comes in five to seven business days. He’s married with kids, so I trust his opinion is well informed. He says he met his wife during the summer and after spending a week with her, he felt like he was in love. I don’t know if there’s a difference between feeling like you’re in love and actually being in love, but he never clarified when asked, so I had to do my own interpreting. (Which is essentially what this whole experiment has been). I wonder what was so special that made him fall in love so quickly. I wonder if it was lust or love, but there isn’t really a distinction between the two. I can speculate all I want, but he simply didn’t give me enough information and speculation gets boring after a while.

Through this research, I still haven’t come to a final conclusion. In fact, I’ve forgotten what my question even was. I don’t know if there was one. You could assume this has been a mindless ramble. Maybe I was trying to figure out something about myself. Am I in love? Can I love? What is love? (I think the final one was my question, but I still can’t remember and I can’t bother to return to the beginning of this piece). So I turn to you, my lovely reader who has hopefully stuck around this long: how do you define love?

PHOTOS BY NAN GOLDIN

Teen Perspective on Love
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