My wife and I saw this pair, a young woman and a young man, at a Sporting match the other night. They weren't quite a couple, not yet anyway, but they were trying hard. Kelly and I have been together for a long while now; we fit together like a hand-in-a-glove, as some would say. Going out together isn't the fraught dance we watched the young pair stumble through in front of us. It's hard when you're young. You don't really know who you are, much less who this strange creature beside you is. You just know this person beside you stirs up new longings in you, but you worry that the quivering feeling isn't reciprocated. You don't know what you are supposed to do to find out how they feel. Our young pair, like so many taking their first steps of the human mating dance, were trying so hard to fill their role in the choreography, at least the role each thought was theirs, roles marked simply as "THE GIRL" and "THE BOY." It was as sweet as it was painful to watch.
She strove for casual beauty, the kind that takes hours of work. It was an outdoor date on a hot day, so it wasn't any wonder that she wore short shorts and a thin shirt, but the color of the lace more than peaking through the shirt coordinated too much with the rest of her outfit to be an accident. I imagine it's hard for a girl starting her romantic life. How much is too much? How subtle is too subtle? The young woman charmed us with her innocent attempt to do her part as the beauty in the pair. Maybe could have been bit less aggressive about it, but I don't think she knew what else to do.
He tried to play his role, even if he didn't feel as strong as he thought he was supposed to be. I remember what it was like to be a spindly boy, with most of the length of a grown man but none of the brawn. A young man like that tries to will himself to occupy more space than his recalcitrant frame permits, to appear stronger than he feels. He spread out in his seat as much as he could. Our boy dressed his part, with competent khakis appealing to the power of conformity and a reversed baseball cap appealing to the power of rebellion (while still conforming in its own way). He cast his eyes about the entire evening, alert for a danger to protect his date from. Alas, the only danger presented was a couple of little kids goofing off one row back. To the boy's credit, he left the kids alone when they spilled a bottle of water. Chivalry isn't dead so much as it's not necessary.
As the evening wore on, he spread himself more and more toward her across the neutral zone of their shared armrest. She leaned to him from the other side, yearning for the touch he longed to give but feared would bring her reproach. She wanted to feel him against her, but she thought he needed to make the move. As the 60th minute passed, they broke past the impasse. She took a selfie of their date. He had to lean close to get in the picture, and then he didn't retreat back to his seat. I imagine it was hot for both of them with his arm around her shoulders, but she pressed against him and he wrapped her up, so I don't think either of them minded.
I watched the pair perform their feats of strength and beauty for the 90 minutes, my hand on Kelly's knee for most of the time. Later that night, after we got home, I asked my wife if she'd seen the pair. Kelly laughed and said "of course." She thought they were sweet, even if they didn't have any idea what they were doing yet.
I hope they've went out again since then. There's only one way to learn how to do this dance.