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Can we dissect a trope?

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blackcat777

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I don't even know what this one is called, but -

Girl is way too young to possibly have any kind of sexual feelings (let's say like six years old), but has a positive adult mentor in her life who she just KNOWS she is in love with. Then circumstances separate them for years, she can't forget him, and ends up going on a wild quest in her teenage years to find him.

I guess this is a trope that I've only been able to approach logically, because for whatever reason it doesn't trigger me personally, and I don't have that kind of personal experience in my life to relate to.

Every time I watch Rurouni Kenshin and teenage Misato spills her guts about her quest to find Aoshi who taught her kenpo - when she was six - I'm always like, "BUT SHE WAS ONLY SIX!! HOW CAN SHE LOVE HIM THAT WAY, IF SHE WAS ONLY SIX?!?!"

I'm analyzing it, and thinking the appeal of the trope is an extremely pure type of love?

I've seen it a few times in reading and came across it again tonight. It makes for a compelling story and I'm not by any means knocking it - it's just not a storybuilding block I reach for intuitively (unlike, say, Mr. Rochester ;) ), and therefore it holds my interest (also like Mr. Rochester, but now I digress). I was curious to hear everyone else's thoughts about the trope, likes or dislikes, different ways it can be played, stabs at a Freudian explanation, etc.

I might want to save it in my Box of Future Writing Tricks. So please tell me more.
 
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MaeZe

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Probably not helpful but these lyrics by the Playmates come to mind
When I first met her she was only three
And I remember how she followed me
She was always getting in my way

And I still yes I still can hear her say
(Wait for me wait for me Johnny please wait for me
I love you more than I can hardly stand
Wait for me wait for me Johnny please wait for me
I'll grow up just as fast as I can
Wait for me wait for me wait for me wait for me)

As we grew older she would always wait
She'd wait for me by the schoolyard gate
I would yell at her to go away

And I still yes I still can hear her say
(Wait for me wait for me Johnny please wait for me
I love you more than I can hardly stand
Wait for me wait for me Johnny please wait for me
I'll grow up just as fast as I can
Wait for me wait for me wait for me wait for me)

And now we're grown up but she didn't wait
And I'm in love with her but it's too late
She just married someone else today

And I still yes I still can hear her say
(Wait for me wait for me Johnny please wait for me
I love you more than I can hardly stand
Wait for me wait for me Johnny please wait for me
I'll grow up just as fast as I can
Wait for me wait for me wait for me wait for me)
Stuck in my head since I was a kid. :tongue

Crushes are common for little girls, it's not sexual. Something would have to change to make it sexual. But I can see it happening.
 
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Elenitsa

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At that age, the crush isn't sexual (children don't know that sex exists, so everything which for us has a sexual connection, for them it hasn't), but it is possible. I had a "boyfriend" when I was in the first grade. He defended me when bullies wanted to beat me, I gave him my cariocas and coloured crayons, we wanted to talk and play together, and this was all. The reason to like a person, to think they were in love, is different, usually personality and behaviour based.

Later, in the teen years, a youngster can fall in love with the image he has about a person, more than with the person itself, so transforming a childhood crush in love can make sense in this light. And, again, I think it is more about emotions than actual sex. They might dream to be together forever, and still grimace at the thought of sharing a bed or being naked together :)
 
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morngnstar

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I'm analyzing it, and thinking the appeal of the trope is an extremely pure type of love?

Sure, but, an extremely pure love of your former self. I'd expect such a love to be of the obsessive, unrealistic type. She's not in love with the person in front of her, it's not even present-day her who's in love. It's past her in love with past him, and a longing of present her to be past her, probably connected to loss of innocence.

Have you ever met up with your first love later in life? You don't want them to be a person. You want them to be your idealized memory of them. There's conflict and drama in that. Good story. But it's not about purity. It's about the opposite.
 

Marissa D

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Girl is way too young to possibly have any kind of sexual feelings (let's say like six years old), but has a positive adult mentor in her life who she just KNOWS she is in love with. Then circumstances separate them for years, she can't forget him, and ends up going on a wild quest in her teenage years to find him.

