Today we’re happy to have debut author Julie Buxbaum as our guest at the Debutante Ball. Julie Buxbaum is the author of the recently released novel, THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE, which is a Book Sense Pick and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. Julie is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. Though originally from New York, she currently lives in Los Angeles.
When I first heard that the topic this week at The Ball was going to be First Loves, I figured I’d dodge—maybe talk about how I turned my first love, books, into a career, or maybe I’d go more kitschy and gush about my other first love, Converse sneakers, which still grace my feet on a daily basis two decades after I first discovered them. But the truth is whenever anyone mentions First Loves, my mind goes straight to romantic love, and I blush and splotch, my telltale giveaways of embarrassment. But perhaps it’s time to come out of the proverbial closet, and stop with this silly shyness about my past. I’m ready to come clean, to tell the world the truth: I married my First Love.
Now that in and of itself is not embarrassing, and in fact, to some, may seem romantic. Two people meet, have a connection, break up, years go by where they fall in and out of love with other people, and then one day they pass on the street, recognize something in each other, and eventually, after a series of semi-comic mishaps, they reunite to live happily ever after. Great movie, maybe, but that’s not what happened with my husband and I. Nope, I met him at twenty three, and I married him at thirty, and if things go according to plan, my First Love will be my Only Love, which to be honest with you, is where things get a little embarrassing.
The truth is I have always felt as if I should have lived a little more. My now-husband was supposed to be the One-before-the-One, the “real” relationship practice I had somehow missed out on in college. Sure, I dated a bit, had an absurd number of crushes, and there were a couple of boyfriends along the way, but none I ever said those important and eternal three words to, and none who I think would qualify as a First Love. So, at twenty-three, I talked to this charming guy with a British accent on a park bench, and then less than five minutes later told my best friend, “You never know who you are going to meet that’s going to change your life.”
But I didn’t mean he’d change my life. He wasn’t supposed to. He was mere metaphor for the unlimited potential of the romantic universe. He was the hope, not the thing. No, we were supposed to fall head-over-heels, and then just as quickly fall back out, heels-over-head, and he’d be my introductory lesson, a First Loves 101, for the real thing. To bring this full circle, back to my other F.L., I had always thought love was a lot like reading; you don’t start with the tough books, the favorites that you will treasure, at least in part because of their difficulty; instead you start with Dr. Seuss and work your way up. (I was going to mention Converse here too—the progression from low tops to high tops—but I realize I’m pushing the analogies a little hard.)
I figured love required practice, and I am not so sure I was wrong. It does require practice, and maybe that’s why it took my husband and I almost seven years to tie the knot. We did end up practicing—that unique form of commitment, of partnership, of compromise—on each other, for each other. Funny to think back to my late teens, and remember how I imagined my twenties would play out: there would be a series of passionate love affairs, hearts broken and mended; maybe I’d fall for one of my handsome professors, someone older and wiser who could teach me the ways of love. Maybe I’d run away to an ashram to escape my devastation when it ended.
Now that I’ve entered my thirties, now that I’m enjoying the stability of being in a long-term loving partnership, I wonder why I’ve felt such insecurity over my lack of romantic entanglements. Is it because as a writer, I feel like I should have had my heart stomped on a little bit more? Perhaps felt a sneaker tread right to the middle of my chest so I’d better be able to capture the feeling on the page? Is it because the teenage version of myself was so wrong about my character? Drama for the sake of drama turned out to never be my thing. I’m honestly not sure. But as I sit here typing this on my laptop, my First Loves are all still here with me; Today, I am wearing black low top Converse sneakers, have a book in my bag, and a ring from my First and Only Love on my finger. And I wouldn’t trade any of it for all of the handsome professors in the world.