If what turns out to have been a really important relationship was discarded for a relatively trivial reason, you can try to pick it up again, but it is unlikely to be on friends-with-benefits terms
Aled, 53, and Jem, 49, got back together in 2014 after meeting in 1995, when they had a blissful year of freedom, hitchhiking up and down the UK, going to gigs and festivals, at one point following Patti Smith to every date she played in the country. “It was one of those moments of illumination,” says Jem. “We were at the last Patti Smith gig in London and he’d gone off for a little bit and came back with a backstage pass, but there was only one. And I thought: ‘Shit. Because it means so much to him. I can just wait in the bar.’ I was quite surprised at myself – I was only 22 and I was being quite mature. Then he grinned and held up a second pass.”
Often, if you don’t remember things the same way, it adds texture to the memory. “There was a really bright, effervescent, easy feeling about being around each other,” Aled says. Jem disagrees: “It wasn’t easy at all. I felt absolutely tongue?tied. I thought you were just so cool.”
There can be a distinctive sweetness, a lack of consequence, to these memories. Abse says they “return you to a place, emotionally, prior to all the knocks and betrayals of life”.
Kate and Jamie Laverty, both 44, have been married for 13 years and have two children, but they first dated in 1994, when they were 16. “Jamie joined my friend’s terrible indie band. He came on stage and I said: ‘Who’s he? He’s not in the band,’ and he heard me. That was so embarrassing.” Only 16-year-olds are capable of that exquisite cringing over moments that are really not that embarrassing.
Jem was going back to art school and wasn’t looking to settle down; neither was Aled. Kate and Jamie talked about going to adjacent universities, but then she didn’t get into Manchester, he didn’t get into Oldham and nobody had a mobile phone. She says: “I was really excited about university and I thought it would be sad to be thinking about someone else and not being able to see them. I just thought it would be a rubbish experience. And I didn’t think we’d be married 25 years later.”
Love is wasted on the young, because they don’t know anything. It is like giving a baby a mango – how are they supposed to know it is any more exotic than an apple? “There was a bit of a failure to recognise how brilliant our connection was – how rare and how precious,” Aled agrees.
“I thought if we got back together it would be instantly a serious relationship,” says Kate. “You couldn’t casually date someone who was your first love 13 years earlier. And it was like that.”
If celebrity relationships can crumble not because of incompatibility so much as the weight of public expectation, regular ones can fall apart simply because you don’t have much agency in that decade of transition – call it 15 to 25 – from childhood to adulthood
Jamie got back in touch with her via Facebook. “It came over quite quickly that he was thinking about the past,” she says. “If someone in online dating had sent these messages to me, three messages in, that would have been a red flag. But because I already knew him so well …” He came over for dinner and they were pretty much engaged before she produced the noodles (well, within six months). “It definitely felt romantic, it definitely felt like this was meant to be: this person from my past has swept back into my life.”