Let’s Talk About Love (& All That Comes With It!)
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Let’s Talk About Love (& All That Comes With It!)

MINI V’s Digital Editor Kevin Ponce gets real about the ups and downs of love and the three stages you’ll encounter.

February 19, 2023
5 min read

Growing up, we learn many things in school: the current population of the world (7.9 billion), Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity (E = mc2), and how many types of dinosaurs there were (around 500). But one thing our educators don’t really address?

Love—and the three stages that it embodies.

It can happen at any age, anywhere, and with anyone. And growing up, you never really know what attraction is until you feel it. The first time I got bit by the love bug was with a fellow classmate of mine in 4th grade, David. Although it was not exactly love at first sight (I was too busy understanding my own gender identity, so boys weren’t taking up much real estate in my mind), I grew to develop what I now understand to be a crush, the first stop on our way to love. It doesn’t need to be intense, it could be fleeting–but infatuated I was. He was well liked, and relatively new to school as I don’t recall ever seeing him in other classes, and I knew everyone. He was as cute as a fourth grader can be at the time, but had a smile that went ear to ear, and a certain level of confidence that I thought to be attractive. Admittedly, I rarely spoke with him as my timidness became almost debilitating, as there were very few opportunities to chat him up. As the year went on and we eventually got around to chatting before the next school year came along, I came to learn an important and valuable lesson from this that can still be applied to any situation as your get older: confidence is the ultimate icebreaker for connection. A simple “hello!” can do wonders.

“In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.” – Maya Angelou

Now fast forward to high-school at the age of sweet sixteen—completely obsessed with internet culture, exploring my gender identity through fashion and beauty, and sneaking out to Brooklyn to attend events I was clearly too underage for—I thought I knew it all, a classic cliche of teenagehood, and yet of course, I was proven wrong many times. One case in point was when a fellow robotics club member, Alex, made a move on me and I had no idea what to do. Alex was a football player, tall with green eyes and a very shy, low voice. I had never seen him before joining this school program, and even then, he barely introduced himself to me but somehow, he just knew my name immediately and started talking to me. He probably had a crush on me for a while and I didn’t know it at the time. After a few chats here, some laughs about the program and classmates there, one late night at school before a competition was to take place, our professor ordered a few large pizza pies for us to snack on while we worked, and I asked Alex to come and help me grab them. Pizza pies and tools in tow, we were making our way back to class when Alex gently pulled me into the emergency stairwell, and lo and behold, my first kiss occurred. With the thoughts of, “Do I tilt my head to the right or left?” Or “Does my breath smell like cafeteria stew?” in my head, I still went for it, hoping for some electrifying moment like in the movies.

“A kiss may ruin a human life” ― Oscar Wilde

Was it the best kiss of my life? No. Actually, it was the worst kiss I’ve had to this day. But something did come out of it: the feeling of lust, the next stop on our way to love. During this period in life, your mind and hormones are kind of all over the place (it’s natural!), and lust will invite you to explore what you like in others and what you don’t. Without ever discussing it, Alex and I knew this was our shot to discover what we liked in a partner. Some kissing here, some fooling around there, it carried on until I was 19, even though the relationship had no real future in sight. Until, during my first couple of years in college, I met Leo.

“To love is to burn, to be on fire.” – Jane Austen

Ahh, Leo. With dating apps, which many consider to be the bane of their existence, you never know what you’ll get, as for many bad experiences you get, you’ll have just as many good ones—and Leo was the latter. Let’s just say he was a *few* years older than me when we first connected on a app. A few conversations later, we met one late night in the summer and drove around our hometown. He was actually also a student, studying to become a heart surgeon when I met him. Short curly, dirty blonde hair, green eyes that stare intensely into your soul, dressed impeccably with a nice car—it’s like he was written in a movie, and certainly for the role of a bad boy. I had never met someone as kind yet intense as he was at that point. But what transpired with Leo? Love, our final destination. With him, it was something like love at first sight, as something about him just drew me in. Something that struck my heart and told me that this man would be running around my mind for a while. Little did I know this man would continue to be in my life for more than six years, officially becoming my first love. A bold statement to make at 19, but what we had as the years went on—a connection that solidified after a phase of pure infatuation, interest in one another’s lives, and the need to care for each other as we watched each other grow in life and in our careers— was something I had never experienced before with another person. Whether it was the most monogamous relationship is another story, but, with Leo, I learned to not be afraid to go for it.

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.” – James Baldwin

I learned to fall in love hard, make many mistakes along the way, and take the lessons as they come; to not bank on “forever” with each person I meet and remember that difficult moments can transform into important stepping-stones toward maturity and finding what works for you. When you can imagine things ending the same way as La La Land did—with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone parting ways in silence, with the reassurance that they both were going to be okay—love in life gets that much easier.


Photography by Kevin Ponce (August 2019)

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