I'm analyzing it, and thinking the appeal of the trope is an extremely pure type of love?

I don't know that this is exactly a trope...but I can definitely see it as an interesting plot driver, where maybe the girl goes on her quest, learns a lot along the way, and when she finally finds her mentor realizes her feelings aren't what she thought they were.
 

Maryn

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Whenever I stumble over that trope, I usually get full-on e-e-e-e-ew because of the age difference unless they're both quite mature by the time they meet again. (I'm a fan of the half-plus-seven "rule." I am, of course, aware of couples who break it and enjoy happy long-term relationships, but more often in real life, I see the older person taking advantage of the pretty young one's naivete, need for attention, desire for money, etc.)

So if she was 6 and fell in love with him when he was 26, then when she's 18 he's 38--and seems way too old for her. (And half his age plus 7 is 26, so he is.)

Funny how the authors never have them meet again and it's true love when she's in her very early thirties and he's early fifties, when the age difference seems of little significance given their life experiences and maturity.

Maryn, very opinionated on this
 

Cobalt Jade

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It may be more of a Japanese cultural thing, the master-pupil relationship.

Have you ever met up with your first love later in life? You don't want them to be a person. You want them to be your idealized memory of them. There's conflict and drama in that. Good story. But it's not about purity. It's about the opposite.

This really happened to me. I contacted my first crush, whom I met in Summer Arts Camp, in my late 40s, and told him how big of a crush I had on him in the 1970s. We became long distance friends. Physically he was a lot different, but his basic personality was the same, and I had somehow gotten that right at the age of 13. When I contacted him I was married, he was getting over a divorce. Then he got a girlfriend, and I had a traumatic divorce. Now he's single again, but I am living with someone, and will be marrying. We would have actually gotten together if the timing had been right, and we didn't live in separate states. I didn't care if he was bald and going blind and had a big belly. He was still my sweetie!
 

Jan74

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Is this a trope? It must be rare because I've rarely read any romance novels where the 6yr old girl falls in love with an adult and then finds him. I have the kids aprox same age hook up later in life. Especially where the boy was a few years older than the girl and protected her from someone and then they meet later in life.

I thought of Celine Dion when you mentioned this, she knew him at a very young age and they had 26yrs between them but didn't formally date till she was 19 and it worked for them. My own grandparents had 22yrs between them. My grandmother was 18 and my grandpa was 40. But I think back then in the 1940's it wasn't as big of a deal as it is today.

My first crush I was 6, his name was Todd...I used to chase him around the playground and try to kiss him, when I was 7 in grade 2 I was so excited because he was in the same class as me and then we moved and I was sad that I had to leave him behind, but....my new school I met a new boy and all was well :) I don't believe girls are "sexual" at that age but we def have romantic feelings, I mean how could we not when we were raised with Snow white, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty....very natural for girls of a young age to fall in love. I remember having a crush on one of my fathers diving buddies, and I remember my friends thinking my father was handsome.
 

Cyia

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Reverse the genders and you get the Anakin / Padme mess from the Star Wars prequels.

He's supposed to be nine when they meet; she's supposed to be fourteen. He latches onto the first positive, female presence he meets after his mom (the woman who literally flies him away from a life of slavery), becomes a creepy stalker the moment they meet again (he's like 20, so she's like 25) to the point that she tells him he makes her uncomfortable. The solution to this is to make him her bodyguard and send them away together.

Ew.
 

Roxxsmom

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I had crushes when I was little. Most of them were on boys I knew, but a couple were on grad students of my dad's, who were unfailingly kind but never encouraged me. These crushes were chaste things, devoid of any sexuality, and they faded as quickly as they came on, only to be replaced by later crushes and interests. I've never had any desire to hunt down the object of a childhood crush and marry him. By the time I was old enough to have serious romantic and sexual feelings, they were occupied by guys who were a lot closer to me in age and proximity.

