About That Guy You Had a Fling With When You Studied Abroadby Chiara Atik on July 09, 2012
When you make friends with someone right after college, at some point you’ll inevitably have a conversation where you’ll both compare stories of past loves: the high school boyfriend you thought was the real thing, the two week fling from Comp 101, the passionate foreign love from your semester abroad.
This week’s Modern Love was sort of like having that conversation.
The author, May Jeong, gives a somewhat breathless account of what seems to be her first love: an older man with whom she spends an unforgettable 7 days in Mumbai after college. She ends the essay on a wistful, hopeful note: she still dreams of Mumbai, and sometimes she even dreams of love.
I don’t quite know when I became so old and jaded — it happened without my noticing — but it was hard for me to take May’s love story quite as seriously as she seemed to.
“Meandering through the cobblestone streets of Istanbul, I asked myself the same question that the city’s resident man of letters Orhan Pamuk had once asked: Is love without hope simply hopeless?
To sit shiva, I read Barthes. I burrowed into his depressing but illuminating meditation on love.”
I picture her, somberly roaming the streets of Istanbul, mourning the end of her affair, with a bit of a smile, because: Oh, May. Barthes for a breakup? Who but a freshly-minted college kid can possibly afford to read Barthes every time a love story ends?
Which is not to downplay what May felt. That’s the thing about heartbreak: it hurts the exact same way whether you’re 16 or 22 or 35, whether 7 days or 7 years are coming to an end. And you’ll always have a certain fondness for that guy you fell in love with in your 20s, while abroad.