Does True Love Really Exist?
The question of whether true love really exists cannot be answered without first clarifying what true love really is. However, the concept of “true love” has already absorbed so many qualities from literature, television, and magazines that it can no longer be approached with any objectivity. Trying to consider true love freshly at this point would be like trying to taste a wine while you are eating a hot dog.
The image that comes to mind when someone mentions true love is of two inspired individuals, fatefully drawn to each other and ready to risk their lives for the other person’s sake – in essence, Romeo and Juliet. Despite the prevalence of this perception, I have never actually witnessed such a perfect relationship in real life. The closest thing I can think of is something I term “pure love”: love that contains the boundless excitement that only a child can experience.
Pure love happens to some people many times, to others only once, and to still others not at all. The ability to experience pure love depends upon the strength of your idealism. You are more likely to feel it if you are a fourteen year-old girl who believes in fairies, and less likely if you are a forty year-old investment banker who rejoices when the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates. However, no matter how old you are, you can experience pure love if you suspend your adult feelings for a while and allow yourself to be completely vulnerable.
I experienced pure love during the summer after I turned fifteen years old, before I had ever kissed a girl. I met Melissa on a family vacation, on a cruise boat called The Inspiration. I first saw her inside the disco while I was with my family. She was sitting off to the side with a group of people I didn’t know. I eventually got the courage to go over and ask her to dance, and even though she hesitated, we were soon on the dance floor together. As it turned out, we both hated dancing, so we went outside and hung out on the steps for the rest of the night. We talked for hours, until it was time for her curfew. I remember standing up and giving her a hug goodnight, and my whole body tingling with joy once she had disappeared into the elevator.
There wasn’t a single moment I didn’t think about her for the next twenty four hours. The following night we met back at the disco. It was formal night, and she was in a velvety black dress. We skipped the dancing part this time and went to walk around on the upper level of the ship. Earlier that day, I had asked my dad for advice on how to kiss a girl and he told me to use “gentle persuasion”: to lightly lift the bottom of her chin and guide her lips toward mine. That evening, though I was looking good in my best suit, I was more nervous than I had ever been in my life. So, when she stopped walking and asked me if I wanted to go over to the balcony and watch the waves, I could feel a deep pounding inside my chest. The wind was whipping through her hair, causing it to fly about wildly, and this intensity was the only comfort I could find at that moment, for it mimicked the frenzy inside of me. After a few minutes, she asked if we could go back to her room so she could change out of her formal dress.
I was sure our moment had been ruined. But when she emerged from her stateroom a few minutes later, newly clad in jeans and smelling of some tantalizing body spray, my hope was renewed. On her suggestion, we went back up to the observation deck and returned to the exact same spot. We talked about a few ordinary things for a while, and then all at once my fear sank to the bottom of my chest like a single, dense weight, and I heard myself say “Melissa, I really like you.”
“I really like you too, Evan.”
And with that, I raised my bloodless arm, placing my hand underneath her chin, and kissed her. I tried to remember to open and close my mouth slowly, but my vision was black, and I had no feeling in my entire body. Perhaps a minute later, I regained some composure and started concentrating on what I was doing. I felt the moistness of her lips and tasted her saliva with life-affirming euphoria.
When we finally separated for a moment, she said “Wow – you’re a really good kisser.”
We spent the last four days of the cruise together. I remember the simple and expressive way she told me that she liked me, the intensity of her eyes after we kissed, and the specialness I felt when we walked around together at night, holding hands.
After the vacation, we wrote each other letters with gifts enclosed every week. We traded pictures from the vacation in one of them, she sent me a bottle of her shampoo (I worshiped the smell) in another, and I wrote her poetry in others. We called each other as much as our moms would let us. She lived ten hours north of me, but I didn’t care. I would have seen her every weekend if I had a car or the money to fly.
Meeting Melissa ushered in the worst period I had ever had in my relationship with my mom. She thought the idea of having a long distance girlfriend was impractical, and that it would only lead to disappointment for me. We fought constantly about whether I was allowed to fly out there, and although I ultimately lost the battle, I did everything short of running away from home to try to see her again. In one heated fight, I screamed at my mom: “You’ll regret this when Melissa and I get married one day and I don’t invite you to our wedding!”
About a month after the cruise, on a Tuesday night, I was sitting on the floor of my room using the twenty-minutes-every-other-day long distance time my mom had allotted me. Melissa and I were talking about how much we missed each other. Then she told me about something she had been feeling.
“I don’t know if it’s love, but I feel something…it’s like fireworks inside of me” she said.
“Really?…I do too.”
“Do you think it’s all right to say it?”
I paused. “Yeah. Let’s say it.”
“Okay, you first.”
“I love you too.”
That moment changed something chemical inside of me. I became obsessed; I started to save allowance money so I could buy calling cards and sneak extra calls to her from the pay phones at school. We planned secret times to call each other when our moms weren’t around. This went on for a few weeks.
But our parents had no intention of tolerating our unrealistic romance any longer. About three months later, after a final, climactic fight with our moms (and even a conversation between them), we agreed it was best not to talk.
The rest is history. She eventually got a boyfriend, and I started dating someone else too. Although we kept in touch for years, we never got a chance to be together. But the feelings I had during those four days on The Inspiration and afterwards for three months were as vivid and real as any feelings I have ever had. That was pure love.
My experience with Melissa is the closest thing to “true love” that I know. There are many possible interpretations, though. Some would call the impassioned excitement of a new relationship “true love,” and others would say that true love is the comfort of being with someone who understands you intimately well. To me, these states represent meaningful emotions; and indeed, there are as many types of love as there are couples. But the pure type of love that I felt when I was fifteen is different. It was life-changing and infinitely painful – the type of thing that you can only feel when your heart is as open as a child’s – and it is all that I can think of when I hear the words “true love.”
Evan Bailyn is a serial entrepreneur, search engine and social media expert, celebrated author and child advocate. His company, First Page Sage, is a leader in search engine optimization and social media marketing - vastly increasing business for its clients through high SEO rankings, targeted Facebook advertising and viral videos. Evan is also the founder of the Evan Bailyn Foundation, a foundation dedicated to teaching emotional awareness to children and adults.