In the summer of 1978, my mother accidentally flooded her boss's apartment, and got sued. It's a long story. The important part is that the young lawyer/aspiring rock star she hired to represent her later became her husband—my father. They settled the case out of court within a week. Afterward, she invited him to dinner, ostensibly as a thank you, but really because she had decided that he was The One the instant she stepped into his cluttered office and saw his wide smile and thick black curls.
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In some ways, I couldn't ask for a better model. They fell in love, took a risk, and emerged victorious. None of the big questions were answered ahead of time, but they survived anyway.
Still, when I envision their clueless twenty-something selves, I want to sit them down and give them a talking to: He has cute hair and so you feel you ought to get engaged? Sweet Jesus. This is destined for disaster.
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My parents grew up and fell in love in the era of "'til death do us part," An Affair To Remember, and the Beatles singing "All You Need Is Love." Mine has been the era of friends with two households, Fatal Attraction, and advice gurus warning us that we need to be on the same page as our partners about everything from money to religion to kids to laundry detergent if we want our relationships to stand a chance.
My friends and I seem to take dating a lot more seriously than our mothers did. Perhaps too seriously. We obsess about every interaction, overanalyze each conversation. As much as we crave relationships, they also scare the everloving crap out of us because we have all seen what can happen when a woman makes the wrong choice.