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Can you fall in love too young?

Footballer Theo Walcott and wife Melanie’s marriage reminds us that teenage love isn’t always doomed

Picture credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Melanie Slade and Theo Walcott tying the knot last weekend must surely have melted even the iciest of icy hearts and not only thanks to the picture-perfect Italian backdrop.

Photographs of the couple’s big day revealed the pair looking at each other in a way that didn’t just say: “I love you”, but: “I have loved you ever since I knew what love was.”

For Theo and Melanie, now 24, are truest of childhood sweethearts, meeting aged 14 in the, er, romantic hotspot of their local shopping centre. It was before Melanie had taken her GCSEs, before Theo became the new darling of English football in the 2004 World Cup, and before either of them could legally vote, drink, get a mortgage or drive a car.

Nine years on (with exams passed, footballing careers cemented, ballot boxes crossed, drinks consumed and houses and cars purchased), the couple are clearly as devoted to each other as in their first stumbling throes of teenage romance.

Even discounting the celebrity pressure shrouding most footballers, that is quite some achievement. To still love the adult as much as you loved the teenager, despite the myriad changes life brings, would seem to many nothing less than a miracle.

Between the ages of 14 and 24 we go through the biggest physical and emotional changes of our life as we grow into and develop our personalities, often changing beyond all recognition.

Add to that the smaller, subtler nuances of personality - the real reasons why some people click and others don’t, which tend to develop at a more leisurely pace.

Moving out of home, standing on your own two feet, travelling the world, choosing a career, battling office politics, finding new friends – these are the things that really carve out what we believe, what we find joy in and, basically, who we are.

And who can honestly say that, through all these life changes, they haven’t grown apart from certain childhood friends? Who can honestly say that the devotion to a certain boy band that bonded you and your mate aged 13 has lost its grip now you realise you’re not going to marry the lead singer?

And, more to the point, who can honestly say this same drifting apart doesn’t curse someone you start dating at that age too?

It’s all very well falling for someone when you’re stuck in one school or town, battling raging hormones, and fraught with teenage insecurities. For want of a kinder phrase, you ‘take what you can get’.
But once you’re out in the real world, hormones calmed and awkwardness overcome, surely it’s only natural you start to wonder who else you might be able to get?

In a modern world where seeing, hearing and connecting with whatever, whoever and wherever you want has shrunk to one swipe of our smartphones, it’s even more inevitable many of us worry we’re ‘missing out’ by sticking with the boy or girl you met in your teens – the grass is always greener.

And in a world of seven billion people, what are the chances that you will meet ‘the One’ in a school, or shopping centre, of just a few thousand people?

And yet, as Melanie and Theo neatly remind us, miracles do happen.

As they walked down the aisle, they weren’t just clutching each other’s hands, they were clutching their shared history, their shared battle scars, and their shared knowledge that they didn’t meet each other ‘too young’ and they’re ready to begin the next phase of their growing up together.


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