YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Love, Loss Real Despite Their Years

June 11, 1997|ROBIN ABCARIAN

My 15-year-old niece ran toward me last weekend as I dropped her sister off at a high school dance in San Diego. Marisa had been at a school pep rally. Tears stained her expensively powdered cheeks. I thought she was moved by the sight of her favorite aunt.

Fat chance.

The tears had flowed, Marisa said, as she bid adieu to her favorite graduating seniors.

"It's really sad, 'cause, like, we're never gonna see them again," her best friend explained. "And we really love them."

I smiled at the drama. Aren't these teenagers cute? The tears, the love, the sorrow. It seems so real at that age. They'll grow up, I think, then they'll really learn about love and sorrow. Then they'll really understand about life.

Inwardly I groan. Did that thought actually flit across my brain?

When did I become a patronizing adult? Haven't I always vowed never to use the term "puppy love" to describe first romance? Hadn't my own teenage tears sprung from aquifers of real emotion and real experience? And can't I recall to this day, the searing anger and embarrassment I felt at age 15 when the thirtysomething aunt of a good friend informed me I couldn't possibly have known the pain of a broken heart at my age?

The very thing I hated as a teenager--the way adults dismissed our emotions as trivial--is a sin I have now committed.

So ground me for the summer.

And condemn me to relive a certain day in the spring of 1973.


I am 17. I am sitting on the football field of Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda. It is June and the gloom has given way to wilting heat. I am graduating from high school. My mortarboard sports a construction paper "woman" symbol and I am weeping for all the friends I have grown to love, for all our shared memories and for all our bright and unmapped futures. Also, I am crying because I have to wait a whole summer before I can get the hell out of the San Fernando Valley.

My sorrow and anticipation don't just seem real, they are real. And woe to any adult who'd dare to dismiss them.

Flash forward.

It is Monday and I am much older now. I decide to dig out my high school yearbook, "Les Memoires." What, exactly, had my friends expressed to me on that day in 1973? Would their overwrought sentiments seem silly today? I crack open the stiffening pages.

"Everything I'm about to say is going to induce tears," wrote my best friend, Julie. "Man, I can hardly believe it's all over. As I've said a thousand times before, we've drifted, it's true. But there is between us a bond that is inevitably there despite any distance which may separate us. In knowing that, I find solace. So when we part in September, we shouldn't be sad. I love you, what more can I say?"

I phone her immediately. She lives in Toronto, where she went to college. She is a writer and editor. I still consider her my Best Friend, Adolescent Division.

I read her what she wrote.

"Wow," I say, thinking of our decades-old pattern of separation and reunion, "you could have written that today!"

She ignores the muffled cries of her 2-year-old son, who has plastered a dinosaur sticker over his mouth, and grabs her yearbook.

She reads my words: "I don't want to get long and mushy because I might start crying. I know we'll always keep in touch and be best of friends no matter how far apart fate sets us. We can't ever forget the best years of our lives (so far) and all the memories we share."

We may have been kids, and we may have been overly sentimental, but we predicted our emotional futures with impressive accuracy.


Over the weekend, my niece showed me a copy of her high school newspaper, Clairemont High School's Arrow, where she is on staff. It was a special edition devoted to seniors--their "wills," class titles, awards, opinions and an essay about the silly social roles adopted by high school students. (And what adult cannot tell you instantly what role they played in high school?)

"So as we leave these hallowed halls," wrote Justin McIntyre, "we enter the real world, where Nerds, Bops and Jocks lose their labels and become equal again (kind of like elementary school . . .). Some of us will go on to college, some will travel the world and others will work in food services all their lives. But hey, if the movies are true, the Nerds will be rich and famous, the Cheerleaders will be our wives, and the Jocks . . . well, they're gonna be used car salesmen."

Hyperbolic, of course, but there's a certain undeniable emotional truth in those words, a certain grasp of how the world actually works. And that, I suppose, is something to remember the next time a teenager with a tear-streaked face talks about love and loss and graduation day.

* Robin Abcarian co-hosts a morning talk show on radio station KTZN-AM (710). Her column appears on Wednesdays. Her e-mail address is

Los Angeles Times Articles