Hold onto 16 as long as you can
Changes come around real soon
Make us women and men.
In the midst of the heat this afternoon, Jenn and I sat in my living room talking about the downsides of self-employment and minor workaholism. We'd come to no solid conclusions (to contract out or no? Will s-e taxes kill us both? Is it ever totally possible to separate the personal and professional realms?) when Jenn looked out the window and asked, "Well, what's happening here?"
On the stoop of the house across the way (i.e., the house that's born more than its fair share of vexations and bad luck) we saw what appeared to be a young couple, a boy and a girl who seemed to be around 15. They sat close, both facing ahead with their feet on the sidewalk, and the girl appeared to be crying. Though we couldn't hear what they said (not even when, channeling my always lovely but sometimes nosy grandmother, I opened my front door), we surmised from what we could see of their faces and body language that we were witnessing a breakup.
Jenn and I kept chatting, and the probably-a-breakup continued, with more tears from the girl and a relatively straight but clearly sad face on the boy. When J left around 6.20 and I opened the gate to walk her out, the pair looked up at us briefly before turning back to their grief.
That grief continued until well past 8, with varying degrees of drama (including, at one point, the girl on her knees on the sidewalk in front of the fellow, in a posture I can only describe as beseeching and somewhat Shakespearean). I didn't see them leave.
There is, I think, a particular flavor of heartbreak and sadness and disappointment that you can feel only in your teens. It's so sharp and new and often unexpected that it's hard to know what to do with, and the first few times you feel it you're sure--up and down sure--that it will never go away.
It does go away, of course, and after enough times through the cycle of elation and crashing and emptiness and utter overflowing goodness you come to understand that none of it lasts forever. But no one can tell you that and have you believe it; you have to go through the wringer a few times on your own. For many of us--for me, at least--much of that wringer-going happens somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 19.
And it's for that reason that, as Jenn and I tried to spy this afternoon, I said, "15: an age I'm happy I never have to be again." It was a great place to be for a little while, that land of teendom, but I was happy to move out of it, and happy not to have to go back.
And so, sweet weepy teens, at least one of whom appeared to have your heart broken this evening, I would tell you that things will mend in time, that your first love is almost never your last, that someday soon-ish all of this will fade, but you might not believe that telling. So instead I'll say that despite whatever sweetness your high school years may bring, and regardless of what John Cougar Mellencamp might claim, there's a lot to be said for letting go of 16 as soon as it's gone.