Love at first sight

I hate love at first sight.


Love is a rollercoaster. Also a battlefield. (Thank you, Pat Benatar.)

I don’t mean the emotion. This isn’t one of those bitter Valentine’s Day posts where I insert animated gifs of broken hearts while swilling wine flavoured with my own salty tears.

I’m talking about the use of it in fiction.

It’s a controversial issue, because I know people who say that they experienced love at first sight in their own lives. They vehemently defend it as a thing that can happen to a person. And maybe it can, especially when you’re a teenager and feel emotions in a way that is much more all-consuming than it is for your average adult. I certainly remember developing crushes on people, especially celebrities, with a speed that would leave an Olympic sprinter stunned.

But most of the time, I think what people assume is love at first sight is usually lust at first sight—a fixation on the physicality of a person. Their hair, their eyes, the way their breath smells amazing (hello, Bella, and also ewww). Maybe I’m an old cynic. Maybe that’s why I don’t read pure romance, or most paranormal romance.

However, before you imagine me never enjoying a whirlwind romance, I have seen love at first sight work for me in fiction, and recently—but only when it’s actually a symptom of some other element of the plot.

For example, in Sleeper by S. M. Johnston, Mischa falls madly in love with her university professor the moment she lays eyes on him, an act that causes her to break up with the boyfriend she loved but wasn’t necessarily in love with yet. Her friends tell her that it’s crazy and she even knows it on some level, but she can’t deny how she feels. The revelation of what’s going on there is one of the pivot points of the book.

In Running Home by Julie Hutchings we see a similar instant love between Ellie and the delicious-smelling Nicholas (of whom Bella would no doubt approve), but although she doesn’t really question how she feels, it becomes apparent that he understands the supernatural cause of her strong emotions and is worried about it. She in turn realises he’s holding out on her about something and gets frustrated by that.

To me, love is a connection built between two people, based on mutual understanding and respect. It requires attention. And time.

Your mileage may, of course, vary.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, check out Tim Minchin’s song “You Grew On Me”. It’s about that creepy uppy kind of love. 😉

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