in defense of the romantic late bloomer

If you’ve been around the interwebs, you’ve likely read the story of some singular 20-something who, for whatever reason, has yet to snog another. Your thoughts while reading, I fear, might have included: “What’s wrong with her? Is she attractive? Does she have bad breath? A third eye?” Because, of course, something must be wrong with a person who has lived on planet Earth for 20 years and yet no one has tried to suck her face.

These stories are often presented as anomalies—isolated situations, definitely not “normal.” But here’s the kicker: it’s hard to find definitive research or statistics proving that “most people have their first kiss as teenagers.” And even if they do, I know from many peers that I’m nowhere near alone in this situation. I’m 23 years old and I just had my first kiss last year. No, I’m not balding and yes, I have all of my front teeth.

I’m not sure if societal norms or popular culture ultimately deserve the blame, but somewhere along the way, a threshold of normal ages for all of our “firsts” was established. An accompanying cultural mindset seems to exist that teaches us: if you don’t fit in this range of acceptability, you must have some issue that explains why you’re different. This needs to change.

Examine the rose, for example. Most bloom within two months, but a climbing rose blooms once a year. A late bloomer, the climbing rose takes its time before expressing its full blossom. What if we viewed people through a similarly gentle, romantic lens?

It’s important to realize that we all lead very different lives and experience very different circumstances. So many pathways and possibilities can lead to a person’s current state. Something as simple as geography or as complex as religious upbringing can all have an impact on a person’s norms and firsts. Does that mean one way of being is better than another? Of course not. Many types of people exist and many experiences are equally valid.

It’s hard to accept this plural reality when so much of what we see pushes one story, one set of rules. The sooner we realize that there isn’t just one narrative or way of being, the better. Another February has come and gone but all this love talk isn’t going anywhere. I challenge you to set aside your preconceived notions of “normal.” Talk to that guy. Dance with that girl. Take a page out of Kacey Musgraves’ book and follow your own arrow. And for love’s sake, let’s kill all these expectations we have for each others’ romantic lives.

Photos by
Sarah Crawford