To Tommy, I liked that you shared your airplane with me on the alphabet rug.
You would let me fly from A to M, and you piloted N through Z. Your ears stuck out and you had barely any hair, just a bit of fuzz, but I thought you were cute anyway. You were my first crush.
To Colin, I am sorry I kept bumping your elbow. I was doing it on purpose. I tried to get the purple and green stripes of my turtleneck sweater to touch the black mesh of your athletic jacket while pretending to write essays at my desk. I liked the way you smiled all crooked at me.
To Matt, I should have asked you to be my sixth-grade square dancing partner instead of being randomly assigned. You were the nicest guy at that age, being one of the few boys who advocated for letting the girls join in on the boys’ game of kickball. When Colin was a jerk about it, you stuck up for the girls. I bet you grew up to be a good guy.
To Elijah, Boy this one was bad. Did you know I liked you? That I thought you smelled like woodsmoke, pines, and shampoo? That I loved it? When I sat next to you at parties, I caught whiffs of it and mixed it in with my hopes that someday I would get to bury my face in your flannel shirt as you hugged me.
I have never written about you before, not outside of my 14-year-old diary, at least. There was not much to love about moving schools, but on my first day at a new school, there was you. You cracked jokes in science class and leaned back in your seat with that easy casual smile. I was instantly hooked.
The notes we passed back and forth in study hall made me feel pretty, funny, and smart. Texting you unnerved me. You were the first boy I ever really talked to.
You made dark brown eyes look purposeful. I still remember their exact shade of coffee: dark French roast. It was fitting that you were French, and had French class with me, though I always took it more seriously than you did. But you taught me how to relax and be a real person instead of an A+ machine. I just wish I knew how to flirt with you as well as all my friends did. My best move was to be your friend, your “bro” as it were. So, we were friends, but then I moved schools again and slowly we were not friends anymore.
What would have happened if I told you before I left? What would have happened if I was Lara Jean?
I probably would have run out the window, too.
There are many reasons to love To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, besides just Peter Kavinsky, great sisterly relationships on screen, and greater representation for Asian women in non-stereotypical roles (although I recognize the movie has some flaws, including the lack of an Asian male being cast). If you have not seen the movie on Netflix, stop reading and start watching. (Because there will be MANY spoilers here.)
But, the main reason I love this movie is that a lot of us (guys included!) can relate to leading lady Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor). Feelings are tough. Expressing them can be scary. Lara Jean can only express her feelings through handwritten letters that she keeps in a tiffany blue box in the closet. She calls them her “most secret possessions”, and only writes a letter when she “has a crush so intense that [she does not] know what else to do.”
These letters never get sent, and Lara Jean largely lives in a fantasy world where her crushes have been realized and materialized into relationships. Until one day, the letters are sent out. We later find out that it was due to her conniving, sassy, totally awesome younger sister Kitty meddling in her love life.
After the letters are sent, Lara Jean freaks out, and gets into a relationship with a former crush, Peter K. (played by Noah Centineo), in order to avoid her current crush (who is also her sister’s ex-boyfriend) from thinking that she actually still likes him.
Complications arise when Lara Jean starts falling for her fake boyfriend instead (Peter K.) without realizing that he is falling for her, too. But, instead of telling Peter how she feels, Lara Jean runs away again.
What makes this scene so intensely relatable is that I, and many others, have also run away instead of stating the truth of our feelings. It is easier to put on an act than it is to be authentic, because it makes us less vulnerable.
Because Lara Jean had already opened up to Peter about her fear of relationships before she started liking him, he was able to see through her act. Yet, she was only able to drop the act when she realized that he liked her, too. This led to a totally hot make out scene (I mean literally hot, they were in a hot tub!)
They ran into complications when Peter K.’s ex tried to meddle in their relationship, and then did not end up dating. They were not able to have their happy ending until Lara Jean wrote another letter about her feelings for Peter, and hand-delivered it this time.
After Lara Jean fessed up to Peter K. about what exactly her feelings for him were, they finally got together for real. The end.
After the movie came out, it became a sensation overnight, causing spike in the sale of Yakult, a special Korean yogurt beverage featured in the movie, and garnering millions of tweets about the swoon-worthiness of Peter Kavinsky.
But forget Peter Kavinsky. I wish we all had a Kitty Covey in our life.
True, Kitty can be a little harsh with the truth at times, and she probably should have tried a different approach for helping Lara Jean break out of her shell. (Maybe one that did not involve revealing her older sister’s deepest feelings in such a blunt manner?) But, what I most admired about Kitty was her unflinching honesty and her confidence in just being her authentic self at all times.
If Kitty was my little sister, I probably would have wanted to beat her up for sending the letters, but in a way, I think Kitty was right: you should not bottle up and hold in your feelings all the time. Especially if they are big ones. Especially love.
I used to withhold my feelings. I wrote in my diary. I snuck side glances at crushes. I laid outside in the snow, when the world was quiet, and waited under a December sky until I could see a shooting star above the clouds of my breath. Avoidance was my main tactic in relationships until I read some advice that made me change my approach to life, feelings, and my relationships.
Dear Sugar is a column that was written by one of my favorite authors, Cheryl Strayed. Strayed wrote Wild, which was turned into a feature film, but her book Tiny Beautiful Things is really the hidden gem. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of her Dear Sugar advice columns, and was made into a play, which I saw on stage in New York. It made me cry. The very first Dear Sugar column I read hit on this idea: you should not withhold feelings of love. I highly recommend reading it, or to quote Strayed, “Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here.”
I will remain from giving a summary of the column, because I cannot do it justice, but I will talk about what happened after I read the column for the first time. At the time that I read it, I was in an open-relationship with my then-boyfriend. The relationship was fizzling out. I had played the same notes day after day: I love you, I love you, I love you. It became another phrase to add at the end of the sentence, a necessary period to end the conversation. I played the strings on our hearts until they broke, and no more music came. I waited until the silence between us became just that: silence. Silence before I told him that I would like to see other people but not him. Silence after he too quickly, and too enthusiastically, agreed.
Around the same time, other feelings were developing for my best friend: a boy by the name of Coty. Coty and I spent long nights on the hammock in our dorm building, talking about life. I called Coty over the summer, when he was in Washington D.C. and I was in Connecticut. He made me laugh after a bite from a dog left an ugly scar on my face and suddenly I felt like the scar was no big deal. He challenged me to arcade games after meeting me for lunch to grab hot dogs. He listened to me, and was the first one I texted when I felt upset and my roommate was not home. I always thought he was cute, but he had a girlfriend, and I had a boyfriend. We were just best friends, and I was happy being that.
Somewhere in the arcade games, deep conversations, and countless jokes, something changed. He no longer had a girlfriend, I no longer had a boyfriend, and suddenly I found myself glancing back at him on the sidewalk after we had said goodbye, watching him take long strides towards the subway, the tendrils of his ripped too-long jeans catching on his brown boots as he got smaller and smaller. The air shifted when he entered the room, growing tighter between us. We sat a little closer together on the couch than before. I did not have a Kitty in my life, but I had the Dear Sugar column.
Just before Valentine’s Day that year, I wrote a letter addressed to Coty. I told him how I thought his presence lit up a room, how I loved his stubble, and how cute it was when his floppy brown hair flirted with his long eyelashes. I told him he was smart, funny, and good down to the core. I went to his apartment and I spent 10 minutes practicing deep, calming breaths in the stairwell before I finally worked up the nerve to tape the letter to his door.
Then I left, and I waited. At midnight on Valentine’s Day, I got a call. Our conversation that night was breathless and teetering on the precipice of love, the edge of a tall, deep cliff. We both jumped. The rest is a history with a happy ending.
And so, I say to the other Lara Jeans of the world:
Jump in. Hit the iron bell. Send your letters.
Amanda is a journalist currently working at CNN, but previously worked at the Hartford Courant, MSNBC, the Republican-American, WNYU 89.1 FM, Prague.tv, The PragueCast, and Scholastic News. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and a B.S. in Media, Culture & Communications from NYU. When she is not chasing down a story, Amanda is an avid traveler, a dancer, and a lover of all things outdoors. Visit her website for more.