I've been asking myself what love is right from the age of 14 years old, when I had my very first flutter in my heart whilst sitting playing Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo (SNES) in my friends bedroom.
As I stared at his petrol blue Kensington Freak jeans and Nike Air Max trainers I started to feel something that I had never felt before. I am unsure if it was a mental or a physical feeling, or a combination of the two.
I suppose at 14 hormones are kicking in and you are developing from a child into a teenager, in some cultures, this is even seen as adulthood, albeit I was still very much a child.
The sensations I felt were warm and fuzzy. For this boy was wonderful, although quite moody at times! He was 12 and a half, and yes sounds quite obscure talking about a boy of that age and attaching those sorts of emotions in that way but at the time it felt more than right.
He was adorable. Big eyes, long eye lashes, he played the guitar, loved dogs, he was funny and kind and very romantic. He respected me. I fancied the pants off him for the way he looked, smelt and behaved.
He wrote me letters, which is a beautiful thing as children today wont ever experience that as it is all text messages and emojis. We used to write to each other and post through the letterbox of our family home.
We were at different schools and I used to run on my lunch break to his school to have a kiss over the fence, for I was in the first year of high school and could leave the premises at lunch time, where as he was still in middle school and stuck behind the school fence. After running there, which was a distance, probably the reason I have buggered knees now, we probably only had 10 - 15 minutes together but it was worth it.
This wasn't a sexual relationship by any stretch of the imagination, for back then sexual intimacy wasn't exactly on mind.
This was different and oh so innocent. We made dens, played on our bikes, danced to MTV music videos, back when MTV actually played music videos instead of all this reality TV crap they show nowadays.
We had a love of the same music, back then we were both very much into Guns and Roses and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, which I do still like to listen to now. This boy was mad on Axl Rose and I drew him a picture of him, as I was an alright artist and wanted to do something nice for him. He displayed it proudly in his bedroom.
The connection we had was pretty epic, even though we were both so young and wondering what the hell the opposite sex is all about, not dissimilar to how I feel now if the truth be told.
We had our special songs and he gave me some fashionable dog tags engraved with our names on. For Christmas he bought me a friendship ring which I proudly wore.
In my school tie, I used to etch out the material and doodle our names on it next to hearts.
I don't think we ever ushered the words " I love you" to each other but it didn't need to be said. There was no requirement for it. We both just knew how we felt and enjoyed the time we had. It was something deep and exciting, even at such a young age.
Unfortunately at that age there are so many other things going on and if I am honest playground bullshit. We started to get a bit older, he went to high school and not the one I was at, we met knew people and that sense of flirting came in. He became more moody and I started to get interest else where. Sadly it came to quite an ending resulting in him standing in front of me and ripping my carefully drawn Axl Rose picture in half whilst I then threw his precious Nike Air Max Trainer into some stinging nettles. Ode to be young!
It was unfortunate to say that what ever we had once was now indeed very much over.
It wasn't until my mid twenties that we saw each other again, although I always kind of knew what he was up to and I think this was mutual.
We had both moved on but somehow there was always this huge amount of respect for one another. I had never really had that from dipping in and out of any the relationships I'd had up to that point.
At that stage we would talk and laugh and reminisce about that period in our lives. We were never once mean or horrible to each other, despite the fact we had gone our separate ways.
I went through quite a bad patch what with failed relationships in my 20s but he always came through for me.
He made me mixed CD's of songs that he knew would cheer me up and wrote a wooden sign on the side of the road which he knew I would see on my journey to work saying "you got this" with the initial of my name" followed by "I care".
We started hanging around in a local pub together, a large group of us who used sit in the pub and more often than not pile back to my flat or someone else's near by and drink, smoke, listen to music and play guitar.
He at this point had a girlfriend, who made it quite clear of her hatred for me because I was friends with him. I would never have jeopardised their relationship and respected he was with someone. He was someone from my childhood who I had and still had utmost respect for and vice versa, but nonetheless she made my life hell, even when I explained to her, she despised me.
We gradually drifted apart over the years, but if I ever see him I know that that respect has never changed. There will always be a place in my life for him, whether it be actively talking or not.
Can you call that love? I don't know.
The Oxford English dictionary defines love as:
"An intense feeling of romantic attachment based on an attraction felt by one person for another; intense liking and concern for another person, typically combined with sexual passion"
If I correlate that definition to the feelings and even physical (I suppose sexual) sensations I felt back then to how I felt about this boy well when all is said and done I suppose it was love according to the Oxford English dictionary.
However, I don't wholeheartedly believe that definition. In principle it all sounds very nice and has the wow factor, who wouldn't want to feel that? But I think there is far more to it.
To me saying those 3 little words "I love you" and I am talking in a romantic sense of the word here, because lets face it you can love your family, friends, pet, the flowers in the garden or the smell of a bakery. I am talking about the other person, your significant other what ever and who ever that is.
To me it is more about actions than those words. I know with that boy, back then, and even now that the reason I had such great respect for him was because although neither of us said those words we proved it in our actions. The respect was constant and never waived, even now, I am sure if we saw each other that it would still be there.
I have had so many failed relationships since that time and the words, I love you have always been mentioned by both parties but actually their actions were far from showing that. Which makes me think, was it in fact love? It fits with the Oxford English definition at certain points of those relationships, but was never a constant within the relationship, in fact far from it at times.
Recently I have spent 5 months with someone who upon reflection felt not too dissimilar to the time I had with the boy when I was 14. The only difference being that this also included sexual intimacy.
This man came out of nowhere and if the truth be told I wasn't exactly looking for a relationship at that time for feeling quite lost and unsure of where my life was heading and carrying a lot of pain and hurt from previous relationships. I think the feelings that grew between us hit us both in the face like a steam roller. I don't think either of us were expecting to feel what we did.
It wasn't a conventional relationship, in fact from external observations, others wouldn't even classify it to be deemed as a relationship. But for us it was our relationship. Whatever that was. It was our "Bubble".
We spoke about everything. The intensity that we both experienced and shared in both an emotional and sexual way was something I know neither of us had experienced before. He was a real gentleman, he proved chivalry wasn't dead. He opened doors for me, hung my coat up, got my chair. Attentive didn't come close.
We didn't go out and have external distractions from the world we had each other and strangely that was enough. I think we knew if we faced the world it would be amazing but actually it seemed so much safer and easier to stay in our bubble.
He had the most amazing smile and snorted when he really laughed. His sense of humour was hilarious and we bounced off one another in fits of giggles. I was so attracted to him both physically and mentally.
Our confidence grew with one another and it was a crazy mixed bag of feelings. We were so open with one another and if an issue arose we spoke about it. We communicated amazingly. He was able to articulate his feelings so well and although at times I struggled to say what I felt, he tried his hardest to extract it from me instead of shutting me down and dismissing my difficulty.
We sat for hours talking, in such a small amount of time I felt like he knew me, like really saw me for the girl I was. He knew me better than any long term relationship boyfriend I'd had. I was vulnerable but so was he, he knew that, yet was so respectful he never once took advantage of that fact. Which he so easily could have.
I learnt so much about life and he taught me to grow as a person. I had never realised that men could be like this.
In reflection, he is the most similar man to that of the 12 and a half year old boy I cared so much for. In fact in many ways looking back both are very similar characters.
They are both, handsome, intelligent, emotionally articulate men. Most men I have met fall into these categories:
1: Not very intelligent but really fun who are emotionally stunted.
2: Very intelligent and no fun who are emotionally stunted
These two guys were both academically intelligent but also were street level intelligent, great fun and not afraid to show emotion, very rare. They are the only 2 men that have cried with me.
Within our bubble he made me laugh, smile and we used to talk about the world in ways I had never seen before. The sex was unbelievably connected and both agreed that it was something to hang in the hall of fame! We connected on so many levels. It was escapism for us both from the lives that we found our selves so lost in.
He gave me nothing but respect and I provided the same. It was a constant.
He is probably the most honest man I have ever met, even said things I didn't want to hear, but that was why it worked so well. I never doubted him and trusted him implicitly. I know this was a two way feeling.
We both were at a point of vagueness and at cross roads in our lives. We never foresaw this happening yet we both knew deep down that it would be quite impossible for it to ever go anywhere.
We lived in different countries and had grown up in different cultures and although that shouldn't matter, life is tough and not always practical and goes the way you would like.
When we both decided that what we had would have to come to an end it was probably the most precious experience I have had. I'm not sure if it was a break up as such as we were never actually together to be deemed in a traditional relationship.
It was difficult for us both as whatever we had I know that we both felt it.
For me conventional break ups have usually involved lack of communication, hatred, anger fuelled by bitterness and pain followed by harsh words or total silence.
This was far from that. Yes indeed there was pain, for both parties as something was coming to an end that had been something so significant in both our lives.
We sat and cried and hugged one another, you could feel the heartache in the room as we said our goodbyes.
He reiterated how much he valued, respected and cared for me and he knew I felt the same. For the entire time together the words "I love you" were never said. People say those words too readily nowadays, but along with those words do the actions come?
Our actions spoke volumes.
If I use that definition of the Oxford English dictionary I probably did love him. But there was so much more than that. The words he spoke to me were always backed up by his actions. The respect we have for one another and the experience that we shared is irreplaceable.
Some people never ever feel what I have felt when I was 14 and more recently with this man, which is sad because to me that is the definition of connection. It is a rare phenomenon.
I know that I will always be able to pick up the phone and he will respond, I know that he too will carry this special arrangement we had in his heart forever. We will be able to be friends.
He will move on and so will I. Our paths are going in different directions but ultimately I know he too like the 12 and a half year old boy he will always be a happy memory. Never clouded with disappointment and destruction like the others.
Is he on his forever path? only he knows that, for it is not my journey to say or analyse. Am I on my forever path? I think not.
Since our departure, I have asked him a few questions regarding the situation we found ourselves in and to prove that he values me, he would call immediately and talk this through with me. Someone without respect and someone who doesn't value me would not do that. I know he would not want to contribute to any more scars I have and has been nothing but honest and respectful.
This wasn't our time. But the time we had was intense and amazing and no one can ever take that away from either of us.
So is love definable?
Love is powerful and means different things to different people. I don't think you can define it yet we can all can feel it.
The men that have said "I love you" have never shown it by treating me with respect and valuing me. Yes, I have been attracted to them and liked parts of their personalities but actually there was a massive void. Their lack of communication skills proved to be challenging and in no doubt contributed to the animosity that grew inside us.
Yet the two men that have never said "I love you", gave me more respect and value than I could ever imagine possible.
Sadly in the numerous relationships I have had, I have only experienced this twice.
Will I ever experience it again? Who knows. The bar is set pretty high now and actually I am unsure if a deep and meaningful relationship is possible with the men I generally date.
I wish I could have been this insightful when I was 14! Hindsight is a beautiful thing!
I am truly grateful for having the experience with these two men as I am sure others might not have ever felt it.
I mean I was 14 years old when I first experienced it and I have only just experienced it again and I am 41 now. I didn't actually realise that I could feel this way or indeed have someone else feel this way and treat me with the respect I deserve until now.
I thank both of these two men for allowing me to experience this and they will always be imprinted into my soul.
Can I define love? Maybe I can now, maybe I cant. But I certainly understand the actions that should follow the words "I love you" These two men have enabled me to do this. Are words that important anyway?
As the age old saying goes "Actions speak louder than words ever will"... I concur
Dedicated to JJ & HFR
Dedicated to JJ & HFR