Hadley’s hands are braided together in her lap, and she takes a deep breath.
“So,” Oliver says, sitting back again. “I guess we jumped right into the deep end, huh?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just that a discussion about the definition of true love is usually something you talk about after three months, not three hours.” (pg. 52)*
This is how I begin my book reviews, with a quotation that jumps out at me for one reason or another. I enjoyed this one because it contains all the essential elements of a good opening quote: it’s engaging, surprising, and neatly encapsulates the entire plot of the book: Hadley and Oliver, two strangers, meet and quickly fall in love. Boom. Done. Now onto the reviewing.
And here is where I got stuck.
I’m not going to write a review of this book, because I like to subtly inject my own insight, and on the topic of ‘love at first sight’, I have precious little to offer on the subject that isn’t a jumbled, garbled mess of slippery beliefs with a faint tang of bitterness. Instead, I’m going to say that yes, this was a good book, and then go on to explain why the entire concept of ‘love at first sight’ is a rather irritating one.
I suppose my real quarrel is with the word ‘love’. There are endless books, articles, editorials, columns, blogs, and blurbs on this most troubling and elusive four letter word. More poetry than one could (or should) possibly devour in a lifetime. Scores of films, some groundbreaking, some hilariously bad, yet we pay too much money to see them anyway. Love has been prodded, poked, stabbed, stretched, split and examined, wings pinned, legs spread, fine-tooth-combed, revered and reviled, praised and spat upon. Every transmutation of its examination has become routine, cliché, expected, wholly unsurprising, but what would we do without it? And so, here I am, another lowly writer in a sea of millions, taking my turn to stroke my own engorged opinion, adding my contribution to the perpetual, universal circle-jerk.
I have never been in love. There, I said it. Self-pitying as it sounds, I am not trying to garner sympathy, rather, explain my inherent difficulty in speaking on this subject at all. (So know that my perspective hails from the other side of the fence, where the grass is greener, or perhaps yellower, depending on your point of view.) Nevertheless, I have collected bits and pieces, bite-size morsels of truth and fiction from twenty three years spent soaking in American culture and media, enough to create my own haphazard conglomerate of a definition. So, to me, love, being in love, is this: a choice. A conscious, breathing decision, thick and coursing as blood, resolute and binding as death.
Dramatic? Maybe. Unrealistic? Certainly not. But the issue I take with the modern perception of ‘love’ is the glib bastardization of the word. Am I guilty of it? Absolutely. Everyone I’m friends with on Facebook knows that I ‘love’ Harry Potter, but despite what some of them may believe, I would not lay down my life for the boy who lived. To hear most people tell it, that is love—all-consuming infatuation. A glossy, glittery obsession. Heart-quickening, palm-dampening, stomach-fluttering. In other words, that feeling you get when you catch the eye of someone across a crowded room. Slowly making your way towards each other. Exchanging those first few words, watching the sparkling glint in their eyes, feeling the warm brush of their hand against yours like a slow, electric caress.
Sitting with them on a long plane ride, swapping secrets and stories as you glide hundreds of thousands of miles across the Atlantic ocean. Love at first sight. At first conversation, at first proximity, at first shared laugh.
Maybe that instant spark will lead to a lifetime of sacrifice and devotion. Maybe a fortuitous, random sequence of events can preface a story of two soulmates worthy of The Bard. Maybe that pocket of peace and acceptance that Hadley and Oliver discovered on their plane ride will blossom into a cocoon of marital bliss, despite their broken homes, despite their parents’ mistakes. Maybe.
Or maybe one day I’ll clamber over that fence, only to discover that everything I’ve written is bullshit.
*The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith