Seventeen Didn’t Last Forever

If having a boyfriend was a skill, I used to be pretty good at it. I was good at finding them, keeping them, and not ever making them too mad. Things always, without fail, would progress from crush to boyfriend. Remember when there was always a great guy to tell your friends about?

Things are a little different now. We spend the majority of our time deciphering text messages and cringing at the selection of people on tinder. I go on dates with guys who think it’s okay to call me baby after 45 minutes. It’s not.

I’d like to share just how smitten and perfect my love life was at seventeen. Prepare to be sick. When I moved last summer I found a box full of notes from an ex-boyfriend that my mother had failed to throw out when a decade ago, in tears, I had ordered her to burn them. Here are some excerpts:

I picked up a note titled: Happy 2 Months! He tells me that the picture I gave him of myself–the 2003 version of a selfie–is in a silver frame with a red heart sitting above his bed. Then this: “I think I would go on a few double dates at least until I start getting made fun of really really bad. I’m entering uncharted territory with you Katie, so I apologize in advance for when I do something stupid. I just hope we can keep having a good time and who knows what will happen. Wherever we end up, I hope we’re both still really, really ridiculously good looking.”

For our 2 month anniversary I also received a crayon colored coupon book that allowed me several back massages–20 minutes max–and multiple sexual favors which I checked off every time they were redeemed. There is no check mark on the last page which was a “FREE coupon of KT’s choice”

Shit, why didn’t I use that?

There’s nothing written about an expiry date…

His fiance would not appreciate that joke.

But seriously what a great gift! Who wouldn’t want a coupon book full of sexual favors that you could redeem whenever you wanted? I had it pretty good back then.

Then I picked up a break up note. “I miss everything about you Katie, especially making you laugh. I wanna be with you, but you don’t trust me anymore and more importantly I don’t trust myself. Your feelings are way more important than mine; you have been hurt enough and it would be selfish of me to try and make this work again. I’m sorry I said things that I could not back up. Thank you for being the best girlfriend a guy could ask for. I didn’t deserve you. I hope you find someone who does.”

That is actually a really nice apology. Like, way nicer than any apology or explanation I’ve gotten from anyone since.

Then of course we got back together and there were a lot of notes with promises not to give up on each other. This one I probably showed all of my friends: “For some reason whenever I watch Newly Weds I always think of us. Maybe because we’re also really hot…” He was a bit full of himself. But then again I’m the one who framed a picture of myself. Not of the two of us, just myself. “…but I always get this tingly feeling about us getting married. I know, weird, I’ll stop there. I love you Katie. You’re 99% of my heart. (Ya gotta have 1% for other stuff).”

In a time before cell phones or cars and when we still had our virginity in tact, there were exciting notes like this one: “Even though I’m nowhere near having enough money to buy a car I’m sure excited about it! Then we could make out in the back, or something like that. I love you; I was so happy when I realized that I did (smiley face). Now all we have left to do is just chill and make each other laugh and have sex…I guess..I’m not really sure what that is (winky face) but I hear it’s okay. We’ll see. I don’t want to yet and neither do you so that’s cool. We can talk about it again at 6 months!”

I just miss the simplicity of my first slightly cocky boyfriend and I. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect relationship? You realize you love each other and then you can just chill, make each other laugh, and have lots of sex. “I love you” meant all you had to do was keep making each other laugh. Now “I love you” is often followed by a whole ton of questions and fears.

What was nice about being seventeen and in love was that there was never any doubt in my mind that he was who I wanted to be with. We weren’t thinking about where we were headed or whether or not we had the same values. It didn’t matter if our vision for what we wanted our lives to look like ten years later matched up. I didn’t have a list of must-haves that needed checking off and neither of us had any baggage. We just had crushes on each other, decided to date, declared that we were in love, and that was enough.

It wasn’t until I was twenty four and dated my first older guy that I was slapped in the face when our little crush didn’t effortlessly turn into a happy relationship. But what he said was perfectly true and accurate: “We’re just too different.”

We were. But that never seemed to matter before. Before being a decade ago when we were all young and innocent and no one had hurt us yet. Now I have friends tell me that if for some reason their happy long term relationship didn’t work out, they would have no clue how to navigate the world I live in.

I’ll admit that as much fun as I’m having navigating this hook up culture and world of dating apps, sometimes I miss being seventeen. You weren’t afraid to give someone 100%, or in my ex’s words, 99% of your heart. Where is this going?didn’t matter. We took things slow in all the right ways and went too fast in the best of ways. We poured our hearts out on lined paper and sticky notes. It was a time where love actually was enough and kissing in cars was the best thing ever.

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