Maybe that's why that trope always gave me a bit of a squick. Also, by the time I was in my twenties, these guys would have been in their forties--middle-aged guys with mortgages and families (and paunches and bald spots) and so on. Not terribly interesting to me when I was college age.

Though in the huge age difference tropes, the MMCs are always single (or widowed) still in their late thirties or forties, and somehow lacking paunches or receding hairlines. The only signs of age are tiny lines at the corners of their eyes and perhaps a few white hairs at their temples.
 

blackcat777

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Interesting there are a couple mentions of the squick factor.

When I've encountered this trope, it was always from the POV of the girl questing, so it never struck me as gross. Just boggling because I never had any older (let alone parents' age) crushes when I was young. Not to say it can't happen. My best friend still complains that all her friends want her dad, and we've all known each other since grade school, so?

I think what intrigues me so much is the combination of factors: "pure" love from literal childhood, plus the longing/idealizing of someone who is absent, plus the age gap, plus the "I have no idea what I'm getting myself into" quest to find him.

I didn't think to flip this (this is why I LOVE trope-picking here), but if the story were from the POV of a guy who had to hunt down his buddy's daughter who he hadn't seen since she was six, but damn, she's eighteen now... Gross. LMAO. That one might be worth writing just to make it extra slimy and played for laughs and sold on Amazon with a bad cover from Fiverr. ;)

I don't find age gaps squicky, at least if the attraction began when both of them are consenting adults. If anything, it's more tragic if the gap is too large and medical issues are a concern. Anne Rice's Belinda is an interesting book, I thought it dealt with the necessary exploration of the younger partner well (and how from that angle, the younger partner is likely to break it off as they go through inevitable development).
 

Roxxsmom

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I do remember reading a novel once that had exactly the thing you describe, and I can't for the life of me remember its name, or even genre, at the moment. It may have been a fantasy novel, not a romance.

Having said this, it's not a formula I've run across often.

There was that whole thing with Meggie and her priest in The Thorn Birds. She was a little girl, and he a young adult, when they first met, and she adored him from the start and never got over him in her entire life. It wasn't a romance, of course, because they couldn't marry, and there was no HEA.
 
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Jan74

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I had crushes when I was little. Most of them were on boys I knew, but a couple were on grad students of my dad's, who were unfailingly kind but never encouraged me. These crushes were chaste things, devoid of any sexuality, and they faded as quickly as they came on, only to be replaced by later crushes and interests. I've never had any desire to hunt down the object of a childhood crush and marry him. By the time I was old enough to have serious romantic and sexual feelings, they were occupied by guys who were a lot closer to me in age and proximity.

Maybe that's why that trope always gave me a bit of a squick. Also, by the time I was in my twenties, these guys would have been in their forties--middle-aged guys with mortgages and families (and paunches and bald spots) and so on. Not terribly interesting to me when I was college age.

Though in the huge age difference tropes, the MMCs are always single (or widowed) still in their late thirties or forties, and somehow lacking paunches or receding hairlines. The only signs of age are tiny lines at the corners of their eyes and perhaps a few white hairs at their temples.
My first crush was a blip in time, the boy I met when I moved at age 7 was my first real kiss(not french but man we kissed a lot) grade 4 and 5 we were an official "couple" as far as coupling goes when your that age, but we built forts together and spent a lot of time in that fort kissing. When he went to grade 7(which meant leaving our school and going to junior high) it was a loss for me. I remember his first week of school and we went for a walk together and he said we were over, not in those words, I don't remember the exact words but basically he was meeting new girls etc. My first heart break :) I'm actually friends with him and his mom on facebook. It was a super small tight community and I'm glad to reconnect with all those old childhood friends. When I see him pop up on my feed it makes me smile. I never ever harbored any resentment towards him, he was kind and a great first "boyfriend" :) Ok sorry for the long post and dragging you down memory lane!

Interesting there are a couple mentions of the squick factor.

