Many years ago, on a perfect July evening in Montana, a boy was stuttering.
“We have to talk.”
Typically the harbinger of relationship doom, I narrowed my eyes. Six weeks earlier, I had been dating several guys, none exclusively, but the one standing in front of me had given me an ultimatum. I had to choose. He was the only one to make such a request, so I chose him.
I did like him. He was fun. I was home for the summer and he was a great distraction from the lack of dating successes at BYU. And the newfound exclusivity was somewhat reassuring. I knew who I’d go out with on the weekends; I had a concrete last call of the day. So when he began this conversation with such a cliched breakup phrase, I was somewhat less than amused.
“I keep thinking about all these things going on all over the world, and how we never really know what is going on where and why does what we do even matter to anyone else, and you’re going to Canada tomorrow–“
“Wait. Are you mad that I’m going to Canada with Aimee and Nikki?”
My roommates from BYU and I were heading to Cardston, Alberta for a friend’s mission farewell. Even though the boy in front of me wasn’t LDS, he wasn’t initially upset with my planned weekend trip with my friends, so I was confused. He wasn’t making any sense.
“No, no, I don’t care that you’re going to Canada. I don’t know how else to say this. I love you.”
I didn’t know what to do. No one had ever said that to me before. And after only six weeks of exclusive dating, I couldn’t believe he could possibly say this–my high school boyfriend and I were together for a year and a half and we never used that phrase.
I knew I didn’t love him. But I was too young and insecure to know that I could have told him that. And then there was the thought of two more years at BYU with very little dating success, watching roommates date and marry and date and marry…and this boy in front of me was telling me he loved me.
I should have just given him a hug. I could have even just kissed him.
But instead, I heard myself say, “I love you too.”
That moment, that phrase, changed my entire life, and not for the better.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, and I learn from all of them. But I only have one regret: that on a perfect July evening, I couldn’t tell a boy that it was awful sweet of him to feel that way, but I just didn’t love him back.