Love can make people crazy and sane at the same time. It makes some people swoon; others try to run from it. One of the most-pondered questions in teen-age minds: What is love?
Love is undefinable. One person's idea of love is probably not the same as that of the person standing next to him or her.
In love. Out of love. People often think they are one or the other. Many assume that couples they see walking hand-in-hand are in love. But, teens say, being part of a couple doesn't necessarily mean being in love.
"We enjoy spending time together, but don't think it's love just yet," said a junior of his relationship with the girl he has been dating for several months.
Said one freshman in describing his relationship with a classmate he has been seeing for five months: "Because of our parents, we don't get to spend enough time together to know for sure if we're in love."
Says his girlfriend: "I don't really know what love is, but I think I'm in love."
Sometimes young love grows into mature love. More often, though, it helps teach lessons about what love is and is not.
A senior who says she is in love now reflects back on an intense relationship she was in as an underclassman: "I thought I was in love before. But I know now that I wasn't. We became obsessed with each other. I wanted to feel secure. I was turning to someone else to find happiness when I should have been happy myself first. I realized it wasn't love when I found myself spending time with him even when I didn't want to."
She does not regret the experience, though. "I learned through a faulty relationship. If I hadn't done that, I wouldn't be where I am now. I'm thankful for that."
Love, she says she now knows, does not mean frantically hanging on.
"I've been dating my boyfriend now for a year, but we knew each other as friends before that. We don't have to pretend with each other. We can have wild conversations; we can teach each other things. Being in love is really no different from not being in love. I know I'd be the same person without him. But I like very much to be with him."
"So many things that happen in high school don't carry on into real life," says Westminster sophomore Kerrie Gipe. "I guess you learn what you don't want, in some ways, but so many of the pressures in high school aren't about love; they're about other things. It really takes the romance out of love and puts it into something that is truly meaningless."
Gipe says that she has been in love five times, but that she didn't get back what she gave in the relationships.
"Let's just say I got ignored." Gipe says that what we learn about love in high school teaches us what love isn't.
"You have to go through relationships to find out what love isn't. You don't usually get all the experience you need until you're out of high school, and possibly out of college," Gipe said. Ultimately, love is "a never-ending cycle," she says.
Sophomore Channing Boyer says he might have been in love once, but he probably "confused it with infatuation." Boyer says love is important because throughout life you'll always need someone to turn to. "Love to me is opening up your inner self to someone and being personal with that one person," he said. But, he added, "there are a lot of teen-age pregnancies. That's not love."
Clinton Mosely, a junior at Westminster, describes himself as in love with people, but not with one individual.
"Some people use love as an excuse. They think the only way they can get love is through sex, and that's not right," he says. "There's a difference between real love and 'false love,' because love is what you feel, not what you think. Love is being connected with a person. It is an emotion, not a thought, not an action.
"Somehow it's gotten into (people's) minds that sex is OK as long as you 'think' you love that person, but that's false love. That is an action, not a feeling," he said.
Mosely says he wishes that more parents would talk to their kids about love and "really get into our heads and say, 'You know what? This is love; this is the way to go.' "
Mosely says the one thing standing in the way of true love between teen-agers is that teens often "take on problems that they don't need," believing that it's possible to "fix" a partner's problem.
Mosely says he believes that love is something that happens rather than something that you have to try to make happen.
"Look into the heart of a person, find out who they are first. Wait 'til you click with that person. That's when you'll know. Don't foul that up by listening to other people; you'll know for yourself."