Is it just me or did Tom Cruise and young starlet Katie Holmes meet, date, make chastity vows and get engaged in the amount of time it takes the rest of us to do our taxes? Though it means admitting that I've leafed through a copy of the debased In Touch magazine, I've noticed that accelerated relationships are a pandemic in LA. It seems remarkable to me how fast things move in Hollywood: Brad Pitt gets a divorce, hooks up with one of the hottest babes in the universe and is all about adopting Ethiopian babies within a matter of weeks. Avril Lavigne, at the tender age of twenty, is getting married to a black-haired Canadian rocker she's been seeing for less than a year. The all-American duo of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner (met and married within months) will be popping out a dimpled-faced baby in no time.
Some might say that trashy celebrity mags and time-delayed gossip simply make it appear that things move fast in Hollywood. Maybe so, but I've noticed that accelerated relationships are not just for manic Oprah-spooking celebrities anymore-they're everywhere. Let's say you've been seeing the same guy for six months or so. You might be able to admit that, yes, you have sleepovers several times a week and, yes, you might call him your boyfriend (even if he's around). You're not talking about the "future" or when you'll move in together, but you're able to discuss a possible road trip in the autumn or having him meet your mum. You're chugging happily along-sometimes you may wonder where the Cruise-like fist-pumping declarations of crazy love are, but mostly you feel that the slow boat is a pretty good place to be.
I blame summer-it's the season most likely to encourage accelerated relationships. We feel reckless. We want to spend more time "doing nothing," but we want to do it with someone special.
But then-then!-one of your friends goes away for the weekend and meets some guy whom she kind of knew before but wasn't all that interested in. He perseveres in his wooing. He declares his love. She takes a sidelong glance and decides to give it a go. What luck! The guy is not only a professed commitment junkie and proverbial "good guy," but he's also magically great in bed. She comes back from the weekend (okay, long weekend, we'll give her that) with the guy having asked her if he can be her boyfriend and casually querying if she would ever consider moving from Montreal to Toronto. Toronto!
It's not jealousy I feel in moments like this, it's dumbfoundedness. It's marvel. I am always overjoyed when my friends meet someone with whom they click, but I also wonder why some relationships move so fast. These days I prescribe to the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach, and when I hear about this kind of "fast love," it's hard not to feel just a few pricks of paranoia. Is my slow relationship actually going somewhere? Does "slow" really mean, "I'm not quite sure about this yet"?
The sage, yoga-doing girl in me knows that you can't ever be sure how things are going to go when it comes to love-fast, slow or otherwise. She knows that you have to live in the moment. She knows not to panic about the future. Most importantly, she knows that while promises are very nice, there aren't many that can't be broken. But at the same time, the other part of me-the impetuous romantic girl-likes hearing those sweet nothings from time to time.
I don't think all accelerated relationships are doomed. There is no mathematical equation for time and love.
I admit that I'm impressed by accelerated love, but that excitement is tempered by the observation that relationships that start off with a bang usually end with a bigger bang. This summer I've been witness to a few fast flings that had many seasons of their own. In one example, a couple met and, a few weeks later (due to an unfortunate apartment situation), the boy moved in with the girl. They were a fun, happy, sexy couple, but soon began fighting about the very things that my sixty-something aunt and uncle do: he drinks too much at a parties, she owns too many clothes, the table needs to be cleared after dinner. In a way, there was something charmingly intimate about this kind of bickering, but there was also something disconcerting about it. Don't we lead up to that kind of familiarity? Do we really want the whole package in the first month? Isn't it more romantic to hold off on the badgering for a bit?
I blame summer-it's the season most likely to encourage accelerated relationships. We feel reckless. We want to spend more time "doing nothing," but we want to do it with someone special. Everyone knows that there's nothing like a finite end (like moving away at the end of the summer) to make something become more romantic and slightly tragic; what we don't always think about, however, is that the short-lived relationship goes through all the stages-the honeymoon, the devotion, the disenchantment, and back again-before the leaves have time to even redden.
I don't think all accelerated relationships are doomed. There is no mathematical equation for time and love. My friend's parents had an arranged marriage and grew to love each other very deeply over many decades. For other people, it's love at first sight and they never stop looking at each other. There are less happy stories, of course-the older sister of a good friend of mine dated a guy for six months, got hitched and realized she didn't really know her husband all that well. Suddenly she's a twenty-six-year-old divorcee teaching sports camp in Switzerland.
I guess if you have guts you can just dive in headfirst, without really looking-sometimes it's a perfect ten, sometimes there's a rock. There's nothing wrong with that. But the most cautious of us are still trying to perfect the swan dive-and there's nothing wrong with that, either.
Emma Appleby (Poppy Wilkinson) is a fabulous force on the Montreal scene. Read more recent columns by Emma Appleby.