This weekend we attended the fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration of one of our favorite couples. It was delightful! Not a fancy affair, but a cozy party full of good food, plenty of wine and beer, and lots of great fellowship. We made a couple of new friends there and enjoyed the company of lots of old ones as we celebrated this extraordinary achievement.
I spent some time watching the anniversary couple as they mingled—sometimes together laughing and hugging new arrivals and sometimes separate as they chatted with guests on opposite sides of the big room. But even as they both played the venue, making sure guests had beverages, dinner companions, and huge plates of fried chicken and potato salad, they were connected. A subtle touch of fingers as they passed one another behind a noisy table or a quick, knowing glance shared across the banquet hall. Their intimacy was evident even when they weren’t standing side by side. And it always is --they know one another, anticipate each other's needs, finish each other's thoughts, sense when something isn't quite right. They are what my mom would have called "good and married."
Naturally enough, the whole event got me thinking about romance and what makes a real happily-ever-after. We romance writers build up the sexual tension, create characters bigger than life, and craft situations and conflict that seem insurmountable before we finally let our hero and heroine end up happy. It's what makes a romance novel...well, a romance novel. But after you close the book, do you wonder at all if that love will last—for a year or five or ten...or fifty?
Why don’t we write about couples like my friends, who’ve shared fifty years together, raised two children, had struggles and joys and sorrows, but held on tight to each other through it all? Why isn’t a fifty-year commitment considered as romantic and sexy as two college grads hitting the sack for the first time? Isn’t it about time we writers took a look at those long relationships, asked what makes them work in a world where 50 percent of marriages end in divorce?
And isn’t it about time we create characters who’ve stayed, who’ve struggled together through diapers and teething and toddlerdom and braces and those nasty teenage years? Couples who found the magic of happily-ever-after and never lost it. Or even couples who thought they misplaced it among the chaos and frustrations of ordinary life and yet found it again. Aren’t those stories worth telling? Because honestly, staying in love with the same person for fifty damn years is romantic as hell, mes amies.