A love-at-first-sight skeptic: Who's she gonna believe?

BALTAMOUR

February 23, 2008|By MARYANN JAMES

Kimberly Broadie says she experienced love at first sight at 19, when she met her future husband at school.

"We saw each other and our eyes kind of locked, and that was it," she says. "And after class that day, he asked if I would study with him. Ever since then, we've kind of been together."

Broadie, now 27, says she knew it was something special the moment she met him.

"My body was tingling, and I was just looking at him like, `Oh, he's nice. He's cute,' " the Pasadena resident says. "I don't know. It was just an awareness all around me."

When it comes to love at first sight, I've always been skeptical. Lust? Surely. Attraction or infatuation? Most definitely. But love at first sight is not real. It's an idea that's in league with all the other fairy tales and warm and fuzzy fantasies. No, Virginia, there is no love at first sight.

But it appears I may be outnumbered in my belief. Beyond their gruff exteriors, many people in and around Baltimorea are soft and sappy romantics.

Jim Dupree of Northeast Baltimore says it was love at first sight when he met his wife more than 40 years ago.

At 7 or 8, he had a crush on her, a girl a few years older than he. He'd ask her if she wanted to play jacks -- "I tried to play girls' games to get her attention," he says -- but she didn't give him the time of day.

"I did like her when I was a little boy," says Dupree, now 52. "I didn't think much of girls, but I did like her."

They both moved away, got married, got divorced and ran into each other when they were in their late 20s, visiting their parents' homes. That time, they clicked. And now they've been happily married for more than 20 years.

"I do think it's possible," Dupree says of love at first sight. "I can't say it's rare, but I might just be lucky."

As co-founder of HurryDate, a New York-based speed-dating service, Adele Testani has had a lot of experience with first meetings. But she isn't so sure that instant love is possible.

"I believe in lust at first sight, and chemistry ... love is a deeper emotion that comes when you truly get to know a person," she says.

Michael Sunnafrank, a communication-studies professor at the University of Minnesota, agrees.

"By most definitions of love, love at first sight is impossible, since all generally accepted definitions of romantic love include knowing one another well as a defining characteristic," he wrote in an e-mail. "This is impossible when first meeting."

Sunnafrank, who has done research on attraction and relationship outcomes after the infatuation stage, says that first rush can lead people to don "rose-colored glasses" when it comes to their love object and not see the whole picture, "producing an inaccurate understanding of who the other person is. It is not until this passes that partners come to have a better knowledge of one another."

Rina Singh, 26, shares the experts' skepticism.

"I'll believe in infatuation. I think love takes a lot more. And I love a lot of people," says the downtown Baltimore resident, laughing. "It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot more than an initial glance."

Perhaps us skeptics are taking the definition of love at first sight too literally. Kim Davis, 24, of Columbia says she didn't actually love her boyfriend at first sight. "I thought he had potential," she says. "I had a feeling."

Broadie and Dupree mentioned that feeling, too. So did Jackie Hammet of Union Square, who met her future husband when they were 21.

"I just knew I could live with this person forever," she says.

It's hard not to be swayed by the glut of happy stories, but I'm still skeptical. I think Testani has the right idea: Perhaps the luck of love spurs a bit of revisionist history in the minds of these crazy-in-love couples.

"I think a lot of people may say that they've personally experienced love at first sight," she says. "I just think that they're very, very lucky people .... where chemistry and attraction have turned into love."

Love definitions aside, Hammet, 41, says love at first sight is not a guarantee for a happy ending.

"I think you have to listen to your heart," she says. "If you looked at this person and felt this warm, fuzzy, wow-I-can-be-with-you-forever, it probably is love at first sight. Take your time and develop it."

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