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How to renew the dying art of romance? Ask our elders
Tom Purcell
Tom Purcell

The day my mother and father met, he was arguing with some high school friends about whether a slice of lemon would corrode the coating on a porcelain sink.

“I never came across any man quite like your father,” my mother says, still happily befuddled by the stubborn old fellow.

Their meeting in 1950 began a storybook courtship. A typical date included my father walking one mile to my mother’s home. The two walked another mile to the movie theater. They had just enough money left over to buy an Isaly’s banana split. Then my dad walked her home. 

Their courtship culminated in their marriage in 1956. They’ll celebrate their 64th anniversary in September.

I share their story because I wonder how today’s young people may one day answer when their children ask, “How did you meet daddy?”

Will mommy reply, “He texted me, we hooked up, we did likewise with several other people for a while and then, tired of the jealousy, we decided, ‘Why don’t we have the magistrate draw up some paperwork and make this thing legal?’”

It’s fascinating how much courting and romance have changed in just a few generations. Older generations were brimming with hope and optimism going into marriage. Now, younger generations brim with cynicism and low expectations.

My parents were married in the Catholic Church. They vowed to “become one flesh” under God ... to have and to hold, from their wedding day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do them part.

They began their life together with hope and promise. Compare that to younger people who enter marriage thinking, “Well, if it doesn’t work out, I can always try something else.”

Consider the love songs sung by crooners through the early 1970s.

Whereas many of today’s hit songs celebrate fear, anger and cynicism (“He cheated on me!”), Dean Martin’s songs celebrated sweetness and innocence. Idealistic and uplifting, his songs were romantic.

Dino’s songs celebrated the subtle dance of the spirit between a man and a woman - the magic that occurs when two complementary natures collide.

His songs celebrated mystery - the deep interest and curiosity that men and women hold for each other.

The simple, intense lyrics of his song “Sway” summed this up well:

Other dancers may be on the floor

Dear, but my eyes will see only you

Only you have the magic technique

When we sway, I go weak

Were my parents, as two young people, unrealistic entering their lifelong union? Perhaps. They’ve gone through many ups and downs since, as all married couples do, yet they’re still together — and my father still adores my mother.

Were the love songs of the past also unrealistic and overly simplified, like a trite romance novel? Yes.

Was this a bad thing? Of course not! We’ve always needed romance in our lives.

Romance is about hopefulness - the hope that one day, a special person will enter your life, sweep you off your feet, become your best friend and give you far more care, affection and support than he or she would ever want in return.

This Valentine’s Day, younger folks might want to ask their elders to help them understand - and renew - the wonderful art of romance. 

Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at