The year was 1993 and I was a 14-year old kid living in Miami, Florida. I hadn’t ever had a real girlfriend up to that point, save for a few in middle school which boiled down to seeing movies together and not talking on the phone. And yet, around this time was when I first felt the heartache of a break-up, a lost love, two people going their separate ways. It wasn’t any of my relationships, though. It was between Kevin and Winnie.
My dad loved watching the show, so naturally I became interested in it, as well. It ran for about 5 years with the finale airing in 1993. I bet most fans assumed the show would tie a nice bow around Kevin and Winnie’s relationship, where they live happily ever after. But that’s not how it happened.
Maybe this was my first taste of how real life can be: sometimes the way we wish things would go isn’t how they go at all. Sometimes there isn’t a fairy tale ending. My heart ached for days, maybe weeks. As if Kevin and Winnie were meant to stay together but their lives took a different course. Although some fans of the show were reportedly disappointed in how it ended, I wasn’t. It affected me deeply, even if, back then, I didn’t know exactly why.
I can still remember that feeling. I’ve only felt it a few times in my 38 wonder(ful) years.
There’s a wind of change coming on in my life. The only way I can think to describe how I feel is a deep ocean. And at the same time, I sit paralyzed by recent events. But I mean stillness in the best possible way. Like my life is being altered and decades from now I’ll look back and be able to pinpoint this season I’m in now as a major landmark in my life. From the sadness of grandparents passing to a sister who’s finally getting a ‘yes’ for her prayers. Seeing old friends and saying goodbye to other friends. Things are changing. My brother calls 2014 “The Year of New Things” and it’s looking like he’s exactly right. New things. And I’m reminded of the words of Jesus, “I’m making all things new.” I can’t quite piece all this together, but the ground is shifting. It’s like the earth. Lots of movement underneath the surface with plates shifting and moving. It seems like now those kinds of changes are really becoming visible and it’s good. And since my grandfather died a few weeks ago, I can tell the way I date, and maybe eventually the way I love someone, is changing, too. Because as I’ve looked through photos of him and my grandmother, and worked on a couple of videos with those pictures, I’m frozen in place by the love they shared. Yes, he was a soldier, a Christian, a father, and many other things, but gosh, man, if I had to boil it all down to one thing, he loved my grandma.
I don’t think I can live up to that standard, heck I haven’t gotten off to a good start by any means. But I’d rather be single forever than settle for anything less than that kind of love. I just won’t do it. Pop didn’t settle. Mom Mom didn’t settle. My desire to marry my best friend far outweighs my desire to marry. So it’s settled then. I might be single forever and that’s OK. But one day, if I’m lucky, I can have a love like this…
If dating were only as easy as The Bachelor makes it seem! The show is more of a scientific experiment than it is a true attempt at finding love. That’s why when you include the unknown variable, the X factor called “life,” the experiment most often blows up.
If you can prove the success rate of that show is higher than the number of Yanni discs you have in your collection, then I will be a little more optimystique (optimism + still a little confused on where they mysteriously find the contestants for The Bachelor). Until then, I will have the sincerest devotion to the old-fashioned romantic moments I hear about when my parents or grandparents tell me how their stories began.
In my time, though, dating is a little different from theirs. Only slightly different because although the form or fashion in which relationships happen has changed dramatically (with the onslaught of social sites on the internet, ability to travel great distances quickly, revolution in sound technology, and, oh yeah, the internet!), the fundamentals of solid dating relationships remain the same: communication, common interests, mutual friends, keys to imagination and similar world views. The Bachelor includes one, maybe two of these fundamentals, and therefore, is starting behind the eight ball from the very beginning. The reason the success rate’s extremely low is because the relationships are formed in a controlled environment, just like an experiment. Once the show is over and the elements are introduced into the “real world,” the variables can no longer be controlled. Variables like career goals, family, location, ethnicity, and many more. To further my argument that dating is much harder than The Bachelor reveals, I give you… exhibit A: High School Ben Wilder.
My dating life got off to a slow start and to be perfectly honest, my first real kiss was in 10th grade. If I could tell you that secret with little to no embarrassment, then I’ve made progress in the 15 years gone by since. I often refer to my high school love life as “the private years” but again, to be perfectly honest, shrouding those years in privacy makes my love life sound so much more mysterious and exciting than it actually was. Tracy the softball player*. That’s who I kissed. Out of silence my love life burst into song!
Whether we were listening to “Sukiyaki” by 4 P.M. or the best of Yanni at the time, I can’t say. I was just happy it happened. A quick encouragement to readers patiently awaiting their first kiss: Hang in there and dare to dream!
To sum up, I hope these personal reflections of passion (I wouldn’t call my example of dating passionate, actually) help to prove the point that in dating, as in real life, sometimes you got to learn the hard way, not the live-on-television way. And yes I’m talking to you, too, Jake Pavelka. Vienna? Really? Reconsider Sheila Lidner (or return to suprise Ali Fedotowsky this season) before you tell Vienna, in one of your best Yanni voices, “niki nana.” However, if you end up marrying Vienna I’ll make a toast in celebration of life… and I’ll look up and whistle while I’m walking.
*I refer to Tracy’s love life in high school as “the chameleon days,” because I later found out she is now a lesbian. Hope it wasn’t because of me!