Do You Believe in Love at First Sight?
“My cousin, Guy, and I were on our way to the Randolph Hotel to meet our grandmother for tea when this girl ran her bike into me.” I pause, trying to figure out how to explain her effect on me.
They look at me as if they’re waiting for the tablets to come off the mountain.
“She knocked me down,” I repeat. “With the bike.”
Max Grant talking about the first time he saw Cress Taylor, At First Sight
Sharon and Peter Michalove, Rhine River cruise, Christmas Day, 2008, Delft Factory, Delft, the Netherlands
Instalove is a frequent trope in romance and some readers embrace it and others hate it. If you’ve never experienced it, the whole idea seems unrealistic, fantastical wish fulfillment. If you have experienced it, you can’t imagine why people would scoff.
The Urban Dictionary defines it as “when someone who just meets you thinks that you are their soul mate and they want to spend the rest of their lives with you and have kids with you. usually you don’t feel that same about them.”
Instalove tropes are nothing new. Whatever your feelings about the musical South Pacific, for example, “Some Enchanted Evening” is a wonderful tribute to what the French call coupe de foudre or love at first sight.
In At First Sight, the hero, Max, is hit by the heroine, Cress, when she is wobbling down the street on a bicycle. He looks into her sparkling hazel eyes and is immediately smitten. She, on the other hand, is embarrassed and just wants to apologize and escape as soon as possible. When the book starts, twenty years later, Max has never really forgotten her while she has tried hard to suppress memories of that humiliating event.
My own experience, is a bit different. When I went back to school in 1974, I lived in a graduate dorm. In the week before classes started, Our rooms were small so I used to sit in the lounge and read. The only person I had met was my suite mate and she was a bubbly extrovert who went out a lot in the evenings. Most nights a group would get together to play cards. One guy in the group, who had no dress sense and ridiculous curly hair, was usually there. He tended to be loud and annoying. No falling in love across a crowded room.
The day before classes started, I was in my room and I wanted to get some fruit out the small refrigerator that I shared with my suite mate. It just happened to be in her room. I walked in and this guy from the lounge was standing in her doorway, chatting. He was wearing an orange and white striped t-shirt and knit maroon slacks. I was introduced and we all had a short conversation. Then my suite mate informed us that she had to meet someone at the Union and left. The guy hung around to talk, and talk, and talk. Eventually it got late, and we went to the pancake house for dinner. When we got back to the dorm, we talked some more.
The next night he showed up at my room and asked me if I wanted to take a walk. The following night he invited me to his room with his equivalent of the “wanna see my etchings?” invitation. In this case it was, “want to listen to a recording of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex?” But of course he was absolutely serious and we spent the evening listening to Stravinsky. Then it was having dinner in the dining room of the dorm nearby (we didn’t have dining facilities).
At the end of the week, I went home for Labor Day Weekend. And when I walked into my parents house, I announced that I thought I had met my future husband. We were engaged by the end of the month and married exactly nine months after we met. And if you think that’s quick, my parents only knew each other six months when they got married.
So, technically not love “at first sight,” but pretty close.
Our wedding, May 1975