Monday, September 12, 2011

Misguided Romanticizing of First Love

It’s not that I don’t believe it’s possible. I know it’s possible. I’ve seen plenty of people fall in love for the first time in their lives, get married, and are still living happily ever after. My issue is with the glamorizing of a first love to the point where, if you’ve never fallen in love yet, you believe the first love will definitely be your true love.

I had this notion back in the day. I was convinced my first love was The One. Every time something wasn’t working, I just ignored the warning signs and forced myself to stay with him. He wasn’t a bad person, but (hindsight being 20/20 and all) he wasn’t the RIGHT person for me. When we broke up, even though I was sad, I felt liberated as well. Also thoroughly frustrated. I thought it over and realized books and TV and movies have done a number on me. If only I had known ahead of time the possibility of a first love not always being true love, I may have had a more balanced view of what love is. Sure, we should learn from experience. I just wish I had all the facts.

A lot of novels (but not all) focus on putting the main character’s first love on a pedestal. They’ve either never been in a relationship before, or they’ve only gone on a handful of “dates” with random people. It’s rare to find a novel with a main character who’s been in love before.

Why is this? For starters, I think a lot of authors like to write about, and readers like to read about, first loves. It is just SO ROMANTIC to see them fall in love for the first time. (Cue the sqwee’s and awww’s) Also, it seems like an easy story to write. Less background, less complicated, less ex’s, less likely the character will seem like a slut.

There are some that work, ones that make complete sense, ones that make the story what it is. Then there are others… that make absolutely no sense. Hey look! Jane just met John five seconds ago and she thinks he’s so hot and it would be so awesome to date him. One or two weeks later they’re dating. A month after they meet they’re in love and inseparable and will be in love forever.

Um. Sure. That’s… believable.

Well, it’s possible. Just, not possible THAT MANY TIMES.

I admit, I love to read them. I have some story ideas surrounding this notion. But I also have some story ideas where the girl falls out of love and finds a new love.

My point, I believe, is this: It would just be nice to see more characters that have been in love more than just once. Because, let’s face it, not everybody picks out a good one the first time. Not only that, but a novel can delve deeper than just the falling in love part. Character’s seem more multidimensional and you get to watch them take their past mistakes and either learn from them or make more mistakes to learn from. They learn to be hopeful. It’s more interesting. It’s different.

What do you think? Are there too many “first love is true love” books out there? Have you read any good books featuring a character that’s been in love once before? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  1. I find this problem more in YA books then in adult books. It's pretty easy to see why it might be their first love in YA books because they're teens and young, but that's no reason to fill teens heads with silly ideas that your first teenage love will be your true love forever and ever! I know there are a handful of people who met in high school got married and have been married ever since and that's great, but it's not the majority. Anywho, I'm ranting now. My point is. I find more characters who've loved before in adult books than I do in YA books.

  2. Yes! I second that, it's pretty much exactly how I feel about the topic. I read Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler recently where the main character has been in love before and seeing her deal with that aswell as the "fallout" was like a breath of fresh air. Something else great happens in relation to this topic at the end of book 2 that I'm dying to talk about but it'd be a spoiler so I can't :(

  3. I'd love to read a YA series that deal only with first love and how it doesn't last forever but I think it would be very complicated and if done has to be done exactly right. I agree with Jenny. It's hard to include a past love when the MC is 15-17. Maybe some of the period novels could do it since people used to get married so much younger. Now that I think about it, doesn't Pride and Prejudice kind of do it? Eliza Bennett is initially in love with Wickhem and then when she finds out he's a stooge she falls for Darcy??

  4. Jenny: That's true. It's usually more common in adult books, and that completely makes sense. But, yes, it does fill their heads with silly ideas!

    Jennifer: I should check that book out, I like the idea of it being different! And I'm anxious to know what happens in the second book too. :)

    Lan: It would be a really awesome book if someone did do it right! As far as P&P goes, I've only seen the Hollywood adaptation, and they don't really elaborate much on it. I love the fact that you used the word 'stooge', that made my day!

  5. I guess I'm such a romance junkie that I'd never really paid much attention to this before, but you're right. First love is always so shiny and wonderful and amazing in books and movies, and even sometimes in real life, but I think more often than not, especially for teens, it's fraught with tension, hormones and anxiety. It can be exciting and wonderful, but how often does it really last? Funny thing is, even though I know it's not realistic, I still love those stories - I get to live vicariously. I get to swoon and sigh and wish it was me. But it would be nice to see more characters who have been through it and know that it's not always wonderful. The one thing I hate about characters who have actually been in love before is when they constantly compare their new love interest with their ex - 'he reminded me so much of so-and-so' or 'he was tall like so-and-so and had similar eyes, but their personalities were so different'. I don't mind a few comparisons but I've read books where they're almost non-stop and it drives me bonkers!

  6. SweetMarie83: I still love 'em too. :) You're right about the ex comparisons--too much just makes the character a complainer, and that's just annoying after awhile. :P


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