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Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.


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Too young to marry, but not to commit

By CECILIA TUCKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001


Second of two parts

Maybe I don't love anyone enough to decide to get married but that doesn't mean I haven't experienced LOVE! Of course I have! No one has the right to question me on this one. I hear adults tell teenagers all the time that "we don't know what love really is." Well, do they? The divorce rate in our wonderful country is outrageous. So who are they to tell us what love is or is not?

I love my friends. Some are males and some are females. I wouldn't "die for them" as I have heard my parents exclaim they would do for me, but I would stand my ground to defend them. I have a kindred spirit with many of them and know we are closer than I feel to any adult I know. We talk about important issues that only a peer would understand and could help me with. We spend hours on the phone poring over relationships with each other and trying to figure out what is happening with our other friends. We are there for one another when everyone else disappears. Isn't that love? Sure it is!

I have dated a lot of different people and although I haven't loved them all, I do feel I have loved a few of them. We have opened up and have shared feelings with each other that I have never discussed with anyone else. These experiences have made me take risks outside my comfort zone and test the waters to see if I am really lovable.

I have learned from people I have dated that other people feel as intensely about certain things as I do. I have been made keenly aware that I am not the center of the universe and that other people are as important as I think I am. I have put my heart on the line with some of these people and I have had my heart broken. I have grown from being willing to being vulnerable. So if these things are not a part of love, then what are they?

Believe me, I know love is not like the lyrics in the music that we listen to and pretend to mimic. I know love is not the same as SEX and not the words said when someone is trying to take advantage of another person. I know love is not special gifts. I know love is probably not forever at my age, but that doesn't mean that I haven't had experience with love in a relationship.

There are many faces of love and commitment and I know about some of these faces. I will stay loyal to my friends. I will keep confidential the conversations entrusted to me. I will come to the rescue of the people who have always been there for me. I will keep expressing my feelings and thoughts to people I trust. I will protect the people who protect me. I will be honest and dependable with the people in my teenage circle. I will love the way I have been loved and the way I feel good being loved.

The many faces of love and commitment have nothing to do with the media's myths about love. So don't tell me that I am too young to commit! Maybe my definitions of love and commitment are different from yours, but the feelings are real. Maybe because I don't commit to something forever, you decide that I don't have a clue about love and commitment.

Guess what, I don't see the grown-ups in my world committing forever either. Are they the ones who are supposed to teach me about commitment and love? I hope I never feel love and commitment the way about 50 percent of them do! Thanks for your opinion, but I respectfully disagree with your analysis of this part of my life. I agree that I am too young to get married, but please don't confuse this with being too young to make a commitment.

* * *

IT! (Private thoughts of the Indomitable Teen) is written by Cecilia Tucker, a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Counseling Center for New Direction in Seminole. Tucker, who has been in counseling practice since 1979, writes this column under the guidance of a panel of teenage advisers, who approve the topics and offer their insights (in exchange for pizza). You may write her c/o: IT!, X-Press, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com.

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