“That’s so messed up!” I screamed into the phone.
A scene unfolded on the television screen in front of me as I quickly shelved the urge to throw my cell into the wall. Although ostensibly an adult with a general tendency to avoid teen drama, I enjoy watching—and discussing—Gossip Girl with my coworkers. For me, the show causes a certain amount of amusement, as its main characters represent a population that I could very well work with in my real life, but also interest because, as with the people it portrays, beneath the glamour and the manufactured façade lies a glimpse of truth that, for all its sophistication, its owner can never fully acknowledge.
As mad as I was, I could not escape the thought that a perfect encapsulation of a quintessential teen experience lay before me. Granted, not everybody’s trials involved scheming, scarves, laced stockings, or a former attempted date rapist (how did everybody on the show manage to forget that?), but the underlying dilemma represented something that I suspect much of the audience identified with.
How do you say “I Love You” for the first time?
As teens, and quite possibly even as adults, we continually fret: “When’s the right time to say it? Who should say it first? What if I hear it before I’m ready? What if I don’t hear it back?” Oh, and let’s not forget, “What if I hear it for the first time during my partner’s orgasm?”
One of the things I marvel at is our tendency to convince ourselves that we can’t say the words until we feel as though everything is just right, when in fact we’re buying time and building up the confidence to simply come out and declare it. We waiver in our conviction, content to let the sentiment fall half-formed from our lips: “I…never mind,” we say. And although we are able to control our mouths, we can’t seem to be able to control our bodies: our actions, our touch, scream out the words that we cannot bring ourselves to utter.
Saying “I love you” (and meaning it) seems terrifying as, in that one moment, you give another human being the key to destroying you. All of a sudden, the walls that protected you are down and although you are vulnerable, you are finally free. And that, at its core, is the fundamental reason why Chuck and Blair’s relationship, one built on a struggle for power, control, and dominance, will never experience those words no matter how much its participants long to hear them.
The whole thing is paradoxical as the very act of revealing your vulnerabilities demonstrates in a very real way that you are stronger than you could have ever thought possible; you are no longer defined by your fear. And the funny thing is, at the end of the day, after all of the anguish and anxiety, you get to that place where the words no longer have to be said because the emotion is simply felt.
“The reason we can’t say those three words to each other isn’t because they aren’t true.”
I quickly apologize to the show for ever doubting it. Here, at last, in an instance that both parties will deny, lies the culmination of many things for these two individuals: the acknowledgement of tacit feelings, the abandonment of the game for an exquisite moment, and a realization that, in contrast to Chuck and Blair’s previous schemes, sex is not love and love is not sex—although the two are often bedfellows, they, like most couples, do not always come together.