Because Just Like You Said It Would Be is essentially a coming of age tale wrapped around a love story, I’ve been thinking about love a lot lately—and which elements of love stories I particular enjoy and/or find compelling. I want to talk about a few of them here, but often it’s music that does the purest and best job of communicating what it feels like to fall in love.
* Dancing to you all night long
Below are a few songs that I personally believe faithfully translate the feeling of falling in love. Listen to the great Bill Withers hold the hell out of that final note at the end of Lovely Day (*this is believed to be the second longest note in UK chart history) and who, while falling head over heels, could argue with the Elton John lyric, “How wonderful life is while you're in the world” from Your Song? One of my perennial favourite lyrics comes from Billy Bragg’s A Lover Sings: “It's things like this that remind me of how I felt/The first time you came back for coffee. The way you took it amazed me.”
But I don’t have to stretch back in time for examples, here and now there’s Warpaint singing, “you're a new song baby, you're a new song to me” and “dancing to you all night long.”
This is what it’s like to fall in love. You didn’t realize it could be this way, and then suddenly you do. Every little thing about the person you’re in love with feels like a wondrous revelation. Their very existence seems to alter reality. The love story-lines that hit me the hardest (some examples are Tender by Belinda McKeon, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo)—whether they centre on relationships that will last, ones that will burn to ashes, or even ones that will never actually start in earnest—often reflect the above feelings palpably.
* Where is all this going?
When I’m reading about love, I don’t actually want the foregone conclusion of a happy ending. I want the journey to feel authentic. That way, I can celebrate and buy into in the happy ending if it materializes and feel devastated along with the character(s) if it doesn’t. Above all, like Fox Mulder, I want to believe whatever happens, and believe in the characters. One of my favourite young adult love stories is Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar and it’s not a book you would describe as a romance; it’s a book about healing, but I believed and fell for every word about Carly and Ryan. The raw honesty sparks.
Hands down my favourite element of the original Office series was the friendship-but-could-it-be-more? pairing of Tim and Dawn. Surrounded by equal parts mayhem and drudgery, Tim and Dawn are the folks we root for. I’ve seldom seen as good an example of people who like each other as Tim and Dawn (and their American Office counterparts Jim and Pam too) on TV or at the movies. We see a lot of chemistry and conflict in potential relationships but the dynamic that I consider the best foundation for love often is short-changed or skipped altogether. Other good examples of this is the friendship that develops between Harry and Sally in When Harry Met Sally after they meet for the third time, the sweet lightness between Patrick and Richie of the Looking TV series and the messy but authentic attachment between Isabel and Smith in Let’s Get Lost by Sarra Manning.
* Across the divide
The moment an invisible divide between two people is crossed, some kind of act of (wanted obviously!) intimacy suddenly uniting them.
This can be something as simple as someone brushing the hair out of your eyes when you’ve never really even touched before, or suddenly taking your hand.
For me the two standout examples that spring to mind are 1) Robert Redford tying Barbara Streisand’s undone shoelace in The Way We Were before they ever become a couple.
2) Remember the scene in the Casino Royale remake when Bond and Vesper are attacked by terrorists in a stairwell? And much later, after Bond has returned to the card game and then his suite, to find a broken wine glass and hears his shower running? A traumatized Vesper’s sitting on the shower floor, soaked and fully clothed and eventually offering the anguished explanation that the blood on her hands won’t come off. James has sat down next to her so that now he’s being drenched by the shower too. Then he takes her hand, places her fingers in his mouth and sucks them clean.
* Alone in the Universe
David Usher has a song about this experience, and unsurprisingly it’s called Alone in the Universe
I have a scene like this in One Lonely Degree where Finn feels it with Jersy, the boy from her past, as they’re watching snow fall. Anyone who has been in love has felt this at some point, that for a certain moment in time the two of you are a universe onto itself.
We shove our shoes on and go out through the sliding door in the kitchen. The backyard has a swimming pool in it, but it’s impossible to imagine summer. The snow’s coming down so thick and soft that Jersy and I are already covered in fuzz. I fold my arms in front of me and hunch over, doing my best to hold on to my body heat. It’s quiet the way only winter can be, and I’m almost afraid to say anything, in case words ruin it.
“It’s like the inside of a snow globe,” Jersy says, smiling and hunching over next to me. I look at his breath on the air and nod.
We stand silently watching the snow fall for as long as I can stand it. The hazy orange lights from other houses seem miles away. It feels like we’re the only people on the planet, Jersy and me. It’s weird. He’s so quiet next to me, but that only makes him feel more real and near.
I sneak another look at him, for safekeeping. If I had more guts, maybe I’d do something more.
Trust me to ruin the moment for myself without even saying a word.
* This isn’t over
Because if it really matters, you'll fight for it! Like in the hallway scene of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind when Joel, having had all his memories of his relationship with Clementine wiped, wants to start again.
Joel: I can't see anything that I don't like about you.
Clementine: You will, you will think of things...and I'll get bored with you and feel trapped because that's what happens with me.
They both laugh in acceptance.
Another classic example comes from The Last of the Mohicans. Daniel Day Lewis parts from Madeline Stowe with the words, “You stay alive. If they don’t kill you, they’ll take you north up to Huron lands. You submit, do you hear? You’re strong. You survive. You stay alive no matter what occurs. I will find you…no matter how long it takes, no matter how far. I will find you.”
* The moment(s) someone becomes attractive to you
Sometimes it happens all at once, like being struck by lightning. You see someone, and you don’t want to look away. Other times it’s a slow burn. A dozen things they do build upon each other to transform someone from the person you knew before into someone who gives you butterflies when they look you in the eye. Amira in Just Like You Said It Would Be explains her experience like this:
It was a surprise to see him in broad daylight. I wish I could say he wasn’t as good looking as I’d remembered and that he’d gone back to being the guy I’d barely noticed at the restaurant. But that would be a lie. Darragh’s song, and our subsequent conversation in Zoey’s backyard, seemed to have flicked a switch inside my head that I didn’t have the power to turn off.
And that's my incomplete list, post-Valentine's Day, of some of the things I like to see in a love story. It doesn't escape me that many of the things I talked about aren't from books or movies that are primarily love stories, but they might give you an idea of what Just Like You Said It Would Be is like.