When Your First Love Isn't Like the Movies
For me, love is everything. I love the feeling of my nephew screaming from excitement when he sees me. I love that first crack a new hardcover makes when you open it and the familiar smell of the crisp paper. I love waking up when there was no alarm set. I love the rich, sweet aroma that floods the open doorway of a bakery.
But most of all, I love love.
There’s nothing better than love for me. The feeling of knowing that you’re well and truly loved is incredible. It gives you a sense of calm no matter the storm you find yourself in. That sort of feeling, the reassurance, and the security, can sometimes be addicting and create in us a need for a love that is sometimes maybe not the best thing for us.
Such as my first love.
It was fairly simple. I was in high school and thought that love was going to be this grand thing. When you’re a teenager, you think that love is going to be this cure-all for the constant sea of change you’re going through. You want to be able to chat with your gal pals about what’s going on with your main squeeze and how, ugh, you can’t believe his away message last night! It was something that I was looking forward to, something to sweep me off my feet and make me feel less like the fat funny friend that I was always pegged as.
So in he comes. He was cute and charismatic. He had a way with words and made you feel like you were stuck in the clouds and a smile that could turn even your worst days around. He always made me laugh and feel special. I couldn’t help myself. I was falling so quickly and deeply in love with this person and it felt like the best thing in the world. He was interested in me. Me! I was no longer relegated to the Stacey of the group. I was finally Barbie. He could have had anyone and he wanted me. It was magical.
Until it wasn’t.
Because I was young and dumb and in love for the first time, I somehow allowed him to have conversations with me about other girls. “Do you think she likes me?” he would ask during our hour-long phone calls (which were still at thing 11 years ago, thank you very much). “Do you think I should ask her to the dance?” He knew that I was in love with him and yet still he asked me those questions. Whenever he would start dating someone new, he would stop speaking to me until they had broken up and he would need an ego boost; something I was all too stupid not to realize, but was willing to give.
I essentially turned into a security blanket for him. I would be there for him, waiting and hoping that this was our time like Kate Winslet in The Holiday, and he would make me think that it finally was. And then he’d start seeing another girl. I would boost his ego and he would get what he needed out of his time between girls and then the cycle would repeat itself until I realized that it was unhealthy.
I realized that this sort of behavior, this allowing ourselves to believe that we’re only accepting of the love we think we deserve, or the love that we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking is good for us, is toxic. We’re not hurting the other person, not at all. We’re hurting ourselves and develop this warped perception of love that keeps us in bad situations for too long because love tricks us into making the same mistakes over and over again.
That situation, which in hindsight is not one of my finer moments, showed me a great deal. It showed me that I don’t have to look at myself and think that a version of unrequited love is what I have to reduce myself to. I don’t have to let someone tell me that I’m this amazing human being, so kind and considerate, so great to talk and helpful when you need it and then turn around and make me feel like that’s not enough. It made me realize, more than ever, that I’m not an option: I’m a choice or there’s nothing going on between us.
I let myself be treated poorly because much like Belle, I’ve always had my nose stuck in a book and had created this unrealistic expectation of what I thought love was going to be for me. The feelings I had, that rush, that excited feeling in my stomach, the knowledge that someone cared about me in that way, were insidious in a way. I overlooked the bad when the good felt so damn good. It was a first love that wasn’t like the books, but more like the Lifetime movie where we all see it and the main character doesn’t.
I never want to be treated poorly or be made to feel like I’m not important enough to the person I’m in love with. I never want someone to let me think that there’s something wrong with me because they want to have their cake and eat it too. I do not want someone who is going to look at me physically and think that that someone detracts from the person that I am. I do not want someone who thinks that that sort of behavior is okay. And without my first love, I wouldn’t have known those things.
Sometimes your first love isn’t great. It doesn’t lead you down the aisle (because very rarely do high school sweethearts even work out, let alone happen), it doesn’t end in Homecoming crowns or magical memories post prom. Sometimes your first love makes you cringe and doesn’t incite wistful thoughts and memories. Sometimes your first love is only there to teach you what not to expect and what not to want and remind you that you don’t have to settle. Not today, not ever.