Ahhh, young love. It’s a phrase you may have patronisingly heard over the the years, but it’s true. Bambi had it right: you get to a certain point in your life and you become ‘twitterpated’ with another member of society. Whether this is in college or high school doesn’t really matter, once you hit puberty – bam – you are feeling all sorts of scary and grown up feelings and sometimes, just sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether you are feeling love or lust.
Here’s a clue: picture them chewing loudly while they eat. If you can smile, it’s love. Otherwise, you’re just crushing hard.
No, not really. In all seriousness, young lust is all-consuming. It burns like a fire through the very core of your being and you can’t eat or sleep. Your world stops spinning for a while just because the person who has become the new idol in your life has smiled at you that day. It’s important to know that this feeling you’re experiencing is normal. Whether you are crushing on a gal pal as a girl, a guy friend as a guy or a member of the opposite sex, you’re normal. A crush doesn’t mean that you’re in love with someone, it just means that you can appreciate their beauty and who they are and that appreciation sometimes feels a little more physical than that. I’m talking butterflies in your tummy, violins and harps played by Cupids and angels in the clouds.
Lust doesn’t just happen to teenagers. All through life, you’re going to get hit with thunderbolts of fuzziness in all the places that make you warm. You’re going to get the stomach flips and the hair standing on end and even the feeling like you’re walking on air. It’s a hormonal reaction based on what you know about a person and sometimes it can lead you down the path of experimentation. For some kids who think they’re straight,it can be confusing to find that they’re crushing on a member of the same sex, and even from the same friendship group. It’s important to know that this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gay: it’s why Kinsey came up with a scale. These things aren’t linear. If you’re chatting to guys on GuySpy Voice, it doesn’t mean you’re going to start researching civil unions for you and your best mate; it’s just experimentation as a teenager. Hormone-drive experimentation. Of course, these feelings can absolutely lead you to exploring whether you are more fluid in your sexuality than you first thought, but that’s the idea of these teen years. The lusts and the crushes and the loves you have at this crucial time all help you to work out who you are and what you want from life.
Your love life begins to develop as a teenager and puberty hits. You start to notice people in a different way and this is where you need to also educate yourself on safe sex practices and STDs. None of this is particularly sexy, of course, but while you’re busy being consumed by lust and following your stomach flips to the nearest bed, you need to ensure you’re experimenting safely – whether you’re angling for guys, girls or both. One of the scariest things to try and work out as a teenager is whether what you are feeling is a crush, or if it’s full-on, hold a radio over your head, let you have the last chocolate love. Love creates the feelings of affection, care and concern that don’t come with lust. Lust is more animal, physical urges that make you want to take the person you’re looking at to the nearest balcony and practice *that* movie kiss you once saw. Separating the two of these feelings isn’t easy, though, particularly as they are so very similar in how they feel.
The main thing to always remember is that your feelings are valid, normal and they have value. The reality is that you should follow your heart but only if it’s sensible. Driving off on the back of the bad boy’s motorcycle when you’re only 16 is likely to get you grounded, right? Love deeply, lust carefully and crush from a distance if you choose, but learn what’s safe. Learn about giving your feelings away too quickly and learn how you could be wrapped up in the sweetest summer romance when you do. You are going to come into these feelings so quickly, so educate yourself now to avoid heartbreak.