When I've encountered this trope, it was always from the POV of the girl questing, so it never struck me as gross. Just boggling because I never had any older (let alone parents' age) crushes when I was young. Not to say it can't happen. My best friend still complains that all her friends want her dad, and we've all known each other since grade school, so?

I think what intrigues me so much is the combination of factors: "pure" love from literal childhood, plus the longing/idealizing of someone who is absent, plus the age gap, plus the "I have no idea what I'm getting myself into" quest to find him.

I didn't think to flip this (this is why I LOVE trope-picking here), but if the story were from the POV of a guy who had to hunt down his buddy's daughter who he hadn't seen since she was six, but damn, she's eighteen now... Gross. LMAO. That one might be worth writing just to make it extra slimy and played for laughs and sold on Amazon with a bad cover from Fiverr. ;)

I don't find age gaps squicky, at least if the attraction began when both of them are consenting adults. If anything, it's more tragic if the gap is too large and medical issues are a concern. Anne Rice's Belinda is an interesting book, I thought it dealt with the necessary exploration of the younger partner well (and how from that angle, the younger partner is likely to break it off as they go through inevitable development).
I agree the age gap is harder in the older years I think. One of my closest friends married a man older than her, he's my fathers age and has kids my age. She was in her mid 30's when they met and then got married. But she's really happy and he's a great guy. But I imagine it will be hard when she's in her 60's and he's in his 80's. My grandmother was a widow when she was in her early 60's and then she lived to be 91 so that is a long time to be widowed.

I think part of why some of my friends and their mothers(my bff mother thinks my dad is hot, omg lol) but I think part of it is he's tall and a police officer....so the uniform I believe is part of the attraction. Well he's retired now, but you kwim.
 

ElaineA

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I've seen "versions" of this trope in Regency romance. I remember one in particular where the little girl was 6 or 7, there was a picnic with a neighboring family and some form of "saving" her from a situation by the "hero" (I think she was up a tree and IIRC she didn't actually need saving but her parents were fretting). Anyway, he was "just out" of school, so what? 18 in my imaginary time-scale. Not a huge age gap but I remember feeling kind of gross about the whole set-up while reading the opening. The author did pull it off, of course, but it was missing the mentor/student aspect, and the "pure love", which IMO complicates this scenario.

I do think it would play better in a fantasy or quest story, where there was truly a mentorship, although now that I think of that in detail, if Arya Stark hooked up with Jaqen H'ghar it would definitely engage the squick-factor for me (and I think he's pretty hot, at least on the TV show in the face he's normally wearing :)) For me, I think the squick factor comes from the imbalance in their respective knowledge. It's easy to get starry-eyed with someone who's teaching you something you really want to know.
 

Marissa D

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I'm a huge Georgette Heyer fan, but I've never much cared for The Corinthian because of the age and experience gap--Pen's what, 16? and very much a child with her head stuffed with romantic nonsense. And Sir Whozzname the hero (can't remember his name) has about twenty years and a lotta hard livin' behind him. SO they play sleuth for a bit and then suddenly he decides he's madly in love with this child? Nope. Just nope.
 

Zombolly

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I've seen "versions" of this trope in Regency romance. I remember one in particular where the little girl was 6 or 7, there was a picnic with a neighboring family and some form of "saving" her from a situation by the "hero" (I think she was up a tree and IIRC she didn't actually need saving but her parents were fretting). Anyway, he was "just out" of school, so what? 18 in my imaginary time-scale. Not a huge age gap but I remember feeling kind of gross about the whole set-up while reading the opening. The author did pull it off, of course, but it was missing the mentor/student aspect, and the "pure love", which IMO complicates this scenario.

I've seen this in a Regency romance, too. He's a teenager while she's a young girl, and he saves her from drowning or something. For those books, I suspend reality a bit because for the time period, the age difference is very normal. Also, nothing happens until they are both adults. Acceptable.

In fantasy, the age differences can be astronomically different. An ancient vampire in a young man's body, for example. Again, acceptable.

