THE TEEN EXPERIENCE: MARGOT AND JACK

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Margot: It is ironic that our relationship began with a “random” hookup at a post-prom party junior year and a conversation about shoelaces. Jack was wearing a Santa Cruz t-shirt and untied shoes, this was in severe contrast to the other high school students in their formal attire. We would hang out regularly after our first encounter. Horror movies, walks through Mountain Lake Park, different parties, and the 4th of July Fair encompassed the beginning of our relationship. Initially, I stifled my feelings for Jack. I feared that he was not falling for me as quickly as I was falling for him. Then I took a risk and told Jack I liked him.

When I left for Colorado for four weeks during the summer, I knew I was in love with him. There was something deep within me that pulled me to him. I felt as though I could always feel where he was in a room even if we were surrounded by other people. It was always him; he always stood out to me. Two days after I came home from Colorado, Jack told me that he loved me. There was never a doubt in my mind that I loved him, even when I was unsure what love actually felt like. 

We made a pact at the start of our senior years to not discuss colleges. With friends, teachers, parents, coaches, and adults constantly asking about our futures, Jack provided an escape from the constant bombardment of stress. I loved being able to talk about anything non-college related with Jack; he could confidently, respectfully, and intelligently carry a conversation about any topic.

Jack: In a very literal sense, there was an elephant in the room and we both felt it…it was heavy because from the very beginning both Margot and I knew that what we have is special. To a certain extent, it is ineffable. Sometimes the most powerful and/or beautiful things in life are better left without words or photos; a photo may speak a thousand words, but love speaks more words than I could ever write. Alas, as accurate as the photo or words may be, they will never do that love justice.

Margot: I think our pact created more tension then diffused it. When our parents or friends brought up college and our futures, we would shy away from the subject. Communication is and was one of the founding characteristics and values of our relationship, but in the context of college, we avoided it. All of the pent up feelings, words, and conversations resulted in an explosion of emotion one Saturday night after a San Jose Sharks hockey game. The whole night I was feeling distraught, but instead of telling Jack how I felt (as I do with everything else) I bottled it up. Upon reflection of our approach to college and leaving, I regret not having more healthy communication earlier in our relationship. While discussing futures and intentions is difficult in a new relationship, communication on all levels is essential to the well-being of both partners. Communication should never be forcibly limited in a relationship - if someone needs to say something they should be free to express it without limitation.

Jack: I cannot stress enough how the keystone of any relationship is communication. As communication is established, one learns to trust their significant other. Something Margot and I have always cherished is how safe we feel around each other. This is a result of our trust and ability to openly talk about anything.

Communication and trust has also helped us problem solve in our relationship. I think it is safe to say we have both made mistakes and hurt each other’s feelings at times. It is crucial to note that we both have enough perspective to know that no relationship is perfect; even the most fairytale lovers have bumps in the road they travel together. Upon encountering any sort of hiccup, minor or major, both Margot and I have tried our hardest to be as upfront as possible with each other. This has, by no means, been easy for me, whether I am the person who has hurt or been hurt. 

I am so grateful for Margot. Without her, I know that I would not be anywhere as close to as comfortable opening up as I am. When I make a mistake, she not only accepts my apology, but she often makes sure I don’t beat myself up too much over it (I am quite self-critical). She asks me if I, the one who messed up, am okay. When she makes a mistake (which is once in a blue moon) she never tries to justify it, she listens. She then goes above and beyond to always let me know that she will do whatever she can to make me feel better or closer to her. 

Occasionally, when Margot feels icky, I might internalize those feelings as well - I would wonder if I caused her mood. It was this very self-centered thinking that I believe may have compounded her need to be alone. I took it upon myself to make her happy all the time, which was an unfair expectation. Once I got over myself, I was able to be a better listener, as she is when I feel sad. I even put a reminder in my phone that it is impossible for me to fix everything, so I should simply make myself available to listen. As a result of this minor adjustment, both of us have seen major improvements in both my listening, and Margot’s comfort in opening up to me.

Margot: I think our ability to communicate will allow us to continue this relationship into college. Being physically apart will create extreme strain on our relationship, but I know that Jack will always feel spiritually and emotionally close to me. I will deeply miss sneaking over to each other’s houses, doing homework together when our sport practices were cancelled due to rain, and driving to undiscovered places in Marin. While these traditions and adventures define the early stages and development of our relationship, I know that we will experience many more adventures in the future. If anything, being apart will only make us stronger. My mom always says, “If it is meant to be, it is up to me.” Jack and I both feel that our relationship is meant to be. We are both willing to work for it. Strong and healthy relationships require work, and we believe ours is worth the effort. 

ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS 9

Every quarter I will share questions from our anonymous question link that reveal what students really want to know but may be afraid to ask. This month:

How do I help a friend who has a problem with drugs?
How do I get my parents to stop judging me and freaking out whenever I try to tell them something?
What does bicurious mean?
What STDs can I get in my mouth?
How can I avoid pain when losing my virginity?

The teen experience: "LONG DISTANCE" College Freshman Boy

         I never thought I would want to do a long-distance relationship, ever. I couldn't imagine being in a relationship with someone who I couldn't see frequently and who lived so far away. That changed when I spent my junior year at City Term in NYC.

         When I arrived at the program, I loved every second of it. The people I was with, the city, and the academics. There was also this girl, Jesse, who I had started to become friends with into the third week. We got along extremely well. Even though we didn't share many of the same hobbies to bond over, our personalities clicked. As soon as we started spending time together, there was this flirtatious tension that built between us. My heart would jump when she walked in the room, and I would always try to walk past her classroom on the way to mine, so we'd have a moment to say hi. I noticed she just "happened" to bump into me after my classes as well.

         One night, after weeks of lingering hugs, brushing hands, and getting to know each other more, we were talking in a classroom while printing out an assignment for the next day. We were a lot closer than we needed to be, and when the conversation paused, we kissed. It was more intense and connected than any other intimate interaction I had experienced with anyone before. That's when I found out what “fireworks” felt like. We kept hooking up in the days following whenever we got the chance (it was harder than you might think since we were at a boarding school). We continued to try new things and go a little further each time. Our interactions between class became more frequent, and our intimate moments more intense. Before spring break I had a moment when I thought to myself, "Damn I really like this girl - I want to make this a little more serious". So, on the day we left, I pulled her aside and was up front. I told her I like her a lot, and that I didn't wanna hook up with other people over spring break because I wanted to just be with her. She felt the same way. I was ecstatic.

         We talked a lot over break. When we returned we were closer than ever, and started more liberally using the terms "girlfriend" and "boyfriend". It continued to ramp up rapidly after that; we got on so well and every moment I spent with her got better. She made me so happy, every single moment. We did a great job of balancing time with friends and each other. It was easy because our friends overlapped a lot. By April, we had talked about sex for a little while, but it was going to be her first time, so we wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen in a classroom or bathroom or something like that. We wanted it to be in the right place where we didn't have to worry about anybody else and just focus on the moment.

        There was a weekend when her parents were in town and she had a hotel room to herself. We spent the day together and talked about how we wanted to have sex that night, so when we got back to her hotel room we started hooking up. Things moved slowly as we weren't in any rush. We were both in tune with how the other felt, and it was exciting. We were more loving then we had been before. When we started to have sex, it was a little difficult trying to find the position that felt best, but it still felt so right because it wasn't awkward. We were so comfortable with each other. We laughed a little as we figured it out. When we found our flow though, I felt closer to her than I ever had before.

         Our feelings for each other continued to grow so much more than I thought they could, and I kept thinking to myself, "Oh no, oh no, I'm falling in love with her". It felt like nothing I had ever imagined before. The part that sucked though was that she lived on the east coast and I lived on the west. That issue seemed so small though when, towards the end of the term, we sat together in a room talking about how we'd miss each other like crazy with less than a month left. Then it just happened. She was looking down when I said, "Jesse". She looked up at me and the words, "I love you", flew out of my mouth. She said it right back with no hesitation. It felt warm.

         That's when I realized why people do long distance, and it's when she realized it too. After we exchanged those words for the first time, we decided we wanted to stay together. The summer was rough. The goodbyes sucked, and she didn't have her phone for 2 months. When she returned to civilization, we were so good. We got the chance to see each other once before school began and we talked about what we were nervous for and what we would do to make it work. When it started, we talked on the phone every day. We kept that up for the entirety of senior year. It started off without a hitch. We were our normal selves and the phone didn't really hinder our conversation. We talked about how we still felt like we were in a “honeymoon phase”, how we didn't fight at all, and how it felt great.

         Overtime, things started to change, as they do in any relationship. We got the chance to visit each other somewhat frequently considering we lived so far away from each other. About every 2 months or month and a half she would visit me and I, her. We met each other’s friends and got a first-hand look into the parts of life we couldn't see through face time. I liked her friends and got along well with them, but something started to separate us. It was how she felt about my friends. In particular, those who were girls. She started to feel like she couldn't connect to some of the people I was friends with, and we began to fight over how she felt about me spending time with those girls. This was a consistent issue throughout the year, but we were still very much in love and that love continued to grow. The relationship was still making both of us happy.

