As some people will know, last year my beloved Mum passed suddenly and unexpectedly, and although something about myself had been changing before that, her death acted as a kind of catalyst to those changes, some of which have come as no greater surprise to anyone than me! Anyway, moving forward and a little while ago I read something in an online psychology article ( damned if I can remember where or what the article was - I read a lot online and IRL, okay? ) and it struck a new chord in me.
The article basically concerned the belief that human beings get all the information they need about a person within the first few moments of an initial encounter, and that these ‘first impressions’ do indeed last and matter. Trouble is, this information tends to enter our minds on a subconscious level, and by the time we bring it to our conscious thinking it has passed through and been colored by several rinse cycles of everything from social expectations to self-criticism, the result being we start to doubt our own gut instinct. This made me think in general about whether that thing we term “love at first sight” really can happen and if so, why and how exactly does it happen? It also made me think specifically about my own first impressions of someone a very long time ago.
Long story short, I met someone and was struck for the first time in my life by an instant and overwhelming attraction, a total “Oh wow!” reaction. And yet…in that same moment of meeting her for the first time, my gut instinct about her all but screamed “This one is dangerously egotistical!” However, yes, it went through all those rinse cycles with the upshot being that I wasted time and energy on someone only to discover that my ‘first impression’ had indeed been completely and devastatingly on point. Since then I have tended to listen to my gut instincts more about people, and where love and relationships have been concerned, to err on the side of caution. Not extreme caution, but let’s just say I’m not the sort who has ever been comfortable with a blunt, in-your-face “Hi, fancy a shag?” approach. Nothing horrifies me more than the thought of taking that approach to someone myself - it’ll just never happen. And, if you want to be instantly and forever relegated to the ‘friend zone’ then just try taking that approach with me. I might handle your bluntness with humor but you’ll never get it taken seriously by me either. I may not be the quickest person to pick up on hints, you might need to be a wee bit more direct, but please, there is being too subtle and then there is taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.
In my latest novel, ‘The Horseman’s Daughter’, a lesbian romance with a little touch of the supernatural ( see below for where to find details of that. ), I have written of an analyst friend of the main character, Kit, who subscribes to this theory of first impressions. Kit finds herself struggling with the self-doubts of just such an instant and overwhelming attraction to a woman she has just met, Ashley, who is very different from her and a bit of a mystery to her. Although the outline of the novel was written some two years ago and shelved, the subsequent first draft was written in just about two weeks of February 2016, and influenced by the online article and my own more recent experiences, both of which have made me re-think my stance on love, relationships, and human interactions in general.
Of course we have always been able to find out a certain amount about the people we meet and take an interest in, but now we live in a time of instant and often extreme access to personal information ( assuming a person has an online presence which some do not ). Bearing this in mind and thinking about the psychology article, some of the more interesting, and personally revealing, questions that have come up in my mind are: is it possible to fall in love with someone whom you know very little or next-to-nothing about? And how do we ‘choose love’ anyway? Do we even ‘choose’ it at all? How much does all of that readily available information over-shade our own gut instincts - to the point where we perhaps dismiss people because they don’t meet some checklist of criteria and thus miss out on the possibility of falling for someone who is different from us? I had a romantic relationship with someone whom I knew very well and who was very similar to me in a lot of ways and, although we have remained best friends, the romance was ill-starred from the start and didn’t last terribly long. We were too familiar, too similar; there was no room for growth, either personal or together, no room for new and surprising discoveries about each other, and not enough room for compromise on differences either.
I have come to realize that there is such a thing as an instant ‘chemistry’ between people. A connection, spark, or rapport, or whatever label you wish to put on it. And it comes as a direct result of the first impressions garnered within the initial moments of meeting. However, I do still believe that the interpretation of these first impressions need some logic and reason applied, especially when there is a romantic or sexual attraction: is it love? is it lust? is it mutual? Or is it something that would simply form the basis of a friendship but nothing more? Also, there is the question of will it sustain? I’ve explored these questions in Kit’s story but the conclusions and outcomes for her are very much hers, and I won’t spoil the story by giving those away.
As for me, as much as I may have opened my mind - and my life - to possibilities that I scoffed at before, I suspect that I’ll remain someone who subsequently applies logic and reasoning, and a certain amount of caution, in all matters romantic.