How Young is Too Young?

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What’s the right age to start dating? Razi Shaikh finds out

So exactly what’s the age limit for you not to ‘do it?’ Is it when you start to get the hang of what relationships mean, beyond the romcom movies on HBO? Or is it more like when your parents give you the freedom to ‘live life as you like’? If youth is supposed to be the fountain of life, isn’t it meant to be lived to the fullest? Or is there a different take on this – that we need our growing years to set the foundations of our adult lives? There’s no single universal answer for this question. Let’s see if can look at the issue through a (mostly) objective lens.

WHAT YOUR PARENTS SAY

The writ of parents runs large in the world of teens, especially when it comes to dating and relationships. Most parents are okay with it once you’ve crossed the threshold of eighteen. Some might cling on to you even after that but it usually gets better the older you get. Before that, consider yourself lucky if it’s allowed. It’s hard to understand this in your growing up years but parents really know what they’re doing. And though it might not seem that way to an adolescent, it’s always for the good of the child.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

As much as we would like, we are not really in control of our lives. We live in civilised society, and just like in everything else, here too we must toe some guidelines. Of course, the law isn’t so bad that it regulates a permissible age to fall in love. However, it is explicitly clear about the age of consent. It’s the same as when you get the chance to vote and elect the governments of your country. Eighteen is the golden number here, although it differs from country to country. Some countries have it as young as sixteen. But this is India, so if you’re under eighteen, you’re not eligible to have sex. Try otherwise and the law will book you for sexual assault or even rape.

WHAT YOUR INSTINCTS SAY

This directly clashes with the point above. Agreed you’ve in grown in height and body and have a hard time keeping your hormones in check. You need to however think from a rational point of view, as to whether you’re really ready for it or not. It’s not just a question of the law, it’s also about emotional maturity. Says Siddharth Bhagalia, 19, “The age factor in dating and sex is subjective. If the relationship breaks apart, then one partner may overcome it. But the other might be emotionally devastated. If the relationship ends bitterly, it shouldn’t affect and traumatise one’s future.”

WHAT YOUR MIND SAYS

Now assuming that your mind is prepared to see the situation rationally, a few things should become amply clear. Have you thought about the situation and its consequences thoroughly? Being in the moment is one thing, getting yourself in a heap of avoidable trouble is another. Let’s say you decide to start dating. Your parents are cool with it and you’re really stoked about starting this important aspect of a grown up life. Your dates progress nicely, and you soon come round to thinking that you have something beautiful going between the two of you. A relationship is formed. So far so good. Here comes the tricky part – the relationship itself. Can you handle your partner and his/her needs? Can you imagine having someone constantly in your life? Can you trade off your moments of solitary privacy for the time you have to spend with your partner? Most importantly, can you handle the emotional needs of your partner’s and your own both? If the thought of shouldering so many responsibilities is a scary thought, then you need to rethink your decision. Think hard and clear and be honest with yourself for your own good.

WHAT YOUR LIFE SAYS

Says Rutika Yeolekar, a journalism student, “Dating is a process of knowing someone. And it only works when you know yourself first. Sixteen or seventeen are ages when you’re exploring your own likes and dislikes. Personally, I think your twenties are the right age to date someone when you learn to prioritise and have developed an understanding of you really are.” Your life demands something – your undivided attention. What do you want to be as an adult? How do you see yourself shaping up over the next five-six years or so? What are your plans, your dreams and how do you plan to fulfil them? At this juncture in life, what and who are your priorities? It’s a good life out there. Dating, love and relationships can confirm that belief. But anything too early and anything too late can mess up things. As they say, there’s a right time for everything. Wait for the right time!