Do You Ever Forget Your First Love?

I spent a couple of years writing love stories for the Houston Chronicle Sunday edition and a lot of them were about reunited first loves. There is something so powerful about a young first love experience that it seems people never quite completely shake it off. Is it because it happens when our hearts are still innocent and pure – before that first inevitable heartbreak? Many go searching to recapture that lost love.

Well, my story of first love does not quite follow that pattern, and we did not end up together. Still it is a memory that stays with me in the most healthy and positive way. In many ways, the confidence I gained from this experience starting at age 15 until about 18, gave me the momentum to overcome the many hurdles in my life and become the success I am today.

I was a romanticist living in a truly hopeless and dreary situation as a young teen. I started working when I was 10 years old to buy clothes and other niceties that young girls wanted. I, at times, worked two and three jobs at the same time and went to school, trying to keep up my grades so I could go to college. At home during my little free time, I had to clean house because my mother worked. A real life Cinderella.

When I was in eighth grade I saw the Franco Zeffirelli movie Romeo & Juliet with Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey at least 15 times. (I paid for it myself!) A believer in fairy tales and with an irrepressible optimism despite my grim circumstances, I knew I was destined for a great and powerful love such as theirs that I saw over and over again on the big screen. Oh yeah, I was a dreamer.

Yet sometimes dreams come true. I likened my story to a real life Cinderella meeting her prince, and I was just 15 when I met my prince. He was tall (6 foot to my 5 foot 7 – a necessity) and handsome, funny and talented. In the massive universe of our urban high school, we somehow connected. It seemed to me that he was the cutest boy in the entire school. He was a grade older and it took a bit of flirting work to get his interest. Once I did though, in short order, we fell deeply in love, and in our young hearts and minds we felt we were soul mates, destined to be written into the great annals of love history – like Romeo & Juliet, minus the tragedy.

Arlene Nisson -- August 1973

His white horse was a brand new light blue Pontiac Firebird, and he swooped me off to great adventures on a weekly, and then daily basis in my teenage years. It was with him when I experienced my first of many, many rock concerts, and saw my first Broadway show.  It was when I first experienced elegant dining, being brought gifts and flowers, and being made to feel like a princess for the first time in my life. We were from different socioeconomic circumstances, and he could afford to spoil me.

Aside from the great fun, the hours of time spent on our mutual love of music and slapstick, and excessive amount of laughter we shared, we nurtured each other’s talents and dreams at a very vulnerable and impressionable time in life. In fact, I was the first to passionately believe in his talent and knew he would become something great.  We wrote gorgeous prose in the form of daily love letters to one another and I still have his letters tied up in a bow in a great big box of mementos.Ironically, both of us have become writers and he has become well respected in Hollywood in his field. We share a mutual pride in each other’s talents and accomplishments.

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The above is an actual letter from him pulled from the “box.”

With our immaturity, our young love wasn’t picture perfect. It could be volatile with many intoxicating highs and devastating lows. A combination of parental pressures and other life forces and ambitions broke us up but somehow we managed to remain friends all throughout these many years. My children know this great guy as “Uncle Howard” who always bestowed wonderful treats on them.

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That’s him on the far right above, a few years ago with me, my husband and all the kids.

I think of him on occasion and especially on his birthday, which happened to be the same day as our very first date oh so many years ago. So in honor of his birthday, I wrote this little tribute to him and the first love that we shared.

My mature heart, knowing full well where my love priorities are these days, will always keep some warm embers glowing for my first love. I have never felt the urge to run off with him as an adult, and yet, I feel compelled to tenderly keep him among my most treasured friends.



  • Hello Arlene,
    I read your blog on ” Do You Ever Forget Your First Love? I really enjoyed your story.

    I met my first love when I was 15 years old in San Diego, California 1989. He was in the Navy and 9 years older that me. My first love found me on Facebook almost a year ago. I have never stopped loving him and he has been looking for me for years. I really feel we have a great story that is still unfolding. We had a baby in October of 1992 that died 3 hrs after he was born and after he was born he could not handle it along with other things he was dealing with and we went our separate ways, and I was left to deal with the grief all by myself with no closure. I did not understand what happened since we had so much fun and we were the best of friends. The pregnancy was his idea, hurt, abandoned, confused and feeling rejected I turned to drug and alcohol abuse. All that is behind me and I have chosen to forgive.
    There is so much to our story that everyone keeps telling me that its sound like a move or love story in a book. I am not a writer and would like some advice on how to start.

    Thank you so much for you time.

  • Hello, this blog it’s already posted for a while. I wanted to xomment because i really want your respond actually, i never have any love or in a relationship before, i never bother to think about that until i came across your blog. And you are a very lucky women who have a very nice friend. I used to think that love is very impossible for me to felt it, many of my friends already have their own partner. I think i never find that one person that will be by my side and love. I mean, is it possible? So far no one have any intention to take an interest of me, is it really possible that one person will truly loves me just like your first love?

    Thank you for the sharing about your experience and sorry if there were some words wrong in my comment, english is not my first language 🙂

  • Thanks for all the postings and info on first loves. I’ve been reading on this subject avidly as I’m considering contacting my lost love of over 40 years ago. My story is a bit different than the ones I’ve read- I’ve come to the conclusion that my first love really and truly was the right man for me, only after years of failed relationships, a failed marriage and divorce, a longstanding relationship with a guy who was a pathological liar and pothead. All the while what I was really searching for was my first love and using that relationship as the ‘gold standard’ for all others. Needless to say, none even came close and I discovered I was trying to attribute my first love’s attributes to others who could not and did not hold a candle to him. In retrospect I think I knew all along he was the one and chose to bury it, deny it to maintain distance. He was 16 and I, 15 and we had somehting really special together, but I made up an excuse to end it as it was getting way too hot and heavy, leading to problems not well accepted in that day and age. Of course I wasn’t about to talk to him since that sort of thing was taboo back then, and I did not have parents that were easy to talk to. So I let him go. That choice was the beginning of the end- choosing wrong men every step of the way but those experiences have led me to think about my first love and how right we were together. I’ve not seen or heard from him in over 40 years, he may still have bad feelings about how I let him go, or decided I wasn’t worth thinking about. Who knows, I’ll just have to leave the expectations alone and let the universe do what it sees best.

  • My first love came back to me after 30 years. He has searched for me last five years. We are now in our 50,s. I was heartbroken when we split up. Also according to my diary. (Poems) Was not our time then. Is it now? Hope so. Couldn’t write this story…. We are now very much in love. Planning a new life together……….

  • Hi, I found this article and although it’s been written a while ago I thought I would leave a comment anyway.
    I think it’s interesting about first love and I never thought I would be now 33 years old and engaged to mine after we parted ways in our teenage years for him to go join the military and I went on to being married and then divorcing. We lost contact and after reuniting 14 years later we have been together ever since. It was surreal and felt perfect from the first moment we met to see each other after years of being apart. He loves me to bits and I do him. I am so glad we got to find each other again and to spend the rest of our adult life together. Maybe it’s my fairy tale coming true and I know everyone’s situation is different regarding first loves but for the first time in my life I have never been so content and happy with someone.

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  • I just found this article, so beautiful. Two years ago I received a text from my first love, first best friend whom I haven’t seen in 34 years. It was with this friend that I was my most true self. As you mention we inspired eachother & trusted we’d be sharing that together. Something happened and we weren’t allowed to see each other. We had eventually each joined a different branch of the military. No internet, cell phones or reliable mail back then. I had looked for him for years if only to learn the truth.

    In current time we quickly discovered that the confused ending to our relationship had hurt us both deeply. So much so that it impacted adult decisions. It was nearly a year before we could stand to talk on the phone. It is difficult to process that such emotion is so enduring. We have also discovered that our family & friends had not been truthful years ago and that is a present day issue to process. This hurt is different. In our adult friendship we have decided to work through these things to help with the torment that we both experienced since that time. It has not been an easy journey. I cherish not only the past friendship but what we are able to have now. I think we have one photo, which makes us laugh. I am thankful that I have a husband (whom I adore) that realizes how important this is to me.

    • Hi Anne, I have a similar story as yours, however I was never in love with my husband of 22 years and after 7 years of holding my first love as a dear friend through the phone, we finally met and fell in love all over again and got into a very intimate relationship that is putting my mariage at serious risk. do you run such risk?

      • Interesting question and I think that only happens when there has been a long separation and unresolved feelings. (or current unhappiness) Definitely not in my case.

        • my first love was unresolved and we went our separate ways due to families incompatibility, but never stopped thinking of each other for 20 years till we started connecting via social media few years ago, and now we met on the 9th cloud. Should i leave my husband whom I befriended but never loved for the love of my life??? I am tormented choosing between steady boring life and risky passionate one.. help

    • Thanks Anne, usually respond to comments more quickly. Appreciate your taking the time to write.

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  • Remarkable issues here. I am very glad to peer your post. Thanks so much and I am having a look ahead to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  • Just sitting here for a few minutes savoring your blog. Arlene, you are such a lucky girl.

  • Very cute and, as always, interesting reading. But, for whatever it’s worth, Gary looks much better today!

  • Very sweet, Arlene! He wrote very mature words for a high school boy!

    I never had a boyfriend in high school, didn’t go to either prom. I remember at the first NE reunion, a couple guys told me, they wanted to ask me out but was afraid I would say no.

    Other than my husband, I don’t think anyone ever wrote me any notes, etc..

  • what a heart-warming blog, so close to Valentine’s Day. I never saved a single photo or letter, but then again, I was never the recipient of such sentiment..only the giver. Maybe some guy out there actually saved some of my buried treasures…it would be heavenly to uncover them!

  • I am so impressed by how you manage to keep so many people from your past life a part of your present one. I tend to be the sort who breaks things off dramatically and for good, from friends, to lovers, to former bosses. Your way is better.

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