So Young Love Week is finally here and I couldn’t be more excited. Young Love is one of my favorite romance tropes. I just adore stories where loves blooms at a young age and the characters grow together, making their love last a lifetime. There is something so special about having a partner who has been a part of your life while you are growing up, who has shared so many milestones with you, and who understands so many things about you because that person has been there through so much of your life.
It is sometimes hard to imagine how a person you meet as a teenager or a young adult can really be the one you will want to be with for a lifetime. This is a time of so much personal growth and change and learning about yourself. Most of us who are some years removed from high school and college certainly feel we are not the same person we were then. So to me there is something magical about finding that person that grows with you as you find your way in the world and change throughout life.
One of the reasons I have such as soft spot for this trope is that I have a young love story of my own. I met my husband when we were 16 years old, and we have been together ever since. Next summer will be 25 years together, and this Saturday will be our 16-year anniversary. When I look back at the person I was at 16, so many things about me have changed. It is hard to imagine that so many years later we are still so happily in love and as crazy about each other as those early days of young love. So I thought I’d kick the week off by sharing my own young love story with you guys. So step back with me in time to the summer of 1988…
I was 16 years old and my parents decided to send me to Israel as part of a youth trip with our local Jewish Community Center. A trip to Israel is sort of a rite of passage for many Jewish kids and this one involved a 6-week trip, half living on a kibbutz (an Israeli communal farm) and half touring the country. There were about 20 of us from the DC area and I knew a few already from school. Our first big adventure was the plane ride. It was a huge plane, bigger than I had ever been on, and it is a really long trip. Of course were all bored and restless and wandering around, because we were 16 without our parents. These were the days before ipods and cell phones (we all had huge tape cassette Sony walkmen) and you watched whatever movie was playing on the main airplane screen. In this case it was Benji (the dog movie). So I look over and see this adorable guy who is like the only one watching this movie. I remember talking to him and touching his arm and thinking, nice biceps and sexy hands! So we talked for a while and introduced ourselves, and I definitely had my eye on him!
After arriving in Israel, we went to the kibbutz where we were to live for 3 weeks. So this is a teenager’s dream here, and I am sure if my parents had any idea what the living situation would be, they would never have sent me. They put us up in a three story house of sorts. The ground floor had a little kitchen and common area and three bedrooms where they put the girls. Then there was a landing with the bathrooms and upstairs were the boys bedrooms. Our chaperone, who was about 23 and hot enough to want to make his own good time, lived in an apartment somewhere else on the kibbutz. So there we were, 20 teenagers basically unsupervised all in one house together (in a country with no drinking age). Seriously, we were amazingly well behaved considering the trouble we could have gotten into!
So along with the other kids, my husband and I (I’ll call him R) settled into a routine. We worked on the farm in the morning and then pretty much had all day to do what we wanted – swim, sleep, and hang out with each other and the various kibbutz kids. We stayed up until all hours, wandered around at night doing what we wanted (seriously, if my parents had ANY idea…) And as time passed, my friendship with R started blooming into more. Both of us were incredibly inexperienced. Neither of us had ever really dated anyone. I had done some making out a bit, but nothing serious. So basically every experience the two of us have had in a relationship and sexwise, we have had with each other. We were both nervous and a little unsure how to move things forward, but I still remember that first kiss with total clarity. It was night time and we were standing on the patio near the dining hall and R kissed me and it was the best thing ever.
So we spent a glorious 6 weeks being in love in Israel, living on the kibbutz and traveling the country. We wandered around the kibbutz at night, hitchhiked into town, snuck out to swim in the Dead Sea in the dark, and spent hours on the tour bus listening to Elton John, the Police, and Simon and Garfunkle. Our second weekend there was a “free” weekend and we went to Tel Aviv where were dropped off in a youth hostel (again, NO supervision) and hung out in the city for the weekend. R and I made out on the beach at night pretty much in public (seriously, thank heavens I knew no one there). And as teenagers do, we pretty much made out everywhere we could all over the country. I laugh looking back at it now, because privacy wasn’t really available or a big priority. So there would be huge groups of us up on the hill of the kibbutz, all fooling around with our partners as other couples did the same just feet away. But hey, nothing can get in the way of young love (or a horny teenager).
So a blissful six weeks together. And as many of you probably know, there is something about those summer romances that just make things so intense. I mean, we basically lived together for weeks and suddenly we had to come back to the reality of parents and supervision and living 25 minutes apart. Our parents were pretty shocked when we stepped off the bus as boyfriend and girlfriend. I had talked to my parents a bit about R, but I don’t think either set of parents was really prepared to have their child come home in a serious relationship. So it wasn’t an easy transition for us. Our parents thought things were moving fast and they didn’t always adapt well to the idea that our priorities were so focused on each other. But R and I stuck together through the summer and the next school year (my junior year, his senior year). Then of course we had to face the reality of college. R’s parents really encouraged him to go away to school to a program focused on architecture, his intended major. I think both of our parents thought we should break up and see other people while he was away. But we never seriously considered it. I just couldn’t imagine breaking up “just because” when both of us were so happy together. So we had a really difficult year while he was gone (much crying was involved). Again, those were the days before cell phones, texting, and email so keeping in contact was much harder than it would be today. So we spoke long distance and wrote each other actual paper letters. I still have BOXES of letters he wrote me that year and I remember eagerly coming home from school each day to check the mail box to see if he had written. But after a year, school wasn’t working out and R came home, transferring to community college and then ultimately the University of Maryland with me.
And from then on, things have been pretty smooth sailing. We have been together through both our high school, college, and graduate school graduations, first jobs, and settling into our careers. We have two gorgeous daughters who are 11 and almost 9 and we now live in the house I expect we will stay in until we are old and gray. Sometimes it shocks me to think that I have been with him for more than half my life. I mean, I am only 40, so being with a partner for 24 years is a bit amazing. But there was just some spark that hit us way back at age 16 and it still is going strong.
So when I look back, I know we had our share of doubters. And I can understand that. It is hard for me to imagine my older daughter meeting her future life partner in only 5 years time. But we have grown together and shared so much of our lives together, he is truly my other half. R has been a part of just about every important thing that has ever happened in my life and stood at my side through the good and the bad. So when I pick up a book about young lovers, I am rooting for them. Because I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but I also know for certain that it can happen and it can be wonderful.
Thank you for indulging my little trip down memory lane. And I hope you will all enjoy celebrating Young Love Week with me!
P.S. Sorry for the terrible quality of the old photos. They were pretty bad to start with and I had to scan them in.