Last Sunday I was on the phone with my twenty-one year old son. He seemed stunned that a friend of his had gotten engaged to her college boyfriend. “But that’s what dad and I did” I said and then I listed all our friends who had also married their college sweethearts and were still together. He muttered something about things being different nowadays and then we ended the call. We were actually on our way to a funeral where we learned that my friend’s parents (it was her mom’s funeral) had been married for sixty-seven years. My friend’s father movingly eulogized his wife calling her his angel and wondering how he would go on without her. I texted my son later that day, “M’s parents were happily married for sixty-seven years, getting engaged after dating for only two months.” “O Wow” he replied.
Judging by a recent article, Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game, Too, in the New York Times, the culture has really changed. The article described what is referred to as the new hook up culture on college campuses, which essentially involves enjoying sex without the messiness of an emotional attachment. Apparently, this culture has always been aspirational for boys/men but now what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and girls are driving the “hook up” culture. As an eighties gal, this may not jive with my moral compass but I’m okay with anything safe and consensual. I just think that these girls are fooling themselves if they think that they can really separate their emotions from their physicality. Changing the semantics from boyfriend to “hookup buddy” will not shield anyone from a broken heart.
But, what stuck with me most from the article was the cluelessness of the following quote explaining one girl’s reasons for not wanting to commit too early,
“I don’t want to go through those changes with you. I want you to have changed and become enough of your own person so that when you meet me, we can have a stable life and be very happy.”
My husband is not the same man I married and I am certainly not the same woman he married. We have been changing since the day we met and I hope we will continue to change until the day we die. Aside from the obvious physical changes, life has deepened us. When we started out we were so black and white full of arrogant, youthful, feckless platitudes. Then we lived and we learned and we heard and we listened. If we are today the same people we were before we experienced life’s greatest joys and deepest sorrows what would that say about us? If we didn’t grow and learn from our life experiences and morph into richer, deeper more nuanced people what kind of people would we be?
When I look at old pictures I always think, “this is all wrong.” Why did I think that hairstyle was nice and the clothes. Oh my, what was I thinking? But, at the time I thought I looked pretty spiffy. This haircut, the one I have now, this is the ONE, but how do I know that I won’t look back at these pictures in ten years and say, how could I have worn my hair like THAT??? And, what’s with those FitFlops???
How do you know when it’s okay to risk your heart or to fully commit your heart? How do you know that in the shifting sands of time you will not look back and say who is this person I ended up with? Well, there are no guarantees. The only thing I can tell my sons is that life is a gamble but you can roll the dice wisely. Tastes change but your core, the essence of your being does not change. Identify the qualities in people that are immutable and search for those.
As for me, I looked for the smartest person in the room with the most integrity and I found him and twenty-five years later that’s still what I would look for.
And, then there’s the magic…..