“All you need is love, love, love is all you need.” So The Beatles sang over a full orchestra in 1967 and so their words of love reached my young ears twenty years later. I was my elementary school’s youngest Beatles fan. While other kids amused themselves with video games, I had inherited my parents’ record collection and I would stay up late at night watching the old vinyl spin round, trying to decipher what exactly this “love” thing meant that the Fab Four were always singing about.
Whatever love was, it sounded like something I needed. From the adrenaline rush I got every time I listened to the rocking “She Loves You” – yeah, yeah, yeah – to the cool calm that would set in whenever I heard the harmonica on “Love Me Do,” to the jingle jangle of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” I was hooked on love. I just had to have this wonderful thing. So I set my sights on a girl in the grade above me. She was an unusual choice, very dark hair, porcelain skin, round face, mysterious brown eyes; she could have been Japanese if she wasn’t Jewish. I don’t think any other little boys were in love with her, but I was sure that I was in love with her, so I began to write her letters, passed by my courier, a classmate who rode the same bus with the little mysterious girl.
My friend warned me that the girl was mean. “She once hit me over the head with a chessboard,” he said. “I hate her.” This should have turned me off, but it just made her that much more intriguing. “Who is this girl who hits boys?” I wondered. “What is her secret?”
I knew she was absolutely the one for me and so I wrote to her, though most of the words in my love letters were copied from Beatles songs. “Love, love me do,” I wrote to her. “I’ll always be true.” At the end, I added, “PS. I love you.” I waited anxiously for her response, but when it finally came, I was shattered. “Stop writing me these fucking letters,” she cursed me. “You are ugly and I hate your guts.”
I was crushed by her rejection. I cried in my room all night. If love was so great that The Beatles sang about it all the time, then how come it hurt so much? But her letter didn’t dissuade me. No. Instead I fell more deeply in love with her and wrote her even more, to which she replied with more nasty responses. By the end of the year I was heartbroken and decided to maybe find another girl to fall in love with. It was only later I found out that my classmate never passed the letters to her. He had been writing her nasty responses all by himself, the little bastard! He really did deserve to get hit over the head with a chessboard! It was the end of our short-lived friendship.
Of course I did find another girl to fall in love with. And one after that. And one after that. And after a long time, my idea of love began to change and I thought I started to understand it a little better. One could now say that I have gained wisdom in all my years of love, wisdom that could be shared, wisdom that could be passed down to the younger generation. Or maybe not. Because these days I see my daughter is reliving my elementary school experiences.
It’s not The Beatles that are informing her pursuit for love, though. This time it’s 2009 Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak. “I’m in love with a fairytale, even though it hurts,” the Belarusian-Norwegian croons, leaping around with fiddle in hand. “I don’t care if I lose my mind, I’m already cursed.” My daughter loves that song. She watches it over and over again on YouTube. I can see that it hurts her a bit to watch it, to be in love with someone so unattainable, who she can only view through a tiny clip on the Internet. That bittersweet feeling. I remember it so well from my school days.
But there is another side to this story. In my daughter’s school, there is a little boy – let’s call him Meelis – who has fallen deeply in love. With my daughter. I can see it in his words and deeds. My absent-minded daughter will forget her backpack in the classroom and then use him. “Meelis, go and bring me my backpack!” And I will stand there and watch as little Meelis jogs up the stairs and returns, with red ears, to hand my daughter her bag to which she replies, “Go away now, Meelis. I don’t want to talk to you anymore today.”
I want to interfere, to step in, to teach my daughter that she shouldn’t be so obsessed with Alexander and be kinder to Meelis. And I want to advise Meelis that he should probably find somebody else to fall in love with. But I don’t. I just stand there and watch them, because there’s nothing I can really do because I know that these kids will just have to learn their own lessons in love.