What happens when you fall in love young
We met at a party.
The first proper party I ever went to, really.
We met at a party where the April grass was damp and the chatter was loud and the blackcurrant Strongbow was plentiful and we were all teenagers trying to push boundaries (someone did actually push over a portaloo that evening, too, I hasten to add).
I was 16. He was 17. An older boy from the school down the road with huge, wild hair and a loud laugh and a warm, welcoming voice who sat down next to me that evening and has been at my side ever since. Three countries, two university degrees, six jobs and our own double bed later, here we are nine years on.
And when I tell people that, I say it with pride, with love, yes, but also, with trepidation.
Trepidation because, although I answer the questions 'how did you meet?' or 'how long have you been together?', it is typically responded to with an 'aww!' or a 'wow!' and a sympathetic head tilt, there are also times when it's met with a 'woah!' and a concerned raised eyebrow.
Falling in love young, and staying in love as we get older, I think makes some people think that we're naive. That we can't know real love, that we can't know real life and that we can't know better because we're never known anything else but being with each other. I think some people think we're buttoned up and boring, and maybe even that some people think we settled. That I met that boy at a party and thought, 'well, you don't smell too bad and you aren't wearing a North Face fleece, you seem OK to stay with for the next few decades, enter into a legal union with, have some kids with, open a joint savings account with and tend to a veg patch with in our twilight years'.
But really, even if some people do think those things, what is more telling is that, by implication of these things worrying me, probably means that I worry about these things myself. It says more about me than it does anyone else. Because, really, what are the odds of getting it right first time? What are the odds of finding your soulmate at the boys' grammar school down the road? I could barely organise my Bebo 'Top 16' back then without a fair amount of agonising, let alone pick my number one for ever.
We two, the only people that really matter in this conversation, have had these discussions too. When things get hard, when we forget that a relationship is work, when the feelings we have for each other seem to drift from our comfortable, happy warmth, to a chilly indifference or red hot resentment, we often resort back to this line of enquiry- did we, teenagers, GCSE-takers, blackcurrant Strongbow-drinkers, fall in love too soon?
And whenever someone asks me that, whenever I start to analyse the real probability of having your first love be your last love, I worry for a little while and then I think about the man whose earnest singing I hear in the shower every morning, whose body I know every inch by heart of, who has clapped at every bad university play and laughed at every awkward joke and who has proofread every desperate job application and held my head as I cried when my parents divorced and when I left for Brazil and cheered as I ate cereal for the first time in two years and I see that I do know love.
I know it as going to bed late after chatting for too long. I know it as our shared jokes. I know it as the excitement I feel when he comes home and the big plans we make and playing Frisbee in the park on a Monday evening. I know it as holding hands when we walk and the compliments we pay and the lunches we portion into Tupperwares for each other. I know it as the cards we write and big kisses and big arguments and the life that we have built together.
And then I remember that I don't care if we're too young to know any better or naive or inexperienced. Because right now, to know him and to know the little up and down life that we have together, is love, to me, and that is all that matters.