x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Teen life: The adolescent stomach trumps the youthful heart

Teenagers get their romantic expectations ridiculously high only to have them crashing down when Valentine's eve passes without a phone call.

Love is in the air again. Valentine's Day is here, although it's a pity people never seem to remember how disastrous the previous year's one had turned out to be. Hope springs eternal in the teenage heart, although a significant part of the adolescent population will be spending tonight watching Glee or a similarly overrated television programme with just a tub of feel-good ice cream for company.

We get our expectations ridiculously high, only to have them crash around our ears when Valentine's eve passes us by with the only phone call being from the confused person with a wrong number, loudly trying to place an order for one large pepperoni with extra cheese and oregano, please.

That's not to say we don't put in our very best efforts, though. The past few weeks have been marked by girls frantically trying to analyse the actions of every boy in the vicinity. A few of us even optimistically draw up lists of "potentials".

"You know," Hannah said thoughtfully, consulting a neat piece of paper she'd filled out with all the people with whom there might be the teensiest possibility she could share a dinner in a nice JBR restaurant, "I'm actually doing quite well. Like Chris; he is so in love with me - he gets really nervous when I'm around! Yesterday I walked passed him and he sort of squeaked and went all red and stumbled."

Diana snorted. "That was because you stepped on his foot."

"And," continued Hannah, dignified, as though she hadn't been interrupted, "Michael asked me if he could borrow my history book to have a look at. Now why would he want to do that if it wasn't a see-through excuse to hold a conversation with me, which he was obviously dying to do?" She looked around triumphantly, as if she had proved a point beyond doubt.

The honest answer to this was of course, "To copy your homework", but we hadn't the heart to say it. With all those teenage emotions running amok, Valentine's Day can be a lot more trouble than it's worth.

The social committee in school has taken it upon itself to do a trade in roses for your Valentine, although it isn't exactly a roaring one. You would have thought that being the drippy romantics we are, we wouldn't think anything of coughing up a few dirhams to bring a smile to someone's face. The proceeds, I think, are for charity anyway, so buying a symbol of passion that by any other name would smell as sweet must appeal to our better nature.

Someone has yet to tell teenagers this, though. There was a charity bake sale the other day, with tables creaking under the weight of chocolatey muffins, brownies and cookies. Ravenous schoolchildren swarmed like flies around them, snapping up the sweeties until the collection box bulged with loose change. The Valentine's rose sellers had strategically set up their table right next to this, hoping to siphon off some customers and take advantage of the large amount of potential business in the area that was contentedly licking icing sugar from its fingers.

However, we seem unable to prioritise between our primeval need to stuff our faces and higher thought processes of exhibiting thoughtful gestures to our crushes. And mankind is apparently at the top of the evolutionary pecking order.

It was, in fact, the perfect demonstration of Maslow's hierarchy. This is a sort of pyramid of "human needs" we learnt about, with things that are absolutely essential for survival, like air and water at the bottom, less important stuff like friendship and respect somewhere round the middle, and self-actualisation at the very top. According to the model you must have the requirements at the bottom fulfilled, like access to nosh, before you can move on to the top and become a self-actualised Buddha; it doesn't seem like teenagers have developed much beyond achieving their basest needs yet.

The winged cherub's little helpers, while having come up with a laudable plan, had overlooked the fact that teenagers are only going to be starry-eyed dreamers hankering after their sweethearts with pretty flowers for so long. When it comes to parting with our hard-saved funds - which could be used for gastronomic purposes - we'd rather avoid the higher level of needs and pass the roses by.

Some of us may not have particularly eventful plans for tonight, but not everyone's pleased about that. This post in the Facebook news feed raised eyebrows: "Spending Valentine's night with your single friends doesn't make you forever alone, but together alone!" Hannah might still have excused the blatant cheeriness of this statement if the profile of the person behind the post had not said, "In a relationship".

 

Lavanya Malhotra is a 16-year-old student in Dubai

 

artslife@thenational.ae

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