Wes: The young couple warmed the whole restaurant on a cold afternoon. The principal called a snow day and they knew exactly how to spend it. Together.
I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Frequent readers know my guilty pleasures. I love watching families playfully close, couples lost in each other. For these two, the rest of us had vanished, leaving only the space around them. They’d never notice me across the room with my “aw, how cute” smile.
She hadn’t worn make-up that day. She didn’t need to. She easily adorned the booth in an old white T-shirt and sweats, safe and comfortable. On some unspoken cue, she leaned across the table and shared a kiss, sweet and perfect. She talked and laughed, entertaining him. No texting or video games or DVDs or Internet. He never took his eyes from her; noticing her every detail. He grabbed her hands across the table. She lit up again.
“I wonder how long they’ve been together,” I said to my kids. “It looks like a week or a month maybe. They’ve so much to say and ...”
“No daddy,” my 13-year-old daughter said. “You’re not going to talk to them.”
“How about you?” I asked my kindergarten son. “Men with cute little boys can talk to anyone. You’d go over there with me wouldn’t you?”
“I’m going to the car,” he said.
They hid in the entryway, like they were waiting for the bus.
I can’t help it. It’s my respite from the office, where I see couples of all ages creating disasters for each other. Forgetting what it felt like to be lost in that space with their partners. Sometimes imagining they could go back there, if they just found someone else. Always wanting to be where they’re not.
Neither the boy nor girl was surprised when I told them they were the cutest couple in the history of the world. Not a bit. They just giggled, like they hear that all the time. Anyone who loves love would see it and want to celebrate it with them. She’s 16. He’s 17. They’ve been together for an entire year, and still give off the energy of the day they met. Like their first date again, today in that booth.
We can debate the wisdom of such intense love at this age. We’ve done it before in this column. But whoever that boy and girl end up marrying, I can tell you this. Each will know how to love that person, to entertain them, to notice them and make a space just for them. That’s what they’re practicing now.
Dear teens, whose parents drop this column by the breakfast plate this manic Tuesday morning, I have just one wish for you: Feel that.
Toss everything you know about hooking up and hanging out. Just trash it. Don’t cling desperately to a guy or girl who treats you like crap. Go on strike until someone looks at you like that couple looked at each other, warming the restaurant with nothing but each other. A hundred hookups from now you’ll never find what that young couple finds everyday across the table from each other, together, effortlessly. Trust me on this one.
You can blow it off. Say they’re one in a million. Not normal. But I’ve seen hundreds of couples, young and old who know how to love like that. Nothing is stopping you from becoming one of them.
Samantha: What struck me about Wes’ story was the amount of time the couple has been together. Not just a couple weeks or months. A year.
I think almost any couple can withstand a couple months and still look like that. Everything is just so easy in that lovey-dovey, get-to-know-you period. You have yet to discover the other person’s flaws, and their weird habits still seem “charming.” Getting past the honeymoon and into real life is a difficult transition, but the strongest couples have made it there together.
Any fans of “The Bachelor” out there? Last Monday, Jake proposed to Vienna, the girl he had less of an emotional connection with and more of a physical connection with. Vienna told Jake that she wanted marriage to be “just like being teenagers in love every day.” Yeah, okay. Love is more than attraction and lust; it takes effort and work.
I doubt Wes’ restaurant couple are close by accident. They probably worked at it. After a year of dating, they’re bound to have had conflicts, and they must have talked them out. They have made each other a priority; decided to be together on the snow day, even though they could use the day in a hundred other ways. They built trust so they could tear down the barricades we all put up to protect our hearts. And Wes is right, that’s what love is about.
Maybe they’ll write in and tell us how they did it.
— Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Samantha Schwartz is a senior at Lawrence High School. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence is strictly confidential.