Long live happiness

We will soon celebrate a wedding in our family and the happiness and optimism this is generating make it easy to think more generally about romance and its quite wonderful magic.

I have heard a couple of intensely romantic stories recently, beyond the one closest to home. The first has its genesis in a local supermarket where a gentle, open-hearted friend I have known for some years fell into small talk with an attractive man who was also waiting in the slow checkout queue. In best Rom/Com fashion, they exchanged jokes about being out food shopping on a Saturday night before walking out together. A few minutes outside the supermarket led to a coffee. A coffee led to a dinner. A dinner led within a year to their marriage.

This story is particularly lovely because these are two people well past the age where “going out on a Saturday night” is code for “meeting someone and hoping this time it will be special”. It’s hard to believe they would have expected anything other than groceries from their innocent excursion.  Although the woman in this story was also keen to tell me that she knew she was “”open to something happening””, and not closed to it.

The other story was one I heard at a work dinner and as the young woman told it everyone at our large table was brought almost to tears by the beauty and enchantment of what she was describing. Kara is a delightful Anglo-Australian woman in her early thirties. She has been married to her first-generation Lebanese-Australian husband for only a matter of weeks but her preparations for the wedding took many months of thoughtful planning.

Kara’s husband has a few relatives here in Australia, but the majority of his family still live in Lebanon and had made the journey to Australia just for their wedding. The flavour of the wedding was intensely Arabic and Kara described with great zest how she had trained for months so that when the bridal party arrived at the island where they were to hold their reception she literally danced her way forward with the grace and boldness of a traditional dancer as drums played, guests clapped and called, and her new husband clapped and danced alongside her.

When they reached the hall, Kara, her husband and his parents were hoisted onto the shoulders of guests and danced joyously around the room.  “My gorgeous Arabic wedding,” was how she described it, but the drama didn’t end there.  When it came time for the speeches, Kara stood and read in Arabic an entire speech that she had prepared and transliterated. Better than that, she had chosen someone her husband had casually mentioned as having a beautiful accent to coach her and help her prepare a speech in a language she so far barely understands. “As I was reading it I looked up,” she told us, “a bit afraid that people might be laughing at my pronunciation, only to see that most people were crying with pleasure, including my husband.”

Not only did Kara make her speech in Arabic, she also used cultural references to assure her new family how proud she was now to be one of them. Surely she could not have given her husband’s family, and particularly her husband, a more exquisite gift or a more creative expression of her love.

Romance takes us way beyond the ordinary and transforms it. Even witnessing this lifts our spirits. Whether it is your partner, friend or loved ones, idealization is always part of it. So are the priceless gifts of appreciation, wonder and gratitude. Well beyond the first flush of love, unstinting appreciation and gratitude can and will sustain this marvellous magic indefinitely. Men need it as much as women, if sometimes differently. And anyone willing to nurture its enchantments is likely to be exceptionally happy – as well as blessed.”,