On a recent binge of Teen Mom 2, I became fixated on teenage girls’ capacity to love. The two seasons available on Netflix detailed the lives of four teen moms from 16 & Pregnant: Leah, Jenelle, Chelsea, and Kailyn. Each thrived under the care of those who loved them. Whether it be from their families, boyfriends, children, the children’s father — it didn’t matter. Teenage girls just want to be loved completely, fully, an outpouring that they consume at feral rates. I think that’s what makes the way they love so pure. If affection fills them up, they not only welcome it, but worship the provider. In turn, when they feel their love is threatened or challenged, it becomes destructive and frantic and all-consuming — jealousy and anger and screaming and sobbing matches.
Teenage girls are the absolute backbone of love.
Of course, there’s a lot to critique about the girls featured on the show, but I don’t have the heart or the experience to tear into a bunch of teenagers who are struggling with school, motherhood, family issues, mental health, criminal charges, jail time, marriage, divorce, interpersonal relationships — all of it. But when they love, it’s so raw and uninhibited. It’s reflected in the way they love their children, who have yet to hurt them in the way their partners or families have.
When feeling abandoned or insecure in their romantic relationships, these girls looked for love elsewhere. Leah cheated on her husband during her Bachelorette party because of the lack of affection in the weeks leading up to their wedding. Kailyn hooked up with the father of her child behind her boyfriend’s back, momentarily overwhelmed with the connection their son provided them.
Succumbing to the cycle
The same can be said about Jenelle and her mom’s tumultuous relationship. When things were going well with her mom, Jenelle was able to stay away from Kieffer, an on-and-off-again boyfriend who stuck her with a breaking-and-entering charge and court proceedings that would make it difficult for Jenelle to regain custody of her son. But when Jenelle’s mom made her feel abandoned, unlovable, she turned back to Kieffer.
Then there’s Chelsea, who — despite everyone’s warnings — continually got back with her child’s father, Adam. It’s completely counterintuitive, watching Chelsea hope that Adam wouldn’t hurt her this time around, despite him proving time and again he would.
I remember high school, though, and I don’t think there was a single hint I didn’t take, a sign of affection I didn’t overanalyze for tracings of attraction. Consuming every ounce of potential interest felt almost instinctual.
I’ve read the girls’ Wikipedia pages. I had to know how they turned out. There are a lot more babies, a lot more marriages, a couple of divorces. I’ve heard that, when you have your first kid, your age freezes. Maybe that’s not true, but maybe that’s why these teen moms continue to love with such reckless passion.
We are all teenage girls
My mom told me that I treat friendships like relationships. She said I isolate myself to one person, hurt when they’re occupied by other people, sometimes even jealous. I love my friends like they’re my partner. I’ve been doing this since high school.
One time, my friend, who’s now my roommate, asked me how our relationship would be different if we were dating.
“It wouldn’t,” I answered.
I want to be loved the way teenage girls want to be loved. Maybe I’m still shaking off the remnants of my teens, but if my friend were to say, “do this and I’ll find you interesting,” I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.
Like I said, that kind of love is all-consuming.
Lauren is a 19-year-old Politics and Creative Writing major at NYU. She currently lives in Hamilton Heights, but is from a small town in Ohio near Lake Erie. She's previously been published in online zines such as Unpublished, Lithium, and Luna Collective.