I would like to believe I fell in love with Beautiful the very first time I saw her back in college. I should like to tell of how I knew from the moment I laid my eyes upon her that my heart would never be the same and that I was about to embark on a journey of love and happiness like the world had never seen before. Was there something magical, electric, about how Beautiful looked at that club meeting? Was I another victim of Cupid’s arrow? Could I say that the rush of madness that consumed my every thought and drove me towards her was not unlike the madness of the gods that the Greeks alluded to in ancient times? Perhaps. Certainly the ‘madness’ of love at first sight propelled and rocketed our relationship for the four years we were together. It was the unreasonable reason of love at first sight that convinced me to spend every free moment on campus with her. I remember how she looked that day. How she sounded. How she made me feel. I loved her long hair, her lightly browned skin, her piercingly brown eyes, and her elegant thin lips. I loved the enthusiasm and excitement she had to be where she was, and how expressive she was. Her hands waved through the air when she spoke like she was carrying the words themselves to every person’s ears. Seeing someone and falling in love with them at the same time is an overpowering feeling. It sucks up all of your energy and emotion and attention all at once like a vacuum but unlike a dark hole, which is ultimate darkness, it feels like the complete opposite. Like in the moment you finally see ‘her’, everything is defined for the very first time, like you’d never really seen the world as brightly or as clearly or in such definition. Every action up until this moment that lead me to this college campus on this day at this meeting with this club was just a wind up, building tension, and the moment I saw her I knew why and everything was released. My world started moving the moment I saw Beautiful.
That’s how falling in love at first sight feels like and how quickly and immediately it can happen. It is a reaction literally at the speed of light. It is a moment that last for less than a second but has implications that can reach as far into the future as days, weeks, months, years, or even, in the most fortunate and fortuitous of occasions, lifetimes. Moments like that are the very center of what feels like an atomic blast but if we can just freeze that split second before everything is illuminated, maybe we can see more than just the moments before and after. Maybe we can see the bridge between and understand what love at first sight really implies about who we are, what we’re looking for, and how well we can recognize it in others. If we stop at the very moment of impact, when my eyes fall on Beautiful for the first time, I would be lying if I didn’t say I found her to be the most beautiful, most attractive, most captivating woman I have ever seen. This is not a trick of the eye or the mind. On average, studies find that it takes a person only a tenth of a second to form an impression of a person from their face. In the blink of an eye we are able to discern how attracted we are to a person. Beautiful was everything I was looking for, the ultimate definition of beauty that I had accumulated over the years.
But to boil down love, or even just this phenomenon of ‘love at first sight’ to simply be about normalized, standardized notions of beauty would be too simplistic and too insulting to the complexity of love. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and each person has their own unique tastes; otherwise we would all be going after the same people and the dating pool would be smaller and smaller and grow more exclusive. Instead of everyone borrowing from the same playbook of beauty, we use our personal experiences and backgrounds to help inform our decisions. Yes there are certain cultural, social, or even generational preferences, but in sum our idea of beauty is more about who we are and who we care about than it is actually about the person in front of us. For example, Asians tend to value pale skin as a mark of beauty and often markets are flooded with products meant to whiten the complexion. More specifically though we will attribute features of beauty and love based on personal experience. Outside of stereotypes what you or I may consider beautiful could differ based on our previous dating history, family members or friends who have meant a lot to us or were influential in our development, and/or experiences we may have had in interactions with others and associating these memories with certain facial or body characteristics. This works positively and negatively, mind you. I wasn’t much of an athlete when I was in elementary school. I used to have a crush on this girl who played soccer after school. She was your typical athletic type and when she found out about my crush on her, on good days she’d just ignore me but on the particularly bad ones, she would relentlessly tease and harass me about it. Yeah, big surprise then that ever since I have stayed far and away from athletic types. This is a particularly interesting example because by and large, most would say that an athletic build and personality would be attractive. And I would agree on a physical sense that there is some merit to the physical attractiveness of an athletic woman, but that’s where it ends and that’s why I know even if I happen to see a particularly athletic woman who is attractive I might be infatuated or taken by her beauty, but I would never go so far as to say it was love at first sight, because love at first sight isn’t just about looks. So perhaps I was attracted to her long flowing hair because all of my previous girlfriends had also had long flowing hair. What started with my very first girlfriend as simply a passive trait had subconsciously become an indicator of potential romantic possibility and was therefore desirable. She was not as pale as most other Asians, but neither was I, so her skin reminded me of my family and maybe this fostered an immediate sense of kinship or connection. I am a characteristically restrained and reserved person and therefore I tend to prefer more outgoing and expressive women. I attribute outgoingness and expressiveness with using more than just the words to convey message and meaning so maybe that is why I was hypnotized by the movement of her hands through the air as she conducted and played on my very heartstrings.
Those who would criticize or speak out against the existence or efficacy of love at first sight would say that these decisions or assumptions are misinformed, but the truth of the matter is we are naturally accustomed and attuned to make these split second decisions on a daily basis. Stereotypes, for better or for worse, exist to help us make quick decisions on an individual basis based on accumulated group data and experience. Therefore it isn’t such a stretch then to assume that what we define on a personal level to be ‘beautiful’ or ‘attractive’ is also ‘good’ or ‘appealing’ in terms of picking a partner. It may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but considering the astronomical odds we face in finding a partner to begin with, perhaps our subconscious is simply trying to look out for us, helping us make quicker and quicker decisions, compiling as much information from as many different sources, to compel us to at least make sure that the person we are with has as great a chance of lasting long-term as possible.
In the tenth of a second it took for me to see Beautiful and fall in love, I was synthesizing the entirety of my past and present experiences. First, my mind was gauging physical attractiveness, highlighting and featuring the best and, in my definition, most appealing aspects of her appearance and setting the stage for passionate romantic interest because of attraction. At the same time subconsciously my mind was trying to make as many assumptions, predictions, and judgements based on previous knowledge and what I knew so far. All I had were physical characteristics at the time and this ‘halo of attractiveness’ would try to align and equate her positive physical features as hopeful indicators of positive emotional, behavioral, moral, and relational values as well. My mind was trying to decide in that tenth of a second if this was a person worth pursuing, and having found just about as many positive and encouraging features as any woman could have presented or has presented since, unleashed a flood of emotion and intensity that fired every nerve in my body and set my mind and heart racing towards her.
Word count so far: 11796