One thing that every aspiring or successful writer should do is read a lot, both inside and outside of the genre you write. I love reading but it’s had to take a backseat in my life until I started a new job 2 months ago. My commute is fairly short – about 30 mins door to door – and I do it by bus which has given me valuable time to read. Although I will never stop buying actual books because I love the feel and look of them, I did succumb to a Kindle for Christmas and I decided to download a mixture of books from my favourite writers, new writers and established writers whose work I’d not previously read, all in my preferred genre of romantic comedy.
What struck me as a common theme across the first three books I read was love at first sight. The more I thought about this, the more I realised it’s quite a common theme in many of the books I’ve enjoyed. Not only that but it crops up in my novel too. But is there such a phenomena as love at first sight?
I decided to Google it and one of the first entries that came up was a wiki page which states “Love at first sight is a common trope in Western literature, in which a person, character, or speaker feels romantic attraction for a stranger on the first sight of them. Described by poets and critics from the Greek world on, it has become one of the most powerful tropes in Western fiction.” I must confess, I had to look up the word “trope” after that and, for those also not in the know, it apparently is the use of figurative language. No, me neither!
That aside, wiki then went on to describe that the Greeks believed love at first sight was “more general conception of passionate love, a kind of madness or, as the Greeks put it, theia mania (“madness from the gods”)”.
A kind of madness eh? I quite like that. And perhaps it is when I think back to my own personal experience of love at first sight….
It was a few days after my 17th birthday. The year was 1989 so think big permed hair, blue eyeshadow, Avon’s Iced Champink lipstick and a bad taste in clothes. I was studying at a vocational college in Teesside; a half hour bus journey from my hometown. Buses home were hourly and I usually had about half an hour to wait after classes. On this particular day we got let out of class early but not quite early enough for me to catch the earlier bus. With nearly an hour to kill, I decided to buy a birthday present for my brother whose birthday was just 2 weeks after mine. The even I’m about to describe must have been significant as, all these years later, I can still remember exactly what I bought for him – Black Box’s album on cassette (they sang “Ride on Time” if you’re thinking “who?” If you’re still thinking “who?”, there’s bound to be a clip on You Tube!)
Anyway, I decided to make my purchase in WH Smith. As I walked into the store, a young blond lad flicking through a magazine looked up and caught my eye and I felt it instantly – that chemistry. Too shy and inexperienced with men to flirt, I tried my best Princess Diana big-eyes-under-the-fringe look and headed down to the back of the shop where the music was. As I searched through the racks, my heart raced and my legs felt like jelly. I cursed myself for not being brave enough to smile at the incredibly good looking stranger. Then I had an overwhelming sensation I was being watched. I looked up and there he was, flicking through some albums close-by, trying to look like he wasn’t watching me. With shaking hands, I somehow located the cassette I wanted and managed to get it to the cash desk and pay for it without dropping it or my coins all over the floor. As I walked past him to pay and then back again, I still didn’t feel brave enough to smile. Perhaps I’d just imagined it and he wasn’t looking at me at all. Why would he? He was gorgeous and I knew he was way out of my league.
All the way out of the store, though, I felt his eyes on me. When I finally made it to the door, I’d talked myself into turning round and giving him a smile of encouragement just in case I hadn’t imagined it and he had been genuinely interested. But he’d gone.
I took a long, slow walk up the high street towards the bus station, admonishing myself for my cowardice. Every so often, I got that being watched sensation but, each time I turned round, I didn’t see him. I’d nearly reached the bus station when I heard some feet running behind me (well, not just feet – there were other limbs and a body attached to them but you know what I mean!) and a voice said, “Excuse me, but would you go out with me tonight?!”
This is where I agree with the Greek’s on their madness but perhaps for a different reason. He was so gorgeous and I was so flattered that I immediately said yes. And, even worse than that, I let him drive me home. Hmm, very safe idea – not! But he wasn’t a nutter; just a normal 19-year-old very gorgeous young man. He drove me home then came back later to take me out to the cinema to see Look Who’s Talking (can remember that too).
I really genuinely believed it was love. Then I got to know him and that’s pretty much where the story ends because, hot as he was, I knew deep down that he wasn’t my soul mate. We didn’t share the same interests and I didn’t feel like I could chat to him for hours. Even so, he was my first boyfriend and I wanted to make a go of it.
He dumped me a couple of weeks later when his ex-girlfriend came back on the scene and it turns out he was only attracted to me when he saw me in WH Smith because he thought I looked just like her. Ouch. He could have kept that bit of information to himself! Even worse than being dumped was the fact he did it by phone although I should be grateful that he actually told me it was over. Had mobile phones been about back then, I suspect he’d have done it by text. My older brother always winds me up about my reaction to being dumped by saying I ran up to my bedroom, put Meatloaf’s Two out of Three Ain’t Bad on and hurled myself on the bed in tears! As if I’d be that dramatic!!!!
So, was it love at first sight or was it simply a moment of instant chemistry (or lust or physical attraction; label it how you want). I suppose it depends what you define love as. Romantic as I am, I personally don’t think it’s possible to actually fall in love with someone until you get to know them which would imply there’s no such thing as “love” at first sight. However, for all those who have a physical attraction and then fall in love as they get to know their partner, I’m more than happy to think that they did fall in love at first sight and it’s just semantics as to when the “love” part really happened. My husband says he fell in love with me a first sight and it makes me feel pretty special when he says that. Whether he really did or whether it was just an instant attraction that turned into love later, I guess I’ll never know … and does it matter. Whether love is instant or slow-burn, it’s still love and that’s what I adore to read and write about so long live love no matter when or how it appears!
What do you think? Have any of you experienced love at first sight (or lust)? Would love to hear any stories about this and don’t forget to tell me if they had a happy ending or a sad one.
Thanks for reading!