“It was love at first sight!”
Is that really an accurate statement? How can you accurately state that someone you’ve never seen before, never spoken with, never danced with, never dined with, struck you dumb? Was it love or was it lust? Was it overwhelming beauty, the clothing, the confidence emanating from that other person…just what was it that made you utter that statement? In the first edition of The Godfather, Michael Corleone is said to have been “…hit by the thunderbolt” when he first meets Apollonia, ergo, love at first sight, but how can one actually believe that?
Perhaps “love at first sight” is a misnomer, perhaps not. I contemplated this the other day as I was staring at the picture I have of my late wife on the mantel. What actually happened to me when I walked into the teachers’ room and saw this woman, and without thinking twice, thought to myself, “This is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?” Hey, I didn’t know who the hell she was. Beautiful? In my eyes, absolutely. She was smiling at something someone had said…and it was a fantastic smile. In hindsight, however, looking at the photograph, I had to ask myself, “Why and how? Why and how did you know that this was the one?”
According to Dr. Elliot Cohen, writing in Psychology Today, “…in simply seeing others without ever having an opportunity to get to know them, we cannot reasonably be said to love them. Indeed, in some cases, when we get to know others whom we admire from a distance, we may even come to regard them as downright repulsive!” Personally, I’ve never found that to be the case, but I suppose he has a point. The other person’s views may not coincide with your own and that could, I suppose, be a turn off. They might spit when they talk or have some physical impairment that you didn’t notice at first, express racist, misogynistic or anti-something views not in line with your own, and while that may not make them “downright repulsive,” it could affect your idea of wanting to spend too much time with them.
Cohen believes that the “at first sight” may not be that at all. That we may relate to our “love” because they resemble someone we have known and thought highly of or even been related to. He then carries it to the extreme of citing Plato’s contention that our souls are parted when we leave Heaven and come to earth. When we find “that special person,” our “soul mate” as it were, the two souls are joined. That’s a bit of a stretch, even for me.
It seems to me that falling in love is quite different from love at first sight. The former takes a great deal of time to develop. You “fall” in love, I believe, as you grow to know one another, as you learn to appreciate how the other acts, thinks, feels, and yes, even makes love. These are the deeper feelings which bond you to one another forever while “love at first sight” may be something of a purely sexual attraction.
Aimee Boyle, a writer and teacher, states, “The intensity of falling in love at first sight can conjure a sense of spirituality; a sense that you have touched the divine, have found a spark of the essence of love and the meaning of your life on earth. No matter what your experience, love at first sight can and does occur and can be one of the most confusing, exhilarating and sacred experiences possible.”
Hot damn, talk about opposing viewpoints, but are they really? Perhaps I’m just a fortunate guy. I’ve been twice blessed. Getting to know and fall even more deeply in love with Joan, sharing our fifty plus years together, raising three children, and then watching her waste away to cancer did nothing to abate my love for her. Seeing my current partner for the first time was not the same. Attractive? Yes, but not the staggering beauty that I thought I saw when I was 22. “Well the, how did you know she was for you?” you might ask. It didn’t take long. The evening she arrived we stopped for dinner on the way home. Our conversation was enough for me to say, “Wow, I really like the way you think. We have so much in common. I really want to know you better.” It had nothing to do with bearing and raising children. Hell, we’d both been down that road. It had nothing to do with jumping into bed and all the attendant emotions that go with that. No, it was completely different. How I felt at 75 was a far cry from how I felt at 22. Was it maturity? Probably. Joan and I had matured together. My partner and I are mature enough to know that it doesn’t matter if one of us leaves the cap off the toothpaste, but we’re also mature enough to not do such a stupid thing.
So, can there be “love at first sight?” My answer would agree more with Cohen. “Love,” no. A desire to get to know this person better because he or she looks like “my kind” of person…oh yeah. And “my kind” includes many, many things, such as intellectual pursuits, physical activities, educational actions, and sure, sexual pleasures. You may get hit by the “thunderbolt,” but if that’s all there is, the depth of feeling is, in my mind, shallow and not worth the pursuit.