Love at first sight – myth or madness? It was 24 years ago but I can still remember my experience like it was yesterday

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!

Julie xxxx

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A name, a name, my novel for a name

Hello

What’s in a name?  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Or something like that, perhaps I should have listened more intently in my English class to what Shakespeare had to say… Either way, perhaps a rose would smell as sweet, but what about a Reebok, a Dyson or a Cushelle?  My friend is a speech therapist and, I kid you not, she has encountered all of these names in the last year!  Can it be long before someone looks around at the products in their house and has a similar brainwave – “I know, babe, let’s call the baby Smart Price”?!

Maybe I’m boring, my children have got traditional names and I only reached the ‘A’s before naming my daughter.  Or perhaps I’m just lazy, as two of the lead characters in my novel started off with ‘A’ names and maybe I should just learn to carry on searching.  It was only after some spot on advice from Julie, that I thought to re-name one of them – the characters, not my children!  It felt odd though, to change Abigail to Isabelle, as in my head the name was so much a part of her character.

As a teacher it was a dilemma I went through when pregnant.  I’d find a name I loved, or fall in love with one, and then I’d start teaching a new class and come across a teenage Nathan or Ella, who drove me to distraction, and fall out of love with the name forever.  Naming my characters has similar connotations, so perhaps it’s time to get that baby book out again and keep reading, right on through to the Zs.

Surnames are a whole different dilemma and I’ll leave you with this.  My friend, Alison, went for a job interview and was thrilled when she got home, to be told by her teenage son that the company she’d applied for a position with wanted to give her a job and that she needed to ring them back if she wanted it.

Who do I need to speak to?’ asked Alison.

What?’  Grunted number one son.

The name of the person who called?’

Oh, yeah, right, it was a Mr Moron.’

So Alison phones the company and asks for Mr Moron.  Insisting, when she’s told that no-one of that name works there, that he definitely called to offer her a job and giving details of her name and the position she was interviewed for.  Eventually, she’s put through to the HR department and after a bit more wrangling and debate, one of the HR officers comes on the line.

I think you must mean Mr PrattHe’s on his lunch at the moment, but I’ll tell him you called.’

By then, Alison already had the phone half way back on the cradle, deciding that she didn’t really want the job anyway… Or her number one son.

So, what’s in a name? Sometimes a lot more than you think!

Have a great week

Jo x

Does anyone really need fifty shades… of eye shadow?

Hello!  As Julie said, welcome to the blog and thank you to her for getting the ball rolling with our first blog post.  If we were the dynamic duo, I think Julie would be the Batman to my Robin – although sadly I probably wouldn’t look as good in a cape and tights as he does…

Nonetheless this has got me thinking about partnerships, romantic and otherwise.  I love people watching, I think that’s why I can’t help writing, and I always make up stories in my head about the people I see – the relationships they have, what they do for a living and sometimes even give them imaginary names.  My husband refuses to join in with this game and I suspect he thinks I’m just the tiniest bit mad…

When I’m people watching, some people ‘look’ like couples.  Others, who appear very much in love, you would never put together if you were playing Happy Families or Guess Who.  What is it that makes a successful partnership though, either on the written page or in real life?  I actually think it’s difference rather than similarities that make a partnership worthwhile.

My husband is lovely, but totally clueless about buying me gifts.  Every Christmas he buys me a make-up set the size of a small principality, with shades of eye shadow from bottle green to misty mauve.  In the ten years we’ve been together, I can count on one hand the times I’ve worn eye shadow and I’d have to get a career as a seventies glam rock tribute act to get away with some of the shades he’s bought.

Perhaps he’s trying to tell me something and, whilst I won’t try out the candy pink eye glitter any time soon, I can appreciate the different perspectives we bring to the partnership.  He’s the strict parent and I’m the soft one and together I think we make a good team.  He likes tidying up and I like making a mess, so between us we manage a household where there’s room to have some fun, but we won’t have environmental health serving a notice on us any time soon!

 It’s also the differences between us that have helped make the most lasting memories and inadvertently gave me my best Christmas gift of all this year.  I can’t stand the cold, but my husband loves it.  So, when the children wanted to go paddling in their wellies in a local stream one December morning, I held on to the dogs and the video camera.  My husband decided to build a makeshift bridge out of some fallen trees and to show the children how to navigate it…  When he fell into the freezing stream and broke the makeshift bridge in the process, he gave the children and I the best laugh we’d had all year and my favourite Christmas memory of 2012.  He wasn’t hurt and he was pretty good-natured about it too!

Without the balance in our partnership, we definitely wouldn’t have as many laughs and life would be duller all round if we were more similar to one another.  So in my writing, I am really going to focus on the tensions and differences between my male and female protagonists which make the journey to love unpredictable and exciting.  In my writing friendship and blog partnership with Julie, I can already appreciate the differences that mean we have a lot to offer one another and which will make the whole journey to publication a lot more fun…

Thanks for reading and vive la différence!

Jo xxx

I’ve had my first taste of “fame” … and I liked it!!!!

Hello and welcome to our blog! As you’ll know if you’ve read the “About” section, Jo and I are not yet published but we’re hoping 2013 will be our year. I wanted to share my first taste of fame … ok, it’s not really fame but it made me feel special and like a real writer!

“My mummy’s written a book,” my six-year-old daughter had announced to her year 2 teacher who just happens to be the Deputy Head of her school and the Head of Literacy. For once, this was true … unlike recent declarations such as, “mummy’s pregnant” (no; just fat!), “I have a parrot and it’s bitten my arm,” and, “a man came to school today and tested me for allergies. I’m allergic to mince!” The upshot was that this wasn’t going to be an opportunity her teacher ignored and I was swiftly invited into school to deliver a talk to year 6 (top juniors in old money) about my writing.

In conversation with the year 6 teacher, I tentatively broached the subject … “you do realise I’m not actually a published writer … yet.” She couldn’t have responded better if I’d paid her – “the mere fact that you love writing and have written a book, whether published or not, is good enough for us. The children are so excited to meet you!”

I have to say, it was one of the most enjoyable 90 minutes I’ve had for a long time. I’m a Brown Owl so I’m used to working with roughly that age group (although girls only) so I was able to pitch the level about right and ensure lots of interaction. I think this contributed massively to the success. The class were stars; so attentive and eager to participate and ask questions. I could have talked and interacted with them about writing all day but, sadly, they had an exam to do so we had to say goodbye.

What was really lovely is that the teacher asked if they could write to me. They’d been asked to come up with 3 questions before I came and we’d only had a chance to hear one question from about 1/3 of the class. A week later, a bundle of letters came home and I was genuinely touched by their content. As well as some intelligent questions, they told me what they liked reading, whether they enjoyed writing and what they learned from my visit. I was also praised for my talk, my perseverance (I started my book 10 years ago!) and wished luck in my quest to be published later this year.

I know a lot of writers talk about being invited to speak at WI meetings or other events and it not being worth their while i.e. they probably didn’t sell any (or not many) books. I completely get where they’re coming from on this. However, I’d recommend to any writer who is confident at speaking in public to get to at least one local primary school. If I have inspired just one of that class to write and/or one of that class to read more, then I’ve been a great success. And, taking the hardline on sales, if (when) I get published, I’m sure quite a few of them will convince their mums or sisters to rush out and buy my book because they’ve met me and I told them all about my journey to write it. Surely that can only be a good thing?!!!!!

 

Love & all things romantic, Julie xxx