Something as simple as a bakery string tied around the wrist can be the most romantic gesture just as easily as a trip to Ikea can induce someone to consider driving both parties into the East River. Authors and podcast hosts Meg Bashwiner and Joseph Fink describe both in this ten-year-long love story told from alternating perspectives.
I love to reflect on past experiences: comparing the carefree smiles of my childhood to the few my mom caught on camera in my young adulthood, remembering the equal amounts of excitement and anxiety when I moved away for college, and basking in the many other steps towards independence and adulthood I’ve made on my own and, then, with my boyfriend by my side. What makes those memories feel even more valuable is when someone else was there to remember it with me. That other perspective always helps me fill out my Swiss cheese memories of a moment, helping us both remember it more fully. Meg Bashwiner and Joseph Fink do this, too, in the new book The First Ten Years, where they highlight the magic of falling in love and the humor of recalling differing details of the same story. Though in the end, they show that what matters is that, year after year, they’ve chosen to be together.
These two authors & podcasters can only be described as an adorkable duo, and even without knowing anything about Welcome to Nightvale, I love everything about this book. It’s far from an overly nostalgic recollection or a search for rekindling the sparks of their youth. It’s more like the two are retracing their steps to better acknowledge and appreciate the many changes in both themselves and the world around them.
The reader gets a clear idea of what it was like to fall in love in 2009, including liking every one of someone’s posts on Facebook, saying the first “I love yous” through text, and dealing with strange roommates and housing situations in the wake of the US stock market crash. But we also get to see the tenacity of two separate twenty-two year old personalities working through their own issues—Joseph strived for independence after the messy end of an 8-year relationship, his father was dying, and he was laid off from work; Meg was living with her parents post-Theatre Arts school and wrestling with reliances on smoking, drugs, and binge eating. And at the same time, we see them tackle their joint issues—the fights and brief breakups while figuring out how to live together, dealing with homesickness on their podcast tours, and their evolving views on having children. And amidst all these issues, every chapter on each of the ten years they’ve been together ends with an understanding of the other’s growing importance in their life. As Joseph concludes his reflection on his many years of sleep issues:
There are so many factors that go into a love story. Factors that are tiny and factors that are monumental, and all of them matter. […] Along with our approaches to life, and our approaches to each other, and our shared years, we also have this: when I wake up for the fifth time that night, and roll over to fall asleep again, Meg doesn’t stir from her sleep. It’s on such tiny miracles that a shared life is built.
I hope The First Ten Years inspires others to retell, relive, and re-examine their own love stories to uncover realizations about how finding one’s way in the world with a partner can, at different moments, be strengthening or draining, and how romance can take many shapes and forms throughout a relationship. Something as simple as a bakery string tied around the wrist can be the most romantic gesture just as easily as a trip to Ikea can induce someone to consider driving both parties into the East River. “But I elected to just rage scream at him instead,” Bashwiner reflects, “Relationships are not a straight line.” When we read love stories, we know how they end, so it makes it even more exciting and impactful to learn about every step that partners take along the way—sometimes uncertain, but always together.