I turned 40 last month. Now that I find myself halfway through my life, I remember the young, impressionable girl I was when love first came for me. I had sipped from a dainty glass of Cinderella fantasy, but I hadn't swallowed it, not completely. I knew on a visceral level that first love wasn't meant to last. Yet, when I felt that quick-lightning feeling for the first time, I gulped and guzzled it down and then sputtered to life. It felt like a deliverance, as if I had been escorted to the adult ball where I would finally taste love's first kiss and promise of the fantasy come to life. Now all these years later, many boyfriends, a husband and daughter later, I can recall with exacting torment the sucker punch I felt when he told me he didn't want to see me anymore. Then like a clock striking midnight much too soon, it ended, and I thought I would end too.
The truth of it is: deep down, I never got over my first love. I had quite a few satisfying relationships, but his was the most pure and uncomplicated by mixed emotions. I didn't doubt that we would remain together, as silly as that may seem now. After our break-up, I was branded with a furious distrust of what I had believed was my right to happiness. If I couldn't have love, then I wouldn't trust anyone, and I didn't for a very long time. If I could offer words of advice to my brokenhearted, 16-year-old self, it would be just this: Trust with your whole heart and don't hold yourself back from life even if all hell breaks loose and take the flying leap, come what may. Don't be afraid to love again because a recovered heart, though damaged, is more powerful than the original.
In my latest anthology Crush: 26 Real-life Tales of First Love these incredible writers reveal their most heartbreaking and often funny memories of their own first loves. This is not pastel-colored drivel, it's the tender agony of first love in all its gut-wrenching glory. Lauren Oliver, David Levithan, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Melissa Walker, Ann Hood, Katherine Center, Jon Skovron, Daria Snadowsky, Christopher Coake, and Rebecca Walker are just a few of the authors who recount some of their most startling and memorable love stories.
Haunting me with her impassioned and devastating account, Melissa Febos's "Giving Up the Ghost" is the one essay I can't stop thinking about even now. She perfectly captures the turmoil of the end of a relationship and how our past loves are often impossible to forget. After all, they help shape our romantic destiny and make us that much stronger in the end. My gratitude and awe goes to this talented bunch for bravely sharing their memories. You can also take a peek at our book trailer:
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