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Puppy love (also known as simple infatuation, a crush, calf love, or kitten love) is an informal term for feelings of love, romance, or infatuation, often felt by young people during their childhood and adolescence. It is named for its resemblance to the adoring, worshipful affection that may be felt by a puppy. It may also be able to describe short-term love interest.
The term is often used in a derogatory fashion, describing emotions which are shallow and transient in comparison to other forms of love such as romantic love. Sigmund Freud however was far from underestimating the power of early love; recognised the validity of "the proverbial durability of first loves: on reviendra toujours à ses premières amours."
Puppy love is a very widespread experience in the process of growing up, and the person who proudly boasts '"I'm never going to act like a lovesick puppy dog...over some silly girl (or boy)"' may well be riding for a fall. The object of attachment may be a peer, but the term can also be used to describe the fondness of a child for an adult, for example, students being attracted to their teachers, their friends' parents, or children to older celebrities: indeed, some consider that in puppy love 'usually the object of such infatuation is some highly idealised person who is some years older—a teacher, an uncle or aunt, a friend of the family, an actor, or rock star'—and typically the sufferer 'greatly moved with emotion...spend[s] much time in daydreams and wishful fantasies' about them.
On the positive side, 'Puppy love gives young people a new sense of individualism. For the first time, they love someone outside their family'. Others warn however that 'the old saying may be true: "If you marry on the strength of puppy love, you'll end up leading a dog's life."'
Canadian singer Paul Anka released the single "Puppy Love" in 1960, reaching #2 in the Billboard Hot 100 and #33 in the UK singles charts. The remake by Donny Osmond peaked at US #3 in 1972. Country singer Dolly Parton's first single, released in the 1950s when she was a child, was also called "Puppy Love". American hip hop artist Brother Ali has also composed a song about puppy love titled "You Say (Puppy Love)". Bow Wow released a song called "Puppy Love" in January 2001. American singer Barbara Lewis in January 1964 released her song entitled "Puppy Love". Australian rock band Front End Loader feature the song "Puppy Love" on their 1992 eponymous album.
- Ray E. Short (2004). Sex, Love or Romance. p. 16. "Simple infatuation is often called a 'crush' or 'puppy love'. It commonly strikes those in the early teens or younger."
- Georgette Heyer (1974). Bath Tangle. London. pp. 284, 183. "calf-love...a sickly, sentimental dream which only a moonstruck fool could have created!"
- Sigmund Freud, On Sexuality (PFL 7) p. 67
- Short, p. 13
- Short, p. 16
- M. H. Ford, Personal Power (2004) p. 124
- Short, p. 22
- Ruth Prigozy, The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald (Cambridge 2002) p. 38