For a graduating senior and mentor.
Standing at a baseball ground slump with a smile—you swore was made of glass
Jacket like a spread-winged eagle, he saw you and looked down to check
his tie. And you’ve never been looked at like you were made of glitter
And he had these sad eyes that held you close to him
and it was the way, on that October night, he stood on those steps
with the lights from center stage on his forehead—a halo masterfully smudged
This is part of a sestina I wrote for my Advanced Poetry class about the first guy I fell for. Writing this poem involved me channeling a side myself I had thought was long gone—this hopeless romantic girl who thought her love life should be the background visuals for a Coldplay music video.
I’ve often reflected on the loss of romance in college and the inevitability of settling simply for companionship, but lately I’ve thought that perhaps the only time in our life where we could unequivocally believe in love is during our first love. A love that was fresh and totally new—a sensation that makes our stomach do cartwheels. Did we have it right from the start? Are our firsts the last time we’ll feel true love? Is first love purer than our subsequent relationships?
What I think makes first loves so special is that big or small, these romances have shaped us and the way we treat our future partners. If our first love was one of our best friend, we may tend to look for potential mates inside of our friend groups instead of branching out or trusting strangers. If our first love cheated on us, we will probably have an embedded distrust in our future partner. If our first love was unrequited we may feel like our first love wasn’t satisfying and tend to hold on to the person longer.
We also tend to compare the person our current relationship to the first person we loved because it’s our earliest point of reference. It’s the standard by which we measure all future potential life partners.
The big question is: was our first our purest love? I think that in a way it was, but in another sense, our first love may have been one convoluted by our own projection of what the ideal mate should be. It’s hard not to project these contemporary idealisms onto first loves because our only prior encounter with romance at this point came from popular culture: movies (heck, Disney Princess films) TV shows, music.
In another sense, our first loves were our purest loves. They were a person we met before we were ever hit with the harsh reality of heartbreak. They had us at our most openhearted, perhaps even most honest self. This is something that no other relationship since will probably see us at because we’ve learned better since then. This among many other things makes a first love stick around so often in our heads and hearts. We didn’t have the self-preserving walls we put up as we get older and more cynical.
So, that feeling you had with your first love, where did it go and will it ever manifest itself in some relationship in the future? Is that how you’ll know who “the one” is? As we get more mature and collect more life experiences in terms of relationships (welcomed and unwelcomed) I think we begin to realize the difference between infatuation and love. Odds are that if you and your first love are no longer together, it may have been infatuation. I say this because infatuation is much more sudden and claims urgency. It can feel more intense than love alone because it causes more physical attachment. Love seems to ask for companionship, respect and a kind of steady headedness. While I believe that relationships need both love and infatuation to function—first loves hardly ever encompass both.
My point is, that there is hope to feel that way again and I think it will happen when you fall in love with the person you can love and also be infatuated with—when you feel enthralled with your partner and want to have them all the time, but also love and respect them as individuals. Instead of one kind of rush, you’ll get the combination of two and no first will top it.