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“These are for you,” he said, handing me a dozen red roses and a teddy bear before leaning in
to kiss me.

My first boyfriend, Danny, was standing in the doorway in full army fatigues.

He was picking me up on a warm Friday evening in July to take me out to dinner and a movie. We drove a half hour
to the Columbia Mall in the suburbs of Baltimore and ate at P. F. Chang’s.

It was the first time a man had properly taken me out on a date. And the first time I’d ever
eaten at P. F. Chang’s, too.

After the movie, we went back to his suite at the barracks on Fort Meade and cuddled until we
fell asleep. I was in a state of complete and utter bliss.

But that bliss didn’t last much longer. Danny and I broke up unexpectedly a couple of months

I was beginning my senior year of high school and, considering that I was just 17 years old
and he was 19 at the time, the two years that separated us seemed to be the force that was
driving us apart.

It took me several months, a lot of searching for perspective and multiple care packages from
my mom before my first heartbreak began to subside.

I’ve had a handful of great loves in my life. Danny was certainly one of them. We spent many
nights talking on the phone until the sun came up. He comforted me in the wake of my father’s

He was the first person I ever thought I loved.

Love is such an interesting specimen: It pervades our culture and yet it can be elusive to nail
down—and get right.

Over the years, I’ve…

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