Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Revelations of a First Love

"First loves are always the same and always different," Roger Ebert wrote after French film "Blue Is the Warmest Color" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival five years ago on May 23. That may be the most truthful statement Ebert ever wrote.

I experienced my first real love when I was 17, which is roughly the age of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), but it was not as confusing as Adèle's experience. I knew I was attracted to the opposite sex. Adèle did not, and she experimented with a young man from her school but found that unsatisfying.

Then, after sharing a kiss with a female student and fantasizing about an older girl with blue hair whose name, the audience would learn, was Emma (Léa Seydoux), she began to question her sexuality. The movie was about the relationship between Adèle and Emma — told, as Ebert wrote, in "epic detail."

It had to be told that way, I suppose, because, by their very nature, same–sex relationships are learn–as–you–go types of things. There is no shortage of advice books about heterosexual relationships because the vast majority of relationships are heterosexual. When I was a teenager — and I presume it is still that way — there were few if any books on same–sex relationships that could answer the myriad of questions that accompany them.

Emma was more experienced than Adèle and had already found answers to her questions. In fact, when Adèle first encountered Emma, Emma was with another female and, the audience would learn, had had previous same–sex relationships.

As Ebert said, first loves are always the same and always different. In the unlikely event that the viewer had not experienced a first love, there is much truth in that. To tell the story of a first love, it is necessary, as Ebert observed, to do so in "epic detail."

That includes all the awkward moments and the sexual exploration, which are the same for all and yet different. Awkward moments will always be awkward, and — considering how much of the population is estimated to be heterosexual — it must be a real challenge for homosexuals when it comes to those initial sexual experiences.

I remember when I was a teenager, and all the males in my junior high were herded into the auditorium for a lecture on sex. The emphasis was entirely on heterosexual sex. I presume it was the same for the girls. Those students who were homosexuals — or, at least, had concluded that they had homosexual tendencies — probably found those assemblies boring — as, I am sure, any heterosexually active students, did.

The assemblies really only addressed the physical aspects of sexual relationships, not the emotional ones.

I was one of the rare ones, I guess. When I was in junior high, my sexual activity was, at best, flirtation with girls I found attractive. Even through my high school years, it never went any further than that.

Which proves Ebert's point. Many of my classmates — I didn't know which ones then, and I don't know today, either — had already engaged in some sexual experimentation, even if they hadn't yet experienced their first loves.

I was very naive as a boy. I tended to believe just about anything my classmates told me, assuming they had more experience than I did, and teenage boys are always eager to take credit for sexual exploits whether they happened or not. Looking back, I would have to say that my faith was misplaced. Most probably had the same experience level I did — although everyone's experiences are different.

Anyway, to a certain extent, I suppose some critics' complaints that "Blue Is the Warmest Color" was a pornographic film were justified. There was considerable nudity in the movie. And some critics complained that it was pedophilic, given the fact that Adèle was under 18.

But it had to be that way because most people, it seems to me, have their first sexual experiences in their teen years. Sometimes they are 18 or older, but often they are not. I wasn't.

I knew a girl in college who suspected, back in high school, that she was homosexual, but she didn't have her first physical homosexual experience until she was over 18.

Like Ebert said: "First loves are always the same and always different."