I will never go for a romance where he's known her since she was a young girl though. For me, it's just too...yucky.
 

morngnstar

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I've seen this in a Regency romance, too. He's a teenager while she's a young girl, and he saves her from drowning or something. For those books, I suspend reality a bit because for the time period, the age difference is very normal. Also, nothing happens until they are both adults. Acceptable.

It's also the fact that most of their social circle were family friends, so if there was an age difference, chances are you have met her before when she was a child.

Frankly in those things you're just happy when they're not first cousins. It's a low bar.
 

DarienW

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I've read a few M/M romances of late (an eye-opening experience--loved the comments on Goodreads.)

In my case, I had hard crushes on a bunch of girls growing up. I still remember them, but since I'm gay, I wouldn't head out on a quest. Nor can I claim they were mutual crushes. I was a love addict from a very early age, LOL!

I agree that a BIG thing might make those crushes memorable. For a romance, I think a more personal reason would resonate better, but a rescue could work. Considering the age of the crush person, I can safely say at six or so, sexy times wasn't the thing.

It might even work better as a chance meeting with the back story moments. (kind of like Hunger Games and the burnt bread)

In a romance, I would imagine achieving the quest would be met with mutual attraction, but I think that might be the aspect that is hardest to suspend disbelief on. Do any of us really believe someone we met under ten years old would be "the one?"

One final thought, maybe it would play better if "said crush" found MC.

Take it all with a huge salt shake. The only point is I do actually remember all my crushes. I could list their names from grade to high school.
 

Motley

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It seems kind of oedipal to me. The older mentor becomes a beloved parent figure almost wrapped up in protection, inspiration, care.
A sufficiently close relationship can translate into sexual once that becomes a part of a person's life, I think.
 

Jan74

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It seems kind of oedipal to me. The older mentor becomes a beloved parent figure almost wrapped up in protection, inspiration, care.
A sufficiently close relationship can translate into sexual once that becomes a part of a person's life, I think.

Ok I had to look up what oedipal was!
 

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I haven’t read any romance with this trope (although I did watch Samurai X when I was…way too young) but I think it’d be a really interesting trope to approach in a realistic, contemporary setting!

Memories don’t exist in a vacuum, right? They can become affected every time they are recalled as they become distorted by our current perspective. So, having a childish crush or admiration for someone at six-years-old and then having that person disappear physically from your life doesn’t mean they would disappear mentally. You would remember them, and as you grew up your emotions for them would also mature and yet contain that pure, childish admiration from when you were six, unnaturally untouched by actual interaction.

Like Elenitsa mentioned, this would mean that years later your concept of the person you “love” would be completely distorted. You would love a figment of your own imagination – based on a real person, sure, but sufficiently altered as to not reflect actual reality.

If these two people were to meet again, how would that affect their interactions? The power dynamic between them? How would it be liked to be admired in such an unrealistic way? What would it be like to be the person who maintained those preserved memories so long – how would they fare when they actually got exposed to the elements?

It could be such a cool way to explore themes of infatuation vs. love. You could take the character through a slow disintegration of their distorted perception and then show them falling in love with the REAL person and all their flaws. Even the other side of the coin – the admired person – is interesting. How scary would it be to fall in love with someone who admired you like that? I would be terrified of them realizing the real me and dumping my ass.

If you like to write age difference, this would be just a cool way to approach it, I think!
 

Catherine

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I've seen this in a Regency romance, too. He's a teenager while she's a young girl, and he saves her from drowning or something. For those books, I suspend reality a bit because for the time period, the age difference is very normal. Also, nothing happens until they are both adults. Acceptable.

Last summer my four-year-old got a crush on one of the life guards at the pool. We would see him several times a week. He was 17, handsome, and kind. He'd catch her at the bottom of a large slide. I think this being "rescued" had a lot to do with her crush. She has a picture of them together which she keeps in her school folder. She is quite serious about her "love" for him--though she hasn't seen him since the end of summer.

Since I'm also a mom of teens, I'd like the heroine to be older than 18 when pursuing her crush. I like Maryn's rule of half plus seven, but that may be because I'm older.
 

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