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I was sitting at a busy intersection in a snowstorm when they walked in front of my car.

Liz Marsh
Liz Marsh

Two lovebird teenagers, absolutely entwined. They clutched each other, leaving one free hand each to hold starbucks coffees and an umbrella, a woefully inadequate tool against the driving snow. It was the awkward walk of two people trying desperately not to let go of one another despite sliding around the icy road.

Do you remember when that was love? When you were so insecure about who you were and who the other person was and who you were to each other that the only thing to legitimize how you felt was to make sure that it was visible to the outside world?

I remember trying to walk around school with my first boyfriend. I desperately wanted to look cool, not nervous and inexperienced as I was secretly feeling. I even resorted to doing weird little marching band steps to try to match my walking rhythm with his. So important was our image as a couple that it took me months to realize that not only was I not in love with him, I didn’t even really like him. We broke up but promised we’d still go to prom together (priorities!). In the end, he took another friend of ours and failed to tell me of our cancelled plans, strike one for my ego.

I can recall in my “mature” 20’s trying to curl my shoulders in a specific way so that I would fit nicely under a boyfriend’s arm as we watched TV on the couch. He was smaller than me, which was so horrific I lied to myself about it. Instead of just sitting in a way that was comfortable for both of us I worked as hard as possible to be smaller, or at the very least appear smaller. I just couldn’t shrink quite enough though. My shoulders and my neck would always be strained from the awkward way we sat, and slept.

I haven’t been in a relationship in a long time, but as I watched those two young sweethearts nearly die trying to cross the street as a pair I thought of all the iterations of that specific walk I have done in my life. I remember the moment when I realized it was good enough just to have someone to walk with. That reaching out to grab the hand of the person next to you was about affection, not ostentation.

It takes confidence to prioritize comfort over outward appearances. The moment when your public displays of affection no longer serve to prove anything is the flip of the switch between adolescence and adulthood.

I wish those two little darlings plenty of ooey gooey love. The kind where hearts shoot out of your eyes every time you see your beloved walk out of science class. But I also wish them a few solid years of walking alone, and all the perspective and confidence it brings.

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