There was once a simpler time, not so long ago, when the past would stay happily and anonymously where it belonged: far behind you.
Exes, one night stands, bad mistakes… you used to be able to quickly forget them, change a routine or two (avoid the café your ex loves for breakfast, ditch the nightclub you picked up that guy at) and move on with your life.
Not anymore. The Internet has put all those people just a keystroke away from us – Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter. We have full, unrestricted access to everyone, no matter where they are in the world.
And who is the one person you can’t help but Google-stalk every once in awhile?
Your first love, of course.
I met mine at a Bluelight disco. He was my first ever boyfriend. With the clarity of 20/20 vision, I don’t know that it was necessarily love, but at the time I fell hard. He wore tencel jeans (remember them?) and a soft white v-neck jumper.
His hair was dark, his eyes were green and he had a lopsided smile and braces. He would cover his mouth when he smiled because he hated people seeing his braces.
I can tell you just about everything that happened between us. I recall it all as if it happened just last week. It only lasted three months, but it was a torrid 90 days of hormones and long phone calls. We didn’t even see each other that often.
It’s not just me.
We all remember with alarming clarity our firsts. Our first kiss, first love, first time we have sex… it’s all seared right into our brain more clearly than any other experiences we encounter in our young lives.
It’s called the primacy effect and our minds take special care to store these firsts into catalogued memories as a reference point for how our life came to be what it is today.
An experience like a first kiss sparks a flurry of sensations we’ve never felt before – making it even more sticky in our memories.
Any first is also a novelty for our brains, who send out huge doses of pleasure hormones. Butterflies in our tummies, tingles up and down our spine… All this combined makes a memory that is delicious and poignant enough to last a lifetime.
In addition to the primacy effect, first love has something else going for it as well – it’s the only time you’ve fallen head-over-heels without having had your heart broken before.
You’ve never been hurt, so you’re loving in a way you will never be able to love again. It’s true, innocent, heart-fluttering love.
And it’s no wonder we can tend to fixate on that for the rest of our lives.
I’m sure all the happy memories I’ve just stirred up has your fingers itching to type your first love’s name into the nearest search engine.
But reconnecting with them via the enabler that is Facebook isn’t always a good idea.
Relationship psychologists worldwide have for years been reporting happy – yes, happy – committed relationships and marriages are being shaken by people getting back in touch with their lost first loves.
The memory of that youthful, exuberant love cloud is so strong and so sweet it can draw you back in without you even realising it.
The fact is, though, these lost loves can never be friends of yours. They never were and it’s rare for firsts to come back together and be able to stay platonic. The magnetism is too strong.
If you’re happy in your current relationship, it’s fire you don’t want to mess with, however simple and secret technology has made it for you.
That said, if you do find yourself single and looking for love, going back there could well be a fantastic idea. Even reunited years later, these “first love” couples often have passionate and long-lasting relationships to make others envious.
As for my freckle-spattered “first love”, he still puts a smile on my face when I see his photo. But I have a feeling the memories are better than the real thing all these years later anyway. And I’d like to keep them that way.
What do you remember about your first love?