I got very popular very quickly when I aired my view that, yes, Teenagers Can Be In Love. I respectfully disagreed with Other Adults, often some parents, who dismissed this notion. "How can a teenager know what Love is?" was the inevitable question, followed by protests like, "They have no idea. They're too young! They aren't mature enough! They're full of hormones and ridiculous images from the media. No one at that age has the slightest idea what it even means to be in Love. Most of them are still lining up for Disney films. They can't even look past themselves, let alone truly care about another person."
My students would tell me all this, naturally, and they'd carefully and earnestly watch my face as they did so. (You know, I don't think I ever really got used to that--all those eyes on me at once used to regularly freak me out when they were expectant like that.) They wanted to see if I was going to stick with my Dangerous Opinion under the barrage of Grown-Up Fire. I would listen as they wore themselves out and had their catharsis; I really did understand what they were up against because I heard it from parents during conferences and phone calls all the time.
Once they let their last dogs loose, I explained myself, and the smart ones added it to their arsenal, saving it to use later, and then only in the calmest and wisest way.
Teenagers Can Be In Love. I believe it sincerely. Children, if they are raised well and correctly, are raised in a loving, caring, supportive environment. They are surrounded with demonstrations of love from their parents, siblings if there are any, and extended family. Love is modeled for them, and they know what it feels like to be nurtured, valued, supported, and cared for. They know what it feels like to want to do that for someone else. They have given and received affection and known the rewards of that reciprocity. They experience Love every single day.
I think it's incredibly arrogant and dismissive to say, then, by virtue of their age alone, that teenagers cannot be In Love. It's more of a disparagement of the parent/adult saying it than it is of the teenager. We expect our kids to learn from us; we are supposed to be role models and serve as their best mentors of how to get on in later life. Aren't we teaching them every single moment how to Love?
Being In Love is quite different than Being Ready To Do Something About It. That is a huge qualifier. But to tell Teenagers that They Are Not In Love because they are only something-teen years old is ridiculous. That's like telling a baby he's not hungry because it's not two o'clock yet. Or saying that it can't snow in NEO anymore once Spring starts on March 20th.
If you were not In Love as a Teenager, maybe you were So Hoping To Be In Love. But you certainly knew what it meant to be In Love. Growing up didn't really change that, did it?