The Dreaded (Celebrated) Boyfriend

by ALEXI VENICE

Now expressing the mix of dread and hope of mothers around the world: My 21-year-old daughter has a serious boyfriend! Don’t get me wrong, I want her to experience all the joy and elation that life has to offer, including romance (yuck). I just don’t want to know the details; and don’t want her heart to get broken.

She started dating this young man five years ago, when they both were sophomores in high school. At that time, I was cautious about investing any smidgeon of emotion in potential friendship because who knew how long this kid would be around? I’m not sure this was the right approach because he was a little afraid of me, thinking I was cold and analytical. “Guilty as charged.” I can be analytical.

For example, I don’t really like to entertain much. Having people over makes me nervous—and it’s a lot of work. I have to tidy up the house and make food, buy beverages, and generally be a good hostess, which means carrying on a conversation for a sustained period of time. For a person who likes five-minute conversations, talking to someone for more than an hour is difficult for me.

In fact, a trait my brothers and I share, in addition to flexing our ankles like swimming ducks while we sleep, is that we’ll walk away from you—mid-sentence—if we get antsy. How rude, right?! Moreover, 28 years of practicing law has conditioned me to sit in meetings for approximately one hour, then the meeting wraps and everyone leaves. Perfect! So, I’m perhaps introverted and socially awkward, which can come off as cold, even though I’m really not cold, just shy (and a little bored).

Much to my surprise and relief, my daughter’s boyfriend turned out to be a really nice kid, entering our small family of three—only a year after our son died—coming for dinner, cheering us up with good conversation about sports and current events, never getting up from the table without clearing dishes, and making our daughter very happy. When he entered her life, the lights seemed to turn on in her world, and they haven’t turned off since.

 

I held back a large part of me for too long before I embraced the boyfriend (both literally and figuratively). I suspect I didn’t want to transfer my feelings for my departed son to this newcomer. In retrospect, maybe I held off too long. A year or so ago, I finally opened up and told this young man, very casually, that I loved him. I think he and my daughter were leaving for a party, and I said, “Love you guys. Be safe.” (I hope he understood that I was including him in the “love you” part of that.) And, then later, when they drove back and forth from college together, I told him we loved him (not as much as we told our daughter we loved her), but actually saying (and texting) “love you.”

Then, when we started going on holidays together, I treated him like a member of the family—like a son, I admit—and the earth didn’t spin out of orbit, and my heart didn’t shatter into a million pieces.

Now, I greet him with a hug and a “love you,” and say goodbye with a hug and a “love you,” and it seems so natural. He hasn’t broken my daughter’s heart, and last time I checked, mine either. I couldn’t ask for a better young man to be my daughter’s boyfriend throughout high school and college, and recently told his parents as much while we were watching him pitch at a college ball game. I suppose I should tell him that, too. Or, maybe that would be too awkward. Huh, another social dilemma to ponder.

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Reader alert here: I sort of dabble with poetry, mostly because my husband writes fantastic poetry, so, I’ve included a poem I wrote a year ago while we were on vacation last year in Scotland. The four of us trekked several miles to a small lake in the highlands named Loch na Pollach. It has a few Scottish slang terms in it, but they’re just one Google click away if you’re curious.

 

 

Loch na Pollach

The sun shone off yellow gorse,

And a breeze the midges did rout.

Encouraging the travelers of four,

To create bonds in search of trout.

Testing their mettle against the heather,

Their goal the top of the munro.

Two men (one father and one friend),

Trailed by mother-daughter duo.

A painstaking trek up the gorge,

The younger couple sure of foot.

Father with walking sticks in hand,

Mother struggling not to caput.

Once they conquered the crest,

Before them was Scottish bucolic.

A lake they swam and fished,

Its moniker Loch na Pollach.

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