DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Is 16 too young to know if you're truly in love? My boyfriend "Jackson" and I both feel we are truly in love. We want to spend the rest of our lives together. We realize it will be a few years before we can marry. My older sister says I'm way too young for these feelings and that I need to be older and more mature (like her) to really understand. She's 17. I have a large picture of Jackson in our room and when she has friends over she says, "That's Rachel's true love forever," and they all laugh. Can't you be truly in love at my age? - TRUE LOVE, Healdsburg, Calif.
Lennon, 23: No one understands love till it happens. And then the feeling is impossible to explain. Think of all the popular music that describes how totally subjective love is.
Shelby, 18: Don't listen to her. I haven't been in love, but my younger sister and my best friend have. My best friend met her love at 16, too. Eighteen months later, they are still planning to get married.
They know where they want to live and everything. You have something special. Your sister is just paying the role of the "smart one" (our job as older sisters), and she's probably a little jealous. Every girl wants what you have.
Geoff, 24: Until a couple has shared an independent life together, they have no idea what love is. At your age (and even mine), one's notion of love is still changing. When you both are going to college and/or working, paying bills, and doing dishes together, you'll have more experience with the fluctuations of love and will know better if that love is what you really want. There is no true love, only lived love - and you have a lot of living yet to do.
Katelyn, 15: Some couples who marry young stay married, but usually it doesn't work out. In love, you will do anything for your partner. Love is shown, not just stated. It's basically being best friends to the extreme.
Graham, 16: Older people will always tell you that you need to be their age to know what true love is, when they probably don't know what it is themselves. I think it's different for everybody. Just see where it takes you!
DEAR TRUE LOVE: Of course you can be in love at 16. I've known kindergartners hit by Cupid's tipped arrows. Anyone who's been shot understands the delicious delirium, the absolute "walking on air." Often called infatuation or lust, this phase of love usually gets a bad rap. But it is how most true love starts.
So what is true love? And how do you know if you and Jackson have it? In true love, your feet are back on the ground. The delirium is replaced by a different deliciousness: a deep sense of happiness, belonging, and shared destiny. Time together is never mediocre. You feel safe to expose yourselves, warts and all. You feel like bigger, better people. Communication is open and honest. Both silence and heated debates are comfortable, whereas with infatuation, someone usually is scared to admit honest feelings. Neither partner consumes or dominates the other. Both partners compromise, not just one. There is mutual dedication to working through rough spots. True love lasts. Infatuation does not. Which is why, when Cupid's arrow strikes, you shouldn't rush into sex or marriage. True love needs time and challenge to prove itself.
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