         Slowly, the amount of time I spent talking to her, and sometimes fighting with her, ate into my time with family and friends. I didn't think it was happening at first, but after a while I couldn't deny it. Our love made me blind to that though and made me more indifferent. She thought that we were too different, but I disagreed and had to constantly convince her that she overthought all of the interactions that I had with friends. Going out with friends on weekend nights only exacerbated this issue, and parties and drinking made her even more annoyed with my actions. It turned into a pattern of me doing something I thought of as inconsequential, she getting angry or upset at my actions, me apologizing profusely and working to make sure it didn't happen again, and then another issue popping up or an old one resurfacing. I felt like I couldn't do anything right, and she felt like she was acting crazy.

         Regardless of all this we stayed together because we still loved each other so much and when we saw each other it was the best feeling in the world. Senior year ended, and we both were away from our phones for a little part of the summer. Again, we wrote to each other all of the time to provide updates on our lives. I didn’t think that I’d have to worry about the fighting from senior year, but the same issues came up about my friends at camp. When we saw each other in early August, she said she felt like something had changed with me and that I wasn't the same person. I didn't understand what she was talking about. I didn't know what she meant. And that's the moment when I really realized why this relationship could be so hard sometimes. I loved her so much and we were so close, but we had this disconnect over what I thought would be okay with her, what I wanted to do, and what would make her uncomfortable. Still, we wanted to stay together in college. After all we were far closer - only 2 hours by public transit.

         When college began we found a good rhythm, and things started to feel really good again. We did new things, met new people, and told each other all about it. It was so exciting. That second “honeymoon phase” ended after about a month. We had both visited each other at school. Again I liked her friends a lot. However, she didn't like most of mine. She felt like I was changing, like my friends were to different, and she couldn't get along well with them. I told her they all loved her, and they did. Still, she felt they were too different. We still really enjoyed seeing each other and being in a relationship, but over time these problems continued to manifest. Again, particularly around my friends who were girls.

         I was joining lots of groups, and in second semester I started rushing co-ed program houses (basically co-ed fraternities) and fraternities with my friends. She said that I was all over the place trying to find myself and that I didn't have enough time for her even though I made such an effort to see her so often. It hurt me a lot when she said that because it made me feel like all of the hard work that we put into being together didn't mean anything. And yet I still loved her. So so much. But we were fighting way too much, and we both needed to dive more into our own college experiences because it wasn't working while together.

         On our 2nd anniversary we went to her beach house nearby and spent the weekend there together, just the two of us. It was amazing to be away from it all. We had talked before about whether or not to break up, and we decided while we were there that as much as we didn't want to, it was time. We couldn't go on like we had been - it hurt too much. I felt like I needed more room to change, and she felt like that too. It was mutual, it was amiable, but we really didn't want to. We still loved each other, and that made it hurt that much more.

         That was almost 2 months ago today, and it still sucks but it's getting better. We text a bit because we still want to be friends. It feels weird to call her my ex. Now I'm fully immersed in the college culture here, and my friendships have gotten even stronger. It's a little easier to be in the moment because my mind isn't always on her. I still love her, but the space is good for us to figure out who we are more. Figure out what we want in life, college, and relationships. We're still working on being friends. If it's right we'll get back together down the line, so we can support each other in being the happiest and best versions of ourselves. If it doesn't work out that way, she'll still have been a big part of my life, and maybe she'll continue to be in it in a way that's good for both of us.

ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS 8

Every quarter I will share questions from our anonymous question link that reveal what students really want to know but may be afraid to ask. This month:

When do I know if I'm addicted to juuling?
Can I overdose on weed?
How much does size actually matter?
If you are ace, how would you go about having a relationship with someone who is sexually active?
How come I can't keep my erection when I'm with my girlfriend?

The teen experience: "Finding Myself" Kaylah, 19

Being a brown, thick, girl is hard when you’re in a school full of white, skinny people. Before going to high school, I had a preconceived notion that it would consist of parties and boyfriends. The number of parties you went to and the boys’ attention you caught equated to how pretty or desirable you are. In these four years I found myself trying to find validation of my beauty in others. Through this journey I have discovered how I internalized ideas of beauty and projected these emotions and expectations onto my sexual and romantic partners.

