A few weeks ago, in the flurry of prom snapshots on Facebook, I saw an image that took me right back to being young and aflutter. In the photo, my friend’s daughter posed with her date. Smiles and smiles and smiles. Poses with their friends and with just the two of them. They weren’t a “couple” couple, but not “just friends” either. It was a date date. And they were young and so so sparkly.
The picture that got to me was a candid snap of the crowd of kids. The boy had taken the girl’s hand as they turned to cut a path through the crowd. The look on her face, and the look on his face, even though they weren’t looking at each other–it was clear that holding hands was a big deal. They both looked a secret kind of happy, like maybe it was the first time they had held hands right there in front of everyone. The energy that flowed through their hands made them one as they moved through the group. The touching was something new, but the way it marked them apart as a pair was something new too.
When’s the last time you felt a secret kind of happy because you were holding someone’s hand?
Really. Think about it.
Now that we’re Adults, most of us have moved on to more…expressive forms of touch. Sure, G and I still hold hands when we’re out on a date, but most days we are holding the hands of those tiny people that we created (via the previously referenced “more expressive forms of touch”). At this stage of life, we hold hands to keep people from darting into traffic, not to declare our coupledom to the wider world.
Richard and I used to joke about “who got to be on top” when we held hands. I liked to be the hand on the bottom. I liked the protected feel of my hand tucked into his. Besides, I already had a good five inches on him in the height department, so I didn’t want it to look like I was dragging him down the street to a dentist appointment. He liked being the bottom hand because he believed that it gave him more steering control–he swore this was a lesson he learned as a ski instructor. So we joked for years about who got to be on top.
Anywho. Where was I? Oh yeah, high school….
Right in the middle of all this thinking about hand holding, I read a book that I cannot recommend highly enough–“Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell. I give it five stars then I would color in two more stars with a Sharpie. That Good.
If you lived in the 80’s, read this book. If you ever felt like a misfit in high school, read this book. If you ever got swept up in first love, read this book. If you lived an absolute perfect life through your teen years, shut up because you’re lying then read this book. If you know how to read, read this book. As John Green, author of “The Fault In Our Stars,” (the other book that knocked me to my knees this year) said in his NYT review: “Eleanor & Park” reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.
Eleanor and Park begin their courtship on the school bus. It is a slow and furtive reel of comic books, mix tapes, snark, and sentiment. It is sensuous in the truest sense of the word. Rowell’s characters revel in the touch, smell, sight, and sound of each other. And eventually, the taste–but there is so much that comes before that. Remember the days before kissing and all that comes after kissing? Remember leaning in to read something together just for the excuse of being that close? Remember when it took weeks to work your way up to hand holding, and then only if no one was watching? Remember?