Some people fall in love at a coffee shop. Others meet while passing each other on the street or at the library. Love reveals itself at the mall, at work, in the produce aisle of a grocery store. It can come all at once, or it can languidly reveal itself between mutual friends. It can come when we are young, when we are old, or anytime in between. It can come once, it can come twice, it can come more times than we can count. Love’s story is unique to each of us, despite the common core of its emotions.
No two love stories are the same, contrary to what movies and literature try to tell us.
For me, love revealed itself at the art table when I was twelve. True to love’s qualities, my love story is its own.
Love At First Sight? Not Exactly…
It was the first day of seventh grade, and my cereal was threatening to spew onto the floor from nerves. Tapping my new shoes together and wishing I could fly back home, I waited for my name to be called for my seat in art class. Once in my chair, my brown eyes glanced around the room at the other faces, finding few I recognized.
That’s when I saw him. The blond-haired, blue-eyed kid who would become my best friend, my first boyfriend, my fiancé, and eventually my husband. As fate would have it, he was seated across from me at the art table.
It wasn’t love at first sight, not really. There weren’t angelic rays flooding onto us like a spotlight. No cheesy love song blasted from the speakers. Nonetheless, when I saw him, my twelve-year-old self knew there was something about him, something that told me he would be important to me.
From the beginning, Chad and I were the least likely couple you could imagine. I was Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, always saying “please” and burying my nose in a book. I was studious, serious, and rational to the core. He was free-spirited, racking up detention halls as I racked up As. He cursed often, he hated school, and he hated rules. We had nothing in common other than the fact we both played trumpet in the band and laughed at the same jokes.
Over the years, however, we found something in each other. At first, it was friendship fused by a common sense of humor and the time spent together at the art table. He made my rigid personality lighten up, and I helped bring some seriousness and goal setting to his carefree nature. As the years passed, we continued to grow together as we grew up.
Laughter turned into kisses, dates turned into proms, and “I love yous” eventually turned into an engagement ring. We maneuvered the murky waters of adolescence together, finding that the connection merged would weather us through early adulthood as well.
Many were skeptical about our relationship. Who finds his or her soulmate at twelve? However, we seemed to prove the naysayers wrong as we glided through our maturing relationship, always together.
An Imperfect Romance
Now, at twenty-eight, people are amazed by our story. When we tell them we've been each other’s “one and only” since we were twelve, we face skepticism. In an age where you should try to “play the field,” we are an archaic trend from the past. When we got married, we'd already been together for over a decade. At our wedding, our first dance was to Faith Hill’s “Just Breathe,” the song we first danced to in junior high.
People assume that to be with one person since junior high, you must have an unbelievably perfect connection. This is far from the truth. Is our relationship roses and candles, smiles and stolen kisses? Are we living in a fantasy fairytale that is unattainable for others?
The answer is a big fat no.
Those who know us well know we are not the ideal couple. We fight, and we fight often. Although our opposing personalities often help us balance each other out, they can also lead to turmoil. Like any other couple, we have been tempted to throw in the towel from time to time. We push each other away, we frustrate each other, we annoy each other.
Additionally, we’re not perfect adults, nor do we have the picture-perfect life. We eat ice cream for dinner and buy way too much candy at the grocery store. We struggle to save money, splurging on impulsive buys. We don’t have a white picket fence in front of our house; in fact, our landscaping consists of decaying leaves I have been nagging him to clean up. I am a terrible cook, and he is a terrible handyman. Our only children have four legs. We are still working out the details and rules of this thing called adulthood.
Prince Charming Doesn’t Exist, But Neither Does Snow White
Through it all, though, we’ve learned one thing together: love isn’t perfect. The idea it is perfect stems from a meticulously constructed illusion that fairytales do exist in real life.
In our world, however, Prince Charming doesn’t exist, but neither does Snow White.
Instead, we must realize love is about sacrifice, about reality. It’s about finding joy in the small things together. It’s about ignoring his annoying chewing habits and him forgiving me for spending way too much on makeup.
It’s about deciding our history together is worth more than giving up or trying to find something new. It’s about choosing to believe in the power of us and our story over the pull of temptation. It’s about realizing our life together isn’t even close to being perfect, but it makes us perfectly content overall.
So no, our story isn’t all that special. We're not romantic heroes who deserve a medal for staying together so long in a fickle society. We're not blinded by an unattainable love, we're not the model marriage. We don’t have this whole thing called love or life figured out. We’re still changing, we’re still growing, and we’re still searching for ourselves.
We are, however, proof that against all odds, against the statistics and stereotypes, our generation can stay true. Despite our “short attention spans” blamed on technology and our tendency to stray, our generation can stay in a monogamous, meaningful, fulfilling relationship.
Chad and I are not supermodels, movie stars, or relationship experts. We are, however, two people who found each other at a young age and invested in each other. We are two average twentysomethings who value love, our relationship, and the life we have built together.
Above all, though, we are just a boy and a girl who fell in love at the art table in seventh grade.
Lindsay Detwiler is the author of three contemporary romance novels including Voice of Innocence, Without You, and Then Comes Love. She is also a high school English teacher in her hometown. She lives with Chad (her junior high sweetheart), their five cats, and their mastiff Henry. You can find out more about Lindsay at www.lindsaydetwiler.com.