So, my daughter, Ivy, is in love. Actually, she has been in love for a year now, but only in the past week or so have she and her sweetheart begun to spend time together in a way that would be considered "dating." I have to be honest: I have had a lot of fun watching this little love story come to life. Its evolution has been painfully slow, but now that it has begun to unfold, it is exquisitely sweet.
I had a conversation with a friend last week about love and romance. This friend is a committed Christian, but she has been married twice herself. Her first husband was not a believer and devastated her when he chose to divorce her; she is married now to a solid Christian man.
But what she said about romance surprised me: She said she did not believe in love stories. Those were her exact words. She is in a position to counsel younger women, and one woman she mentors agonizes over finding a husband. My friend points out one young man after another to this girl as prospects, but the girl doesn't find any of them interesting. "Why don't you like this guy?" she asks, "He's very nice!" But the girl is not attracted to any of these very nice guys, and my friend finds that frustrating.
Her attitude is that marriage is a choice; we make a choice about who to marry, and we make daily choices to keep our marriage together: to love, to honor, to be kind, to be sacrificial, etc. Yep, can't argue with that. But in her world, that adds up to not believing in love stories.
In that moment, I tried not to allow my mind to ponder what that meant about how she ended up married to her current husband, although a frightful scenario flashed through my mind. Did she choose him like she might choose a slab of meat for a Sunday pot roast? That seemed to be what she was advocating. (Although I do think better of my friend than that; I'm sure that is not how she chose her current husband.)
Well, I do believe in love stories. I love a good love story. Not fictional ones, only real ones. And Ivy and Josiah, so far, have been exactly that.
She met him last year when she was invited to be the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker Ballet for another studio. This studio didn't have a dancer who could handle the role, and so she was honored with the invitation. She showed up at the first rehearsal and met Josiah, who would dance the role of Sugar Plum's Cavalier.
He asked her once at some point during the year (via text) if she believed in love at first sight. She didn't know how to respond and asked me, "Mom, what do I say to that?" I thought her quandary was a little funny, because the truth of the matter was that, at that early stage of their friendship, she could not admit to him how much she liked him upon first sight, and she only liked him more and more with every passing rehearsal. It is as close to love at first sight as I have ever known!
You know that line, "You had me at 'hello'?" Well, Josiah very well may have had her at 'hello,' but I suspect he definitely had her after the first rehearsal
when she took off her pointe shoe and revealed a bloody spot on her
tights where her foot had been rubbed raw by the shoe. He was upset and said with an uncanny blend of kind concern and irritation, "I told you to tell me if your feet were hurting!" Wow. Good start, kid. I mean, really. Did someone give this boy a manual on how to win girls?
But. (Every love story has to have a 'But,' right?) He is a solid four years older than she is, which is huge when you're 16. So, while she had the strong impression he really liked her before the whole Nutcracker was done, he didn't initiate with her after that. After that last performance she didn't have any more reason to be at his studio, and he didn't take that step of establishing a friendship with her outside of their role together in the ballet.
For me as her mom, Ivy's crush on Josiah was a boon. Ever since Ivy was 12 or so, boys have buzzed around her like flies. I lived in constant dread of the next boy to come along who would begin texting her incessantly. She would roll her eyes and say, "MOOOOMMMM!!! (Fill in the blank) doesn't LIKE me! We're just friends!" Right. "He's just going through something now and needs someone to talk to!" Okay, sure. "Mom! You're impossible!"
But once she set her heart on Josiah, no other boy stood a chance, and I could breathe a sigh of relief. Between January and June, he would shoot her a text every once in a while, and they would have a brief conversation. I wish I could have videotaped her reactions when a text from him would come through -- her joy was palpable, infectious, and hilarious all at once! They would have a brief little exchange, and then she would wait, wait, wait, sometimes for weeks before he would text again. It was a little odd, and I can only guess what was going on on his end of things -- maybe he thought she was too young for him, maybe there were other girls he was interested in. One week in August they spent every afternoon together because he had a ballet intensive in our city with a three hour break in the afternoons. Even after that week, however, Ivy still wouldn't let herself believe he actually liked her. (Which was totally baffling to me. Of course he likes you, honey! Are you waiting for him to rent a billboard?) From her perspective, it was too much to hope for.
Eventually, maybe by September, they began to text more frequently, and a true friendship was established. Even then, she didn't have any confidence he liked her, although as a middle-aged woman, I know that a straight boy has no other reason to text any girl that much.
Only now, late October, Josiah finally told Ivy that he did, indeed, like her, and she confessed to feelings for him as well. Like...duh? Hasn't this been obvious for a year now? But isn't that what a love story is all about? The waiting, the hoping, the uncertainty, the thrill of excitement when mutual love is finally revealed?
Okay...so, what's the point? (Hell-LOOO? This a love story. Isn't that enough of a point?)
Well, I'm not sure what the point is, except that I do believe in love stories and I think they are a wonderful thing. What a sad state of affairs if marriage were just about choosing an acceptable partner, and then stoically making it work from there.
Who created love stories? God, our Father did, that's who. And what does that say about Him? I think He believes in love stories too. Is that me re-creating God in my own image? I don't think so. (Besides, He created me in His image, remember?) You can't read Song of Solomon and come to that conclusion.
My daughter, Beatriz, calls me everyday so we can pray together. She asked me to pray with her every day for two things: her weight and her future husband. And every day she asks God for a love story. (sigh) Isn't that sweet?
Bea is a completely different person from Ivy. I say these two sisters define each other by being each other's opposites. If you know Ivy, you know Bea: just reverse everything you know about Ivy, and you have Bea.
To start, Bea has some grit in her personality. I do pray that God will answer her prayers and give her a love story; I trust that He will. But her partnership will look quite different from Ivy's. The man who falls in love with Bea will have to either be milquetoast and let her run roughshod over him, or be kick-butt strong and give her a little what-for every once in a while. I don't know if she could handle any what-for at this point, and I know she would despise a weak man who let her run over him. Even though she and I are praying, she says she isn't ready for a relationship yet. Maybe she is right. (Or maybe she is afraid, bless her sweet baby heart. But that's another post.)
Ivy, on the other hand, is the quintessential Disney princess. And I don't mean a modern Disney princess, like Mulan, or Elsa and Anna from Frozen; I mean a classic princess like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Ivy loves to look pretty; she is soft and sweet, accommodating to a fault, fundamentally feminine. And from what I've seen of Josiah, he has a lot of the classic fairy tale hero qualities. He is protective, always concerned that she eat enough, that her feet don't hurt, that she has water, that they aren't pushing too hard in rehearsals; he won't let her pay for anything or open her own car door. He even walks with something of a swagger -- not what you might have expected from a ballet dancer, but there you have it.
Maybe that is why this pair has captured my heart. They are just so fairy tale!
The funny thing about fairy tales though, and most love stories, is that they end right about here. You wait breathlessly for two hours or 280 pages for the starry-eyed lovers to find each other, and then they do, and it's over. The credits play, or you've reached the end of the book. You don't get to see the rest of the story. But in real life, the starry-eyed lovers finally finding each other is the beginning, not the end, right?
So maybe the fairy tale ends here and real life begins. Real life will include testing the boy's spiritual mettle and moral convictions, at least. As a red blooded 20-year-old boy, it will be tough to wait for a 16-year-old girl. Will he be willing to wait? Tom is no fan of any boy who has an interest in Ivy at this point, but especially one who is four years her senior! All this talk of fairy tale heroes will in no way impress him. He was a 20-year-old boy himself once and knows full well what dangerous creatures they are. Dominic, Ivy's protective older brother, is on the same page. So we have some choppy waters ahead.
But I'm glad it began with a fairy tale, with a true love story. My friend is wrong. Love stories do exist, and they are glorious.