Overheard: “I Love You, Maggie!”

Maggie is amazing. She’s in the summer of her life, between 4th and 5th grade, healthy, strong, happy, popular.

She’s my third child, after two boys, so there’s always a degree of otherness to Maggie. She’s from the other side, across the tracks, an exotic creature, a girl. I don’t and can’t relate to her in the same way as I do with her brothers. With Nick and Gavin, I can sometimes crawl into their skin and say, “I know exactly how they feel. I’ve been exactly there.” But with Maggie, there’s always a little leap, even if it’s only a synaptic gap.

Which is why I’ve always identified with this page from Charlotte Zolotow:

Lisa overheard our daughter talking with her friend, Jenna. They’d been going to basketball camp together, arranging play dates, sleep-overs. Entwined. And as they were parting, Jenna called out, “I love you, Maggie!”

Maggie answered, “I love you, too!”

It was natural, relaxed, immediate, real. I mean, there was nothing phony about it. Nothing premeditated. That’s how they feel about each other and, so, they said so.

How nice.

This has never happened with my boys. No judgment, I’m just saying. If Gavin or Nick loved one of his friends (which is entirely possible, even probable), 1) I don’t think he’d say so, and; 2) I’m not sure he’d know it exactly in that way or in those words. Wired differently, I guess.

I’ll have to think about this one some more. Is it harder for a boy to tell another boy that he loves him? As men, is that something we lack? I love you, dude. Right back atcha, bro.

Thoughts, comments?


  1. Hmm…the teenage girls I know say/text/facebook “I love you!” all the time. The boys, well, never, as far as I can tell.

  2. jimmy says:

    Thanks for the comment, Juliana. From the story my wife told, it sounded like a very pure expression, “I love you,” and it was sweet to think of my daughter hearing it, saying it, feeling it.

    Both my sons tell me they love me. They are okay with saying it, okay with feeling it. But is it creepy for them to think they might feel it for each other, a male peer? Or is it, simply, something you don’t say out loud? Or that girls say too lightly?

    My point, really, was that hearing it for the first time was startling to us as parents — and that the first time came through our third child, a girl.

  3. I just read this to my 17 yr. old tough guy and he said, “I have told my friend Ian that I love him” and then he walked into his room and closed the door. What to make of that? My boys always tell my husband and I, they love us, via exiting a phone call. Always.
    Not sure what to make of it, but it’s an interesting twist I never considered. Thanks Jim!

  4. Shari Maurer says:

    This is so on-target. I think that the boys feel the love, but they express it very differently (basically, they’ll say “F-you” or “You’re a D–k” but what they mean is “I love you.”).

    I had this theory and ran it by my 14 year old son who smiled and pretty much gave the same quotes.

  5. jimmy says:

    Actually, it’s one of the reasons why I really, really liked the movie SUPERBAD. Which, I know, is all kinds of gross in parts. I tried to get my wife to watch it, and she lasted about 20 minutes. But beneath all the surface penis jokes, the sex-obsessed male humor, there’s a tender friendship story between two young men that I absolutely admired. There’s a scene at the end, when after an epic night one boy sleeps over the other one’s house. Groggy, almost asleep, he kind of whispers, “I love you.” At least that’s how I recall it. The words kind of slipped out before he could censor them, which struck me as exactly right.

    On a personal level, in high school, I definitely said “I love you” to a male friend — but not to others. Those were deep-feeling times, high school days, when everything was exponential. I’ll have to ask my guys, ages 12 and 18, hear what they say. But my point remains: I did hear it with my daughter, age 10, and it was new.

  6. Lewis says:

    JP–a sweet and lovely piece. Now me, I’m the dad of an only daughter, and that’s my locus. I don’t get the boy thing at all, even though I was one. But I do remember this from being a boy, that I did love my friends, still do. And often the best way to show it was to throw a screaming body block on them. Or, as I watch Maddy’s boy friends today, that fist-bump, half-hug thing. It’s all there.

    thanks for this.

  7. jimmy says:

    Have to mention that Shari, who commented above, is the author of CHANGE OF HEART, a well-reviewed Young Adult novel, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. It is about a 16-year-old girl who must undergo a heart transplant — and who struggles with matters of the heart in general, as we all do. I met Shari at a recent signing and she told me that her husband is a cardiologist, so she wrote the book with first-hand experience. It was her first novel.

    And also: Lewis, above, is the fabulous Lewis Buzbee, an author (and friend) I’ve interviewed here. (You should most definitely use my fancy Search Function to look it up.) His most recent book, THE HAUNTING OF CHARLES DICKENS, is getting a lot of praise, I have it in my office bathroom, seriously, reading bits and pieces at a time before I give myself fully to it, and I know I’m looking forward to the upcoming one, concerning Mark Twain and time travel. His book THE YELL0W-LIGHTED BOOKSHOP is beautiful, deep, uplifting, smart, and recommended. Just like Lewis.

  8. Sue Russell Stoya says:

    As a mother of three boys I can relate! They often tell me that I “don’t understand because I am a girl”. Sometimes when I suggest that they deal with something a certian way, or say a certain comment, the tell me I am crazy and that they’d NEVER say what I suggest. They are things GIRLS would say. But I will tell you that after raising boys, I understand so much more, the way boys acted through childhood through early 20s. I wish I could go back knowing what I know now!

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