Recently, I admonished a male friend of mine for only dating much younger women. While he’s on the wrong side of 25, he prefers to date girls who are 18 and 19 (always legal).
When I asked him why, his explanation was far different than I would have guessed.
I expected him to make a jackass comment about their lack of wrinkles and cellulite, but instead, his rationale was this: Younger women don’t have as many unrealistic expectations as women closer to his own age and they appreciate him more.
(I appreciated older guys when I was 19, too, mainly because they could buy me copious amounts of Skyy vodka.)
But, I truly didn’t understand exactly what he meant until a very young author I know, a 15-year-old girl, asked me to read something she wrote. What I read opened my eyes to a worldview I had so long ago forgot. She described young love in a way I’ve never read before.
Here are several things I took from her book, as well as my own trips down memory lane:
1. Teenage girls don’t have “checklists”
As a society, it seems that we spend so much time telling young girls they will “grow up.” By the age of 25, relationships aren’t based so much on feelings as much as finding a partner who meets line items on some unrealistic checklist.
While there are some deal breakers (must be single, must have a job, must not currently be incarcerated), I have heard some unrealistic expectations.
I even knew one girl who made an Excel spreadsheet and rated her potential mates using a Likert scale of 50 (yes, 50) qualities she was looking for in a mate. (She is still currently single.)
When I was a teenage girl, I just wanted a guy who weighed more than me, was taller than me and who had a car. (That last part was negotiable.)
Today, we all want men who look like Bradley Cooper, sing like John Legend, make us crêpes on Saturday mornings and also enjoy the fine cinematic endeavors of Kate Hudson. This is dating, not Build-A-Bear. Seriously.
2. It’s the little things that count
When I was 13, a boy burned a CD for me. It wasn’t love songs; in fact, it consisted solely of horrible bootleg versions of the worst kinds of rap songs you can imagine.
He mumbled, “I finally got my dad’s CD burner to work. It took me a couple of tries, but I think this is right. I know you don’t have a CD burner, so here you go,” before awkwardly handing it to me. The disk slipped out of his sweaty palms.
By the time we are in our 20s, we are inundated with stories of the boyfriends who rented yachts for their girlfriends' birthdays and decorated them with rose petals.
We have ceased to appreciate small gestures that we don’t believe will garner enough “likes” on social media.
3. They don’t have expectations of grandeur
Remember your first kiss? If it was anything like mine, it involved heavy amounts of Abercrombie Woods and a dark movie theater in which our friends sat behind us and kept poking us until we kissed.
He literally said, “Ready, ready, go,” and then proceeded to slobber all over me. He had clearly not read sex advice columns in GQ or Men’s Health. It was awkward and unromantic, but I didn’t care.
4. They have other stuff to worry about, too
When you’re a teenage girl, you have other stuff going on: school, sports and worrying about college, to name a few.
A relationship is just one part of your identity. My guy friends have told me countless stories of failed Tinder dates in which the date’s sole life focus was to find a husband. Aside from a job, they have no other goals beyond getting married.
One of my high school boyfriends said he liked coming to my athletic events to cheer me on, as did I for him. A relationship can’t survive unless you both have something for which you can cheer each other on.
5. They aren’t on a timeline
When we were in junior high or high school, most of us just wanted a boyfriend. We had yet to dedicate much thought to anything beyond next week.
However, I know too many girls who have practically etched their ideal milestone dates onto their Facebook timelines (age 23: engagement; age 24: marriage; age 25: first child; age 27: second child).
6. Teenage girls generally understand that you cannot turn a teenage boy into a unicorn
There is an old proverb that states that men marry women expecting they won’t change; whereas, women marry men expecting them to change.
As a young girl, it is perfectly acceptable to like a boy for a few days (okay, even a day) before deciding you don’t like him for whatever reason. And, then, you set your sights on someone else. It’s a lot easier looking for someone you do like than liking someone for the potential man you think you can maybe possibly turn him into.
So, maybe it’s time we put on some old-school Britney and channel our inner 14-year-old selves. We need not return to junior high to appreciate love; maybe those of us who are single should spend more time getting to know a variety of people before making a commitment.
Those of us who are not single should appreciate our boyfriends or husbands a little bit more and stop taking the little things for granted. Maybe we should stop listening to society’s expectations and go back to listening to our own hearts.