For those of you considering falling in love, I recommend the winter. The colder the better. In the winter, when you step outside your dormitory's door for that first date, all you can really see of the person is a pair of eyes under a hat and over a scarf bound at least twice around your neck and mouth and, if it's really, really cold, your nose. As it gets colder out, as the night falls or you go out into the cold again, and again, and again, it takes more boldness to take off a glove and grab onto that oasis of warmth that is another person's hand. And, in my opinion, there is no experience more like love than sitting in the passenger seat of a car while it slowly, imperceptibly heats; the snow on the windshield both falling away naturally and being brushed away, a face coming into view, still bundled. The music is playing but only you can hear it for now-- but you know that, any minute now, that other person is going to get into the car and hear the music you're hearing and turn to you and say, "ready to go?" I recommend being nineteen. I recommend having recently read all of Ovid's Metamorphases, and having words like Daphne and Atalanta at your tongue. If you're enrolled in a survey course on the history of the Western canon, all the better; these are the stories you will relate, told a million times already, and these are the feelings and the adventures you will be deciding your life should have. You will say, in a blurt, "you know, I'm moving to Ghana in a few months to study abroad," because that sort of "you-can't-pin-me-down" attitude has been honed and held closely by you for your entire life. The person that you're walking down the Saratoga streets with will surprise you by saying, "ok," and seeming rather unfazed. Almost as if a mere six months across the world will seem like nothing, later on. He will be wrong. That particular six months will be very important.
But before that will be the first year, all the dates, all the firsts. You'll suffer all the various levels of embarrassment that come with not really knowing a person. He'll help you practice the French you can't remember, and he'll tell you all about what you say in your sleep. It's day after day of learning languages, his, digital, yours, romance. College is all new words. And after all of that you go to Ghana.
I recommend that neither of you have a cell phone, and that facebook doesn't exist. I recommend that you call him three times in six months, from a pay phone, and that each call be five minutes long. This way, you save everything for the letters that have already begun to fly across the world. When you come back, it'll be your first anniversary.
Having laid this groundwork, the second year will be harder: more Shakespeare-- the tragedies now-- and finals for him. Having been apart while still growing, two Daphnes, there is space between your roots. You've traveled now, so you'll think you know everything. You have responsibilities: you're the student supervisor in the library, and he's the IT manger across the room. He leaves you tiny post-it love-notes on your digital punch-in cards. The librarian, complicit in this romance, will always assign you to shelve the reference books over by his desk. This librarian is important: when the twenty-year-olds around you are getting suspicious-- when they tell you-- "I just think he's way too nice"-- this librarian, and other adults, will start telling you what it will take you years to figure out on your own: that he will turn into exactly the kind of nice adult that everyone wishes there are more of. During this winter you'll hit your head lightly and wish that he, and not your mom or your best friend, was there to comfort you, and this is the exact moment that you will realize that you love this person. During this summer you'll go camping and the rain will soak all through the tent and you will both find this hilarious.
In year three, you'll graduate, and you'll leave again, to China. He'll come out to visit for a week and his both his Chinese and his bartering will be better than yours. He'll show you how technology can shorten time and space. Your grandfather, your uncle, and your cat will all die in the first month that you are gone, and he will reassure you.
Year four is when things will start to blur. I recommend moving to New York, and I recommend that he come visit your tiny apartment and share the twin bed you inherited from your grandfather. And then something else will happen that really surprises you: he'll move to London. I recommend viewing this as his turn for an adventure. You, still grandiose, now terribly twenty-three, will write him a letter every single day for 365 days in a row. You'll go and visit Paris, and Barcelona, you'll see statues of Daphne and paintings of Picasso, and you will be very, very happy. You are a ridiculous cliche of a letter-writing, art-appreciating, nice-girl-from-New-York, flying off to see a ridiculous cliche of an innocent abroad. He is learning to be adventurous. You are learning to be serious. It is all ridiculous, and it is all wonderful.
He'll come back to Connecticut, and then-- five years in-- will begin the first real decision you've made together. You will beg him to move to New York. He will beg you to move to Connecticut. I recommend being in a writing program and craving change. You'll go, of course, and it will seem inevitable.
Do not hold on to your pride. Be a twenty-four-year-old waitress with a master's degree who doesn't know what to do with herself. He'll come and sit at your table every night. He will watch you make your own life here and not force you to just be an addendum to his. You will begin to improvise: both the normal, every day, I-have-no-fucking-clue-where-this-life-is-heading way, and in the theatrical-comedy way.
Don't be afraid that you've settled down, because, since that first date "I'm free!" blurt, you will both always understand that there is no settling down. There are solo road trips through sequoias, there are feral kittens that he'll stay up all night trying to comfort. There will be 6:00 AM mornings in Mykonos where you make him get up and walk out to see the windmills, even though it's windy and the sea is choppy. There will be nights when you'll hole up from real hurricanes. There will be terrible sunburns. You will see him, crushed by pity, pay to sponsor a sea turtle that has lost three flippers. There will be years seven, eight, and nine. You will, completely by accident, own a business together, and running that business, he'll surprise you once again with his capacity for work. You'll run a marathon and he'll be at the end with a sandwich.
He will teach you how to be brave when climbing mountains. He will teach you how to get things done. You will teach him how to swim in the ocean. You will teach him to relax. It isn't always good. Sometimes it's raining on the mountains; sometimes there are jellyfish in the water. You will know the back of his head from the vespa, the squeeze of his hand under a table, his laugh, his real laugh. But the main achievement between the two of you will be one small word: Let's.
I recommend saying it often. Let's take the canoe out. Let's keep the kittens. Let's visit our friends. Let's walk home. Let's stay in. Let's go out. Let's put our coats on and go for a walk in the snow. This word is your secret code for everything you want to remind each other: