Dear Teen Me from author Jessica Love (PUSH GIRL)

Jessica in her sophomore year of high school, trying to figure out why guys won’t look at her even though she has this gorgeous hair.

Jessica in her sophomore year of high school, trying to figure out why guys won’t look at her even though she has this gorgeous hair.

Dear Fifteen-Year-Old Jess,

Your sophomore year, the suckiest year of your life so far, is over. Good. Put it behind you. Enjoy your summer…particularly that Mexican cruise you and your family are about to go on.

Because you’re going to meet a boy.

I know what you’re thinking. Boys don’t like you. You’re tall and awkward and come on too strong. You damn near terrified that poor trumpet player Travis with your aggressive advances, and, no, he’ll never change his mind and want to date you, no matter how intently you stare at him. You’re not tiny, cute, and graceful like your dance team friends, and you never feel like you fit in. You truly believe a guy will never be interested in you and you’ll never find love. But the thing is, once you get away from the guys who’ve known you forever, boys will notice you. In fact, you’ll catch the eye of TWO guys on this cruise.

The first one, Paul, lives near you and wears plaid shorts and baseball hats. Who even knows how or why you start talking to him, but you’ll walk around the ship and hang out, and he’ll be cute and fun, but he’s not special and you’ll forget about him quickly, which is fine. (But can you try to remember his last name? You’ll eventually meet like a million people who went to his school, and you’ll want to look him up. Turns out there are lots of white guys named Paul.)

Jessica on the cruise, in full mid-90s style .

Jessica on the cruise, in full mid-90s style .

But this story isn’t about Paul, regardless of the confidence boost you get from his attention.

It’s about Amol.

See, you’ll start hanging out with the cruise Teen Group, and it’ll be full of awesome people from across the country. You’ll spend most of your time on the boat with them, laughing and dancing. Suddenly, in this new group, you’re the interesting one. The tall California girl in short shorts, the eye-catching one, the one people want to talk to. Being the center of attention is a new and different feeling, and you’re not sure how to deal.

There’s this family from Delaware, and the oldest guy, Amol, is this tall, gorgeous boy with silky, floppy black hair. He’s ridiculously, unbelievably, painfully beautiful. He’s also smart and funny and so fun…this amazing package of gorgeous and perfect and so unlike any boy you’ve ever met, and you can’t stop thinking about him.

One of the girls, Katie, who is sweet and shy and older than you, claims him while you’re wandering around with Paul. It’s like calling shotgun…you can’t challenge that girl code, so you back off, even though you can’t stop looking at Amol and he makes you laugh so hard you double over and you find yourself making up reasons to sit next to him. You keep wearing those short shorts in hope that he’ll notice those mile-long legs of yours. (Spoiler alert: he notices.)

Group hug with all the kids on the cruise...and Jessica in her short shorts cuddling up to Amol in the white shirt.

Group hug with all the kids on the cruise…and Jessica in her short shorts cuddling up to Amol in the white shirt.

I know you haven’t kissed anyone yet, so it’s not like I can say “Just kiss him, Jess!” Once you’ve kissed a lot of guys, this is an easy thing, but when it’s your first kiss and it matters, that’s not simple. And GOD you want to kiss him, but you like Katie and she claimed him. There’s this connection between you and Amol, though. Chemistry. You can feel it humming between you every time he’s near. And you’re pretty sure he feels it, too.

On the last night of the cruise, you’e going to slow dance with him to the acoustic version of Layla by Eric Clapton. It’s going to be magical, and, even twenty years later, you won’t be able to hear that song without thinking about this gorgeous boy with floppy hair who looked at you like he really saw you. The tiny bit of space between you during that dance will be charged with electricity and you’ll never, ever forget the feeling of his body pressed against yours.

After the cruise you and Amol will exchange addresses. (You’ll never talk to Katie again, BTW. Just saying.) And here’s where things get amazing—you’ll write these long, awesome letters back and forth. We’re talking eight pages, with drawings in the margins. You’ll tell each other hopes, dreams, and fears. You’ll talk about college plans and family and feelings and he’ll make you laugh and cry. Those letters will be everything to you. When one comes, it will lift you up, and you’ll sit down immediately to reply, pouring your entire heart out to this floppy-haired boy on the other side of the country.

Jessica today...after she figured out that blondes have more fun.

Jessica today…after she figured out that blondes have more fun.

Eventually, though, the letters will stop. Who knows why, but you’re both in high school. Eight page letters take effort. The intensity of the chemistry fades. Life moves on.

You’ll always regret this, though. You’ll regret not kissing Amol on that cruise, with Layla playing and your bodies pressed together. And you’ll regret losing touch with him. So. Much.

You’ll meet a lot of boys in your life. Most, like Paul, won’t matter. But Amol did matter. You do remember Amol’s last name. And, years later, you’ll look him up on facebook. (Don’t ask.) You’ll see he went to grad school at UCLA, and that will kill you because OMG he was so close and you didn’t know. And you’ll see he’s married to a nice-looking woman, and you’ll be married, too, to a nice guy. But you’ll still be sad and irrationally jealous and wonder what might’ve happened with this beautiful boy who is still so beautiful as a man (even without the floppy hair), who wrote you thoughtful, amazing letters and held you close while Eric Clapton sang. You’ll always, always wish he was your first kiss.

But he is your first connection, the first boy who matters, and maybe that’s just as important.

(And, incidentally, white guys will always seem boring to you after this. I think we can blame Paul.)


Old Jess


St. Martin's Griffin, June 2014

St. Martin’s Griffin, June 2014

Jessica Love is a middle school English teacher who lives in Southern California with her husband and their two tiny dogs. She’s working on her Master’s Degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Spalding University, and her big love is contemporary YA romance. Jessica spends all of her free money on concerts, constantly tries to prove that blondes have more fun, and is pretty much always on the internet.