In high school, I felt a lot of pressure to conform to an idea of beauty that I did not fit --  that I should be desirable under white beauty standards. I was not being asked out by the boys or girls at my school, whether it be a hookup or an actual date, which made me question myself. Was I not pretty enough? Was I too intimidating? Was I too brown? Was I too fat? These were questions I asked myself on a daily basis throughout high school. When I was in environments outside of my high school, in my own communities, I never asked myself those questions because everyone surrounding me looked like me. We were proud of being loud, brown, women. These people whether they be my friends, or people I was dating, always validated my identity and beauty because they understood. I lived in two opposing worlds on a daily basis, which in the first two years of high school made me constantly confused. Eventually I was tired of being ashamed of my identity in school. I decided to be more vocal and proud. This not only helped me in my voice being heard, but with understanding my identity. It also gave me the power to understand how to take agency with my own sexuality.

In my two last years of high school I found myself empowered and willing to learn more about myself and my sexuality. I explored my body, came out as bisexual, and had discussions about masturbation, self exploration, and self love. I started dating someone in my senior year, who I am still happily dating today. We have learned a lot about each other through our year and a half together and have a healthy relationship all around. What I realize now is that without my journey of sexual self discovery and the pride I have in my body, I would not have been able to have such a healthy relationship with my boyfriend and myself today. Validation from others or a sexual partner is not what allowed me to discover self love or learn about what I like. Although I do feel empowered by others through common identities, they are not the reason for my own self love. I learned to find acceptance from within, I learned about my body, and I learned about what I like by myself. This self discovery is never ending as I continue to learn about myself everyday and accept any insecurities I have with time.

ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS 7

Every quarter I will share questions from our anonymous question link that reveal what students really want to know but may be afraid to ask. This month:

What sort of boundaries should I have for myself?
How do I tell someone I want to experiment with them?
Is it possible to have a balanced relationship with someone if they are older than you?
Why do we fall in love with certain people and not with others?
Why do parents always say "wait until you're older" when talking about sex?

THE TEEN EXPERIENCE: Cameron & Evie College Freshmen

Love! <3 

Evie and I have been dating for over a year and a half, but it seems like a whole lot longer. We’re writing this together, curled up in my dorm room in Providence, Rhode Island. Even though we go to different schools our dorms are only 5 minutes apart, and we make time to see each other everyday. We technically went on our first date freshman year of high school. It went… poorly. I got so nervous I threw up. This sounds really bad but it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, I promise. Evie could not have possibly handled the situation better, but I was still mortified. Unsurprisingly, we didn't really talk much after that.

Fast forward two years, and we found ourselves in the same friend group. We started hooking up in the spring of junior year, meeting at the beach halfway between our houses. This simple beginning became a fun and healthy relationship that has helped us both grow more than we ever imagined. 

We pretty much do everything together. We spend lots of time with one another, just being in the same place but working on our own homework or doing our own thing. But we also make art together, go to concerts and other fun things. We wrote and illustrated a children's book together for our senior year art class and dressed up as one another during halloween senior year and won the costume contest. Although not an entirely original idea, it worked very well because we have very contrasting styles and interests. Even though we love each other and function as a unit, we are still very different people. The term opposites attract really comes to mind while  writing this. 

These differences have helped us grow in many ways because they’re learning opportunities. Would Evie go to a rap concert if she wasn’t dating me? Nah probably not. Would I go to a chorus performance if I wasn't dating Evie? nah probably not. Although the is a pretty generic example it can be applied to all of our contrasting interests, of which there are many. One of the most important for me has been Evie’s influence on my school work. Her good study habits and love of school really helped me change my perspective on school, ultimately helping raise my high school GPA. Another one of our differences is how we handle stress and make plans. I would consider myself the type to just go with the flow, I don’t really need a destination or a plan. Evie likes making plans and sometimes gets stressed when we don’t have a plan. But just like she’s helped me with school work and study habits, I’ve helped her with feeling less stressed and more chill. We have different friend groups and go to different schools, but we’ve found a way for our differences make us closer. More than anything, we are honest and talk about how we feel. Open communication is everything to a good relationship. 

This kind of love is the only thing either of us want. It makes us happy and helps us to grow and become stronger people. As a couple, we’re usually the outlier in both our high school and college friend groups that are so immersed in hook up culture. There are so many different kinds of relationships that can bring people joy, and we’ve found ours <3 

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ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS 6

Every quarter I will share questions from our anonymous question link that reveal what students really want to know but may be afraid to ask. This month:

Why is there so much expected from kids our age?
What is the difference between sympathy and empathy?
How can you tell if someone is romantically interested in or just wants to be "friends?"
Is anal sex natural?
Why is it more difficult for girls to orgasm than guys?