I've been spending a lot of time with teenagers lately. No, I didn't drill a hole into the boys' locker room at the high school. But between Weezer at Key Arena and Dashboard Confessional at Graceland, I've been coerced into attending more all-ages shows than normal.

I try not to romanticize being 17 years old again. Having the clearest skin at a packed concert quickly reminds one how much adolescence sucked. But when I watch the kids jumping up and down and singing along to Weezer's "Undone-the Sweater Song" or Dashboard's "Screaming Infidelities," I realize something I do miss about youth: naﶥt鮠Due to sheer lack of firsthand experience, our emotions at that age are vivid and unfiltered. Each short-lived crush is the Greatest Romance in History. And there's always a pop song that crystallizes that unforgettable moment.

The other night, while discussing today's crop of sexed-up young chart toppers, a friend of mine blurted out, "I want my pop stars fat and ugly . . . like Alison Moyet!" The next thing I knew, we were drunkenly singing "Invisible," the ex-Yaz vocalist's lone Top-40 hit, to each other across a table at Linda's. I came home, dragged out my tattered copy of her album Alf, and listened to "Invisible" half a dozen times in a row.

The funny thing is, only a fraction of the lyrics spoke to me in 1985: "You don't know I exist/And I wouldn't be missed/ If I had the nerve to quit you." The object of my adoration—a golden-haired Adonis who shared my lab table in physics— disregarded my ardor because he hadn't an inkling it was burning a hole in my chest. I didn't dare hint at what I felt for fear of getting my pansy ass smeared across the parking lot. But there was a hurt and rage in Moyet's voice that nailed my frustration then, and it rekindles the same furor today.

I have grown very cynical about both love and music since I first purchased Alf. Between a spate of soured relationships and earning a paycheck by listening to (mostly) mediocre records, I believed it was impossible to etch a new song on the leathery surface of my heart. But that wretched muscle has a way of surprising us.

A few weeks ago, I met a New Guy. Not someone I just want to sleep with, but a gent I almost instantly felt was a leading candidate for "the one." This was phenomenally unsettling, since after years of being dissatisfied because I desperately wanted a boyfriend, in the past year I had finally grown content as a confirmed bachelor. It's that horrible catch-22 that if you don't love yourself, nobody else can love you back.

The problem now is: I like New Guy so much I'm losing my marbles. He jokingly called me "bitter" one morning, and I turned into the human equivalent of burned toast, charred and brittle. If we don't talk on the phone every couple days, I decide he's lost all interest. Not surprisingly, this raging paranoia makes me not love myself anymore . . . which means I'm no longer worthy of receiving affection in return, right?

So we're doomed.

These feelings came to a head when I went to check out Trembling Blue Stars at the Crocodile. To be honest, I hadn't listened to their recent album, Alive to Every Smile (Sub Pop). I was just going because New Guy had expressed interest in the show, and I thought there was a slim chance he'd be there (wrong) and we could just "bump into" each other. Thus, I was caught off guard when singer Bob Wratten opened his mouth and began singing:

So we'll just be the greatest couple that never was

If you've never been mine, then I guess I can't be losing you

So everything's all right

Your heart's not breaking

And I don't feel as I do.

The song is called "Ammunition." And like its protagonist, I've been turning every word New Guy says into "useless ammunition" to shoot down potential happiness. If New Guy says something that amuses me, I'm disappointed because it'll only reinforce my disappointment when he rejects me. And if he perturbs me, that proves we're incompatible. But now that I've recognized what I'm doing, it's easier to stop and take things as they come. Maybe we're not doomed after all.

I've been listening to "Ammunition" a lot. And, like the feelings New Guy stirs in me, it's a discomforting but wonderful reminder that even cantankerous grown-ups can still experience the undiluted emotions of a youngster. I take back what I said earlier about missing my naﶥt鮠Now I just envy teenagers because their baggage is lighter than they know.

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