Last night I finished The Age of Innocence.
I like the whole idea of class, social propriety, and rules. I really do. And the whole “dressing for dinner” thing, and it’s like NYC in the time of Downton Abbey. What’s better than that?
I will say though, Edith Wharton has a knack for anticlimactic endings. I haaaaaaaaaaated Ethan Frome. This book was anticlimactic, I suppose, but I can relate. At the end, Newland won’t go up to see the love of his life, who was forced out of his life 30 years ago, because he has a perfect memory of her, and doesn’t want to ruin it.
It’s funny, sometimes. You can meet someone and have insane chemistry and a crazy connection – and then it’s over, in a flash. And you might think of them every day, but as the years pass, the memory of that person becomes idealized. You might or might not get the opportunity to see them again, but when you do, you don’t want to because what if everything is different, and it taints the perfect memory you have?
I met a guy while on study abroad, and we fell head over heels for each other in what can only be described as a modern day whirwind romance. We kept in contact a few days at a time at first, and then weeks, then months…then he stopped all together. I see him pop up on Instagram and Facebook every now and again, and each time my stomach flips. Every year I wish him a happy birthday (and he responds and makes my heart race)…but that’s as far as it goes. He’s my one that got away…and I still think of him often – daily even. But it will be 7 years in July that we said goodbye, so now all I have is a memory. And even if I had the chance to see him again, I don’t know that I’d be able to…what if he’s different? I’m different…so why wouldn’t he be different? And if we’re both different, there’s a very good chance that what we had was actually nothing. At the time it was something and it was something so powerful it’s stuck with me all these years – enough to be life changing, even. But what if now it’s nothing? The way I felt was so intense that I am afraid if we see each other again, it would taint the memory, and I’d have to say goodbye to what it made me believe in: The Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.
I, like Newland, would rather hang on to that perfect memory.