February 20, 2015 Leave a comment
Each month, Ci3’s South Side Stories features digital stories that spotlight the lives of adolescents and young adults from the South Side of Chicago. This month’s Spotlight focuses on first love, as told by our youth partners who are close to those “first” experiences. In the following stories, youth describe their first experiences with romantic love, reflecting on the role these experiences play in shaping their identity, relationships to others and hopes for the future.
Alexia’s story, Rumors, describes how powerful — and painful — a first encounter with love can be. She recalls, “Every girl never forgets her first love. In this case, I wish I could.” In high school, she met someone who made her feel cared for and accepted, as she explains, “The truth is, I felt special to be wanted. I wanted him to want me. Everyone loves the feeling of being wanted.” As the relationship progresses, Alexia describes how professions of love become requests for sex, leaving her feeling pressured. When the relationship becomes public, she becomes the subject of rumors, and describes feeling betrayed and isolated. She recalls: “What made me feel even lower was not having anyone to talk to. I realized who my real friends were at that moment.” Her experience changed her way of seeing the world, as she developed a fear of being judged and an inability to trust others. Despite the turmoil of this relationship, Alexia finds resilience within herself: “I still haven’t given up on love. I hope that one day, I will get my fairy tale ending.”
In his story, Bonds, Demetrius describes the critical role his partner plays in his social and emotional development. When his parents divorced, he is shocked and hurt by what happens to his family: “I never thought my Dad would betray my Mom.” He reacts by putting up walls to protect himself from being hurt by others. This coping mechanism works until his partner begins to ask about his real feelings,“My girlfriend is the closest person to me besides my family. She asked me recently: ‘how come I’ve never seen you cry?’…I told her how scared I was of being hurt…how I cover everything up with a smile.” In his story, he describes how he can trust her and as a result begins to trust others, “Because of her, I now am able to let people in, I now have the ability to create stronger bonds with people.”
Tia’s story, Closer, is about a cycle of loss and renewal. She falls in love with a young man in her South Side neighborhood“where every block is hot, and nobody is safe.” Her mom, concerned about the violence in their community, moves the family to a new neighborhood. But Tia wants to retain the relationship with her boyfriend, saying,“me moving away wasn’t me moving on.” However, with greater geographic distance, the relationship begins to fall apart. She describes trying to contact her boyfriend on her cell phone and the repeated cycle of “he picks up, hangs up, dial tone.” Tia blames her mother for her loss, “Mommy, I hate you”. . But then, as time passes, she forgives, understands, and accepts her mother’s decision. She describes spending more time with her mother and the joy that comes from their conversations and closeness. As she relinquishes her old love, Tia addresses her mother: “We’re closer now. The love you give is something many people put their hands together at night and pray for.”
A’jua opens her story, Four Corners, wryly: “I’m a teenage girl, so you guessed it right if you said it was about boys.” A’jua’s first love grew out of an important friendship. A certain intersection in Chicago, four corners, reminds her of their shared love of music and the places where they hung out together. But when the friendship tips into romance, the relationship sours. Following a first kiss, A’jua recounts “he texted and said that it didn’t feel right, and neither did I.” Disappointed and hurt, A’jua admits that “when I listen to certain musicians, or meet a new boy, I think about him, and how he doesn’t even care.” Despite her hurt feelings, A’jua comes to appreciate her own worth and envisions a healthy relationship in the future: “One day soon, I will have a boyfriend who appreciates me, and thinks that every day with me is a blessing.”
We thank the authors for sharing their stories.
South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.