“It's that thing when you're with someone, and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it...but it's a party...and you're both talking to other people, and you're laughing and shining... And you look across the room and catch each other's eyes, but not because you're possessive, or it's precisely sexual, but because that is your person in this life. And it's funny and sad, but only because this life will end, and it's this secret world that exists right there in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It's sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don't have the ability to perceive them. That's what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess.”
- Frances Ha, 2012
I think about this every day. These thrown-together words—making no sense, making so much sense. This unsolicited monologue spit out to unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar place—like she didn’t quite mean to say it, but she also meant what she said. The words flowing out like a river, like a breath, like a song.
I want that thing too. I want that moment, that love. I want that look, that intimate feeling that exists in the midst of a party. But today, in this world, as a teenager, I just want to know if that’s too much to ask.
I’m seventeen. I go to high school. I’ve never been kissed. I’ve never been taken on a date. It sounds bad, I know. It’s not that I’m disliked entirely by every male on the planet; I just have incredibly unrealistic and stupid standards. (It’s my punishment for watching too many movies.) I’m terribly afraid that I’ll humiliate myself in a car hook-up first kiss, and I’m equally terrified that I won’t even get kissed before I leave for college. I’m scared that my high hopes have blinded me from the fact that I don’t live in Pretty in Pink, where a guy can fall in love with a girl just because. I’m scared because it’s too late to go back now—I’ve waited long enough not to give it all up.
Where is love in the modern world?
I wonder about that thing pretty often. That thing that Frances talks about. The time-and-space-transcending, sixth-dimension, secret-world-in-public love that exists in between two people. How am I supposed to know if that still exists in the modern world? It seems that people don’t want it anymore. They don’t want to get attached. They don’t want to commit. But is it more about commitment than it is about love? We’re in high school and everyone wants to have fun, sure—but I don’t understand when love became un-fun. When did a kiss on the doorstep become not enough? When did a dinner date become too much?
When did falling in love become a bad thing? When did love become something to be avoided? Is there something wrong with wanting one person? Even if it’s your person?
To fall in love in the modern world is to be stupid. (Apparently.) To fall in love is to waste your time, to waste your fun. To fall in love is to be ashamed. To fall in love is to be too much. To fall in love used to be the dream. To fall in love is the dream. But now, to fall in love has become unrealistic. Because to fall in love is to wish to be fallen in love with. And I’m afraid that might be too much to ask now.
I want to know where modern love is—what modern love is—if modern love is. I want to know if I’ve waited for seventeen years for something that doesn’t exist—at least not in the teenage years. I want to know why John Hughes plotted his evil scheme to cause young girls everywhere to set high hopes—not to be fulfilled (kidding, John, thank you). I want to know if I’ve been stupid to wait. If I’ve been stupid to think that someone might like me enough to block out the modern day teenage love standards. Have I been stupid this whole time? I’m really, really scared that I have.
It’s not that I think love doesn’t exist. I know love exists. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in my parents. I’ve seen it in my grandparents. Love exists. That’s not the question. The question is this—at what age is it societally okay to start loving? What’s the secret password we have to use as teenagers instead of the forbidden word love? What’s the modern day alternative? “We aren’t dating. We’re talking.” If we aren’t loving, what are we?
We’re taught our whole lives to love. We’re taught to love one another and accept love in return. And I do feel love. Every day. From my friends, my family, the inexplicable love that just surrounds you on the daily. The fact is, falling in love is something that has become an “adult thing.” Because when you’re young, you’re free—free to do whatever you want, spend time with whomever you want. But somehow this freedom has become an excuse for a lack of dedication. We don’t want to dedicate our time and energy, and we definitely don’t want to dedicate our lives. And so we don’t. Because of that, we miss out on some of the most beautiful things there are to experience in life. Falling in love being one of them.
I don’t think falling in love is something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make you less of a guy or less of a girl. It doesn’t make you lame, it doesn’t make you stupid. It makes you feel—good and bad. It’s joy and heartbreak and pain. It’s fun and hard and freeing and good. The thing is: it’s scary. And I know that. But I think as teenagers, fear should be the least of our worries. Like we all say, we’re free. So why don’t we act like it? We can fall in love if we want. Our fears are nothing. We can do what we want, be what we want. We’re free.
I think love is changing. Maybe it’s losing its flare and its gestures, but it’s still here—even in our modern teenage world. I asked myself if I’ve been stupid. If I’m asking for too much. Some might think falling in love is too much right now. But I don’t think hope is such a bad thing to have. I don’t think I’m wrong for wanting more. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dreaming (or watching Notting Hill for the millionth time). I actually think that’s just what a teenager should be doing. If asking for love in the modern day is too much—then okay.
I guess I just want to know if Frances ever had her moment. I want to know if she met a guy who fell in love with her quirky personality and the fact that she dances across the New York streets. I want to know if sometimes he danced across them with her. I want to know if she ever met someone who listened to her long, free, and unsolicited speeches and understood them in a roundabout kind of way. I want to know if she ever met someone who really loved her, just because. I want to know if she ever had her moment. If she looked across the room and felt it—that time-and-space-transcending, sixth-dimension, secret-world-in-public love. I really just want to know if she felt it. I have hope that she did. And I have hope that I will too.
Annie Walton Doyle
Ameerah de Chabert