Love at first sight — the magic that children dream of. A Cinderella-style tale: Prince Charming sees you and immediately knows that you are his, he is yours and nothing else in the world really matters. The stars aligned, the fates whispered and something beautiful brought the two of you together exactly how you were meant to be.
But is this real?
Life and experience tell us that it’s not. People are brought up to drop the fairy-tale ideals and settle with the reality that says you have to work for love. Love does not just “come to you.” It is disillusionment that often makes the Cinderella dream die.
In the ongoing debate between love at first sight and love at deepest connection, people fall into two camps — romantics and idealists. But to me, love at first sight has no place in “romance.” I consider myself a dreamer, a poetic, a thoroughly romantic spirit, and yet the idea of a Cinderella-style encounter just leaves a sickening taste in my mouth.
For me the problem exists in “sight.” How can physical appearance, a purely superficial trait, be sufficient criteria for a connection? In my own experience, seeing someone from afar tells me little to nothing about the soul that resides underneath the surface. Is this person unkind? Erratic? Prone to frequent violent outbursts? Who knows. Their physical appearance provides only a small peek into their whole identity, an identity that must fit and function alongside yours in order for a relationship to work.
Relationships do not just thrive on attraction. They depend on communication, compromise and above all, mutual understanding. I would never want someone to see me from 30 feet away on the street and say, “That’s it. That’s the girl I want. All I need is to see her to know.” Because that person 30 feet away doesn’t know me at all. They don’t know my quirks, my values, my strengths or my weaknesses. In a way they don’t want me at all. They want only the small snippet of me that they see.
This week I watched the film Closer, a 2004 drama in which the four central characters fall in and out of passionate love that often comes “at first sight.” How much of a coincidence is it that all these couplings end in disaster?
I’ll admit that I was hooked by the allure of the romance. The opening scene set to the tune of Damien Rice’s song “The Blower’s Daughter,” which shows Jude Law and Natalie Portman’s characters spotting each other on a busy London street was gorgeous. It was dramatic, slow and aesthetically harmonious. As a viewer I couldn’t take my eyes off because of this. I felt fully engrossed as if like the couple, I was seeing the person I love for the first time.
As this movie proves, these sorts of serendipitous moments are undoubtedly alluring. Not only Jude Law and Natalie Portman, but also Jude Law and Julia Roberts, then Julia Roberts and Clive Owen and then Clive Owen and Natalie Portman (or at least their characters), shared moments of sudden love. Whether the characters were seeing each other on the street or meeting for the first time in an aquarium, these scenes illustrated how two people, no matter how different and disparate the original courses of their lives may be, can suddenly cross paths. A collision of bodies, a meeting of minds or a connection of souls and spirits and energies.
These moments are beautiful because human connection — finding a person you share some common understanding and core humanity with — is beautiful. I’ve seen it myself, not only on the screen in Closer, but also in my daily life. I’ve fallen in what I’d like to call “intrigue at first connection.” For instance: I meet a fellow actor through Witness Theater’s 24-Hour Show, we have a conversation, the person opens up to me and I feel drawn, inspired and intrigued by this person’s energy. I have connected with them and now see something in them that I like. This is intrigue at first connection, not by any means “love at first sight.”
After this week I’ve begun to ask myself: Does anyone really, truly believe in 100 percent, head-over-heels love at first sight?
We’re not talking about “love at first sight” for either Jude Law’s character, who met Natalie Portman’s character after she was hit by a bus on the street in Closer, or for me, meeting a friend in the Witness show. This isn’t only based on sight. And this isn’t by any means what we think of when we hear about fairy-tale, written-in-the-stars romance. This isn’t love (at least not yet). This is just a start.