the swoon and how to get it

I’m writing this early and breaking a personal rule by talking about something before it’s happened. But there’s a lot to be said for writing a post early and letting it go up automatically, and I don’t believe in jinxes, so here we go: Tomorrow I intend to visit two used bookstores in a town just outside of Ottawa. Finding a new UBS is a giddy experience for me, because my personal addiction is not easily quenched. Here you see two books from my collection of eighties teen romances. These two are from my particular favorite line, First Love from Silhouette. It’s easier to find Sweet Dreams up here, which is a bit of a downer, but they’ll also do just fine. My eye is open for my very favorite First Love, which actually has a love interest named Myron. (If I’d only known!) I could buy these things on eBay or Amazon, but it would ruin the chase.

My mom started buying these for me when I was very little. She would go to KMart during the day, and I’d come home from school to find a book or two on my bed with a new shirt or pair of shoes. She liked to surprise me. (Today I’m overcome with emotion because of that gesture, which is so much of her in one behavior.) I ate them up. They’re incredibly short and have large typefaces, but—and this is a humbling thing to admit—the real reason I ate them up is because they were about boys, which are absolutely mystifying to a girl of ten, eleven, or twelve years. I read my fair share of grown-up romances even at that time, but there is something about these that is more enchanting than I can probably articulate here in one three-paragraph entry. And it’s not just the sweaters and the eighties hair on the covers. See that chick on the right-hand book? Some days, my hair looks like that in 2010. My hair has never gotten over the eighties.

So many of them are bad; it’s one reason that there are blogs out there that mock them. And honestly, a lot of them deserve the mockery. (Wait till I tell you about the one with the circus monkey someday.) The thing I can tell today, from the vantage point of many years, is that they were incredibly didactic: They taught you how to be a good girlfriend, what to look for in a boy, what parts of yourself never to sacrifice, what kind of friend to be. Today’s books for young people are so much more sophisticated that it’s hard to believe that my naive favorites were written twenty-five years ago instead of fifty. (Although I must admit that Beverly Cleary’s teen romances were also among my favorites, and those were written in the 1950s.) No one’s relationship is perfect in real life, but I do believe that some people are made for you and that the swoon is not only real, but necessary. These books taught me, way before I was really ready, how to pick ‘em. I didn’t even know what I was learning, but it paid off in the end. So off I go, bearing cash and tote bags, and my fingers are crossed in hopes for a motherlode. Wish me luck?