I recently revisited an old photo of my parents. It was from the late 90s, maybe a year after I was born; they were smiling, their proximity comfortable and they even had on color-coordinated outfits.
Then here I was over 20 years later, staring at these two figures who are still married, no matching outfits, but still, those same goofy smiles and semi-corny jokes juggled between their willpower to be in the now, or “hip” and that proximity inched even closer.
There I noticed nothing had changed but time. My parents aren’t perfect, but they’ve learned how to make the most out of time and using that to maintain a healthy and understanding relationship.
In this day and age where society has constructed relationships and genuine love into a swirl of “goals” and blame games between genders and its unfortunate biases, it’s hard to know what and who is real or not.
As simple as it is to upload a photo of you and your significant other, it takes about the same effort for someone to envision you two as the perfect couple, assuming because everything “seems fine” before their eyes, that’s exactly how it is behind closed doors. And sometimes, maybe it is.
Within this generation, we don’t have a lot of defense mechanisms for the way we show, give and receive love. Especially, when half the time it’s to reach the milestone of gaining a couple of thousand RTs resulting in you going viral, hiding how hard it can be to actually maintain a relationship without giving up at the first sign of failure.
Our generation is the change of time, and how exactly we’ve developed with the concept of falling in love, being in love and what that entails. I dug deep into a few 20 somethings lives, their perspectives, and sides of what love truly mean to them.
Here’s what I found:
Student/Georgia State University
“If I could talk to my future child right now, I’d tell them that God is love and whoever you’re with should love you like that.”
If I could define love in any way…
“I think it would be like how Jesus showed love for us. By that, I mean self-sacrifice for one another and even when they don’t feel like it.”
“Should have more representation than it currently gets. Maybe that would offset the beliefs that I see expressed by mostly by black women, who think black men don’t love them.”
Daily Egyptian Classified Ad Manager
“Love is like a drug. Its strong and addicting and once it becomes too much, too intense, it leaves you behind, heartbroken.”
I personally do not care how love…
“…has changed in society because I am not per se looking for love or looking to be monogamous. However, for all my friends who really want a relationship, I can feel through their frustration that it sucks. It sucks to hear stories about how they believed that a relationship would transpire, and it doesn’t, or it turns out they were not on the same page. Apparently, looking for love is harder these days; more work and effort.”
Have you ever been in love?
“Yes, I have been in love, but if it was true love I believe it would have never gone away.”
With being in love, I genuinely…
“Love that they push me to be the best person I can be and tell me brutally honest truths when I need advice or guidance. I genuinely love that their aura gives off a trusting and intimate vibe that instantly feels safe whenever we are around one another.”
Long Island, NY
Student/University of New Haven 19′
“Love is like a purse. The same way you have everything you need to have in a purse before you leave your house is that same thing with love. Self-love. Love for your culture. Loving your friends and family. Romantic love.”
If I could tell my kids about the experience of love…
“I would tell them to love being black. Don’t let anyone else’s ignorance make you think the opposite. White people are not better than you. Nor are Hispanics or Asians. I say this because there are many black people who deal with insecurities from simply being black in a racist and colorist society. I don’t want my child to feel he or she need to bleach their skin, straighten their hair or not relish in their blackness. If white supremacy never goes away by the time I have a kid, I want to prepare him or her for the day that they might be called the “n-word” in school by white people or called “oreo,” by black kids for their genuine interest.”
Black love is…
“Represented fairly in black media. I grew up on movies like “Jason’s Lyric,” Love and Basketball,” and “Poetic Justice.” And my family, friends, and I do idolize iconic black couples like Bobby and Whitney, Jada and Will, Denzel and Pauletta, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Oprah and Steadman. In my personal life, I go to a mostly white college and my heart melts when I see a black couple together on campus. There’s something magical about black brothers and sisters being together. As a gay man, when there’s not a lot of options due to homophobia and superficiality and given we are in a forward-thinking society, I feel pressured by my friends and associates to abandon my preference of refusing to date or sleep with someone outside of my race. I’m just not attracted to white guys. I prefer to be with a black guy or a Latino guy because of the cultural and physical similarities we have. The big lips. The curly black hair. The beige and brown cocoa skin. The freedom of not worrying about racist in-laws.
When it comes to love…
“Looks aren’t everything. What attracts me to people are those who are humble, transparent, funny, bubbly, nice, and more importantly, ambitious.”
“Our generation wants to feel love and connected but they are scared of letting their guard down and letting someone in.”
Graduate/Georgia State University
One thing I love about myself…
“…is my personality. I’m a bubbly person that loves to laugh and live life.”
Have you ever been in love?
“I’m 24 and I’ve bounced the idea in my head if I’ve been in love with previous partners and I would say no. I haven’t found a deep connection where I feel completely myself and haven’t connected with anyone on a deeper level.”
Young adults in this generation…
“Yearn for intimacy even if it’s not with someone you’re in a relationship. Sex in our culture is not something that people hold to a high standard. Females and males are more willing to be intimate with each other before they get to know one another. The best way to sum up with what I’m trying to say is by quoting Drake:
“We live in a generation of, not being in love, and not being together
But we sure make it feel like we’re together
‘Cause we’re scared to see each other with somebody else”
“I love how unapologetically honest I am with myself and others.”
St. Louis, MO
Student/Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
If you could write a letter about love to your future child, and give them one piece of life about when they experience it, what would you say?
“Love yourself first. Be comfortable being alone. Treat others exactly how you would want to be treated and understand nobody belongs to you. Lose your sense of entitlement cause the world doesn’t owe you anything. Don’t get caught up in expectations that you forget to give yourself appreciation because making the effort to become better is the process of progressing into being better. Life is a journey and you will fail but have patience, learn from your experiences and always have the will and fortitude to push through your stopping points in life.”
If there’s someone you love, who is it? And besides their physical traits, what’s something that draws you to them or that you genuinely love, about who they are?
“I love my mother unconditionally. She is dependable, trustworthy, empathetic and has the best sense of humor.”
“Being in love is an experience. Its a great feeling, but sometimes can bring you just as much hurt as it does joy.”
Student/Clark Atlanta University
Today, being in love is…
“A joke. It isn’t taken as seriously. Everyone wants to cheat before getting cheated on and love doesn’t hold the same value as it did before. Also, with social media basically controlling our lives, telling us how we should live, basically telling us if your significant other doesn’t post you on Mondays or Wednesdays they’re cheating on you or don’t value you as much, I think relationships are becoming ruined.”
The importance of effort:
“My boyfriend’s effort is what draws me to him. He’s never afraid to step out of his comfort zone to make me happy even if he’s embarrassing himself while doing it. He never gives up. He knows how to get and keep everything he comes in contact with.”
I want love to my future child to be…
“Stay true to yourself. Don’t lose yourself trying to please someone else.”
“In this generation, I think love is looked at as a great friendship or bond that is unbreakable. Somebody who you will treat the same, vise versa, if you had nothing at all.”
College Park, GA
Pint University/Sports Analyst
My love for…
“My girlfriend is more than the red heart type of love. She’s my best friend and I know that I can depend on her no matter what. She gives me the type of comfort that reminds me that everything will be okay.”
Black love is viewed…
“Differently now. In the media, it’s now viewed as a happy couple. I have to say that our people have done a great job of showing society how wonderful black love is. Black love is like having your own partner in crime who is always at your side no matter what. Black love is beautiful.”
In my letter to my future child…
“I would tell him/her to love everybody and keep hate far away. And always walk with a chip on shoulder, never get too high but never get too low. And always thank God for everything.”
“To my future child, “guard your heart for everything you do flows from it” Proverbs 4:23. Love is a beautiful thing shared with the closest people around you love others and treat them with respect just as I have shown you. Love your neighbor, your friends, and love yourself most importantly. When it comes to being in love, take care of your heart and be cautious but be open to new beginnings. Above all else love is a learning experience.”
Multimedia Journalist/University of North Carolina at Charlotte
I love my…
“Self-awareness, I didn’t always have it. It took time to really understand who I was, accept myself and realize the changes I need to make as a better person. Especially appearance-wise, I was always so self-conscious and lacked confidence in myself, but eventually I had to stop comparing myself to others.”
Have you ever been in love?
“At one point I thought I was but having grown I think I loved that person but I was not in love. I’ve been “in like.” I don’t think I have been to the point of trusting anyone that much to allow myself to feel so strongly.”
As far as intimacy…
“It’s best to proceed with caution. We can all say that it’s easy to be intimate without having feelings. It’s a joke honestly, from personal experience just be honest about your intentions and what you want and be prepared to face the consequences. But with the right person, I think it can be a special thing, sharing your time, energy, space--everything it’s beautiful. Relationships I think they’re easier said than done. I think it’s a matter of again knowing what you want and taking on that responsibility and feelings of that other person. In this generation, we want “microwave results” without putting the actual effort in. As I said, I’ve never been in love, maybe one day. I think in this generation with social media, our temperaments, and for some--the player mentality it makes things harder than they need to be.”
“Love is like when you swipe your card, unsure of your account balance, and it goes through. Love is the reminder that even in a world of uncertainty, you feel a warmth that energizes you to continue fighting.”
Student/Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Intimacy with a partner is…
“Exploring your own passions with a fan by your side at all times. Even if it feels like the world is against you, youʼll always have that someone helping you up, whenever youʼre down. Currently, in society, opinions are skewed to two different extremes. People either disregard being in love with the fear of trusting others, leading to disconnected emotions and lack of commitment. However, on the opposite side, people take a lot of pride in relationships and take a drastic approach to commit to that bind. I think the current generation lacks the understanding love comes from someone that helps you grow as a person, and isnʼt required, but highly recommended.”
Black love is…
“Shown as the magical experience that defies the laws of physics itself. People highly treat dating inside the race as this pure and unbinding lifestyle. It always is shown as the golden way of living and if you arenʼt in an all-black relationship, you’re viewed as a traitor or trash.”
“Donʼt fall for the tricks and temptations from the the voices in your ear. Follow your heart. Love isnʼt that important and regardless who it is, youʼll be someone who will be your number one fan.”
Within many shapes and forms, opinions and feelings, toward this force we call “love,” we more than likely will never be able to form its true meaning. We just know it’s here, it breathes and journeys through us all in ways outside of intimacy or heartbreak. Love is here to stay, and it passes through us and who we become as we enter into future generations who’ll experience it as well.
What is love?