Love is one of the most profound emotions known to human beings. There are many kinds of love, but most people seek its expression in a romantic relationship with a compatible partner. For some, romantic relationships are the most meaningful element of life, providing a source of deep fulfillment. First love imprints a lifelong lasting impression upon people and leaves you changed forever.
“There’s no love like the first.”
― Nicholas Sparks
One of the epic passages in Christina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans is when Mayor sees Maribel in the Dollar Tree store for the first time. Mayor was shopping with his mother, Celia because the day prior someone had stolen an entire load of laundry from a washing machine at the Laundromat. When Mayor spots Maribel down an aisle, he describes her features. “She was skinny and petite. Big, full lips and a long, thin Indian nose. Black hair that reached down her back in waves. Long-as-hell eyelashes. I stopped and stared,” (Henriquez 40).
As Mayor is starring a Maribel, his mother, Alma notices and looks to see what caught his attention. Mayor attempts to escape when his mother realizes she is the new neighbor in their apartment. Alma approaches Maribel and her mother Celia. Alma introduces herself and Mayor. Mayor goes into great detail of how Maribel is dressed but not as if he is impressed. He describes her clothes outfit as, “white canvas sneakers straight out of another decades and a huge yellow sweater over leggings – and forget about the fact that her hair was mussed like she’d just woken up….she was gorgeous,” (Henriquez 40).
Henriquez continues on with Mayor’s emotional state by adding, “My heart was jack hammering so hard I thought people from the next aisle were going to start complaining about the noise, (Henriquez 41). During this encounter, Mayor learns that Maribel has something wrong with her but that did not seem to matter. He thought Maribel was gorgeous. This is the beginning of tender love.
Mayor takes a genuine interest in Maribel and throughout the novel, their young love and relationship grows. Even though Mayor’s father disapproves and questioned him, “Why can’t you talk to normal girls,” (Henriquez 108). His father’s questioning gets Mayor angry. Mayor genuinely cares for Maribel and demonstrates his patience for her. Maribel sustains a serious head injury leaving her brain damaged. This is challenging for Mayor and he describes their conversations as, “She wasn’t always good at keeping up with conversation – she lost her train of thought sometimes, and she talked slow in order to find the right words as she went along, and sometimes she forgot that we’d already discussed something, so I had to repeat myself,” (Henriquez 108). Then Mayor ends that sentence with, “but a lot of the things she said were smart.” (Henriquez 108). Mayor recognizes a kindred spirit in this beautiful, damaged outsider. Their friendship takes flight and blossoms. Mayor and Maribel share intimate moments. They experience their first passionate kiss.
An endearing yet pivotal turn is this love story is when Mayor takes his father’s car so he can take Maribel to see the ocean, while it was snowing. Mayor shows up at Maribel’s school unexpectedly and stands at her classroom window. He manages to get her attention and they leave together. This is a surprise for Maribel. Mayor had not seen Maribel for a while because he was forbidden to see Maribel. This was the consequence for being with Maribel alone in Mayor’s father’s car. That is where they shared their first kiss and an intimate one it was. When Mayor saw Maribel for the first time he affectionately states, “I felt electric just seeing her again, at sharing the air with her, at anything and everything,” (Henriquez 229).
Mayor hands Maribel his coat. It was three sizes too big. It reminded him of the day he first met Maribel at in the Dollar Tree. Mayor reminisces, “She’d been wearing that yellow sweater. She’d been swimming in it. Lost in it. Now she was lost in me. I shook my head and smiled. She made me think the craziest stuff, but I didn’t event care,” (Henriquez 233).
Emotionally, first love magnetism is also inescapable, according to Diana Raab, Ph.D., contributor to Psychology Today and The Huffington Post, “First loves are alluring because their magic defies duplication. Before our first love, our hearts are a blank slate. Afterwards, they are inscribed with great memories, and those feelings are not easily purged.” It changes us forever.
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, agrees, “First love sets the pattern for all loves to follow. We always thrill to physical looks that are similar to the first love, even when we wind up in a better relationship with someone who looks different.”
Register psychologist and dating expert Melanie schilling told The Huffington Post Australia, “In terms of why the first relationship tends to be so significant (and we know you have a certain person in mind),” Schilling says it’s because the intensity of the emotions are often heightened simply because they are being experienced for the first time.
Schilling adds, “I think from a biochemical point of view, you are experiencing certain hormones you haven’t felt before. It’s like going through puberty; it’s physical, it’s emotional, it’s intellectual. It can even be spiritual for some people,” Schilling said. “All of these feelings are being felt for the first time and for that reason, yes, they’re heightened.
Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based marriage and sex therapist, sums it up, “Everyone remembers their first love, so everyone can relate to this. As all these movies show, it does not always end well. The challenge is to hold on to the thrill and excitement that the romance brought you, and remember how you experienced yourself come alive with this first intimacy.”
Dr. Greer goes on to say, “Fleeting first love is special because you only get it once, whether you stay together or not. It’s the first chapter of your story that reminds you of who you were at a time when you were young and innocent. You were loved. You mattered to someone.” Dr. Greer points out, that’s reason enough to celebrate.
Blatchford, Emily, The Impact Your First Love Has On The Rest Of Your Relationships
Enriquez, Christina, The Book of Unknown Americans. First Vintage Contemporaries Edison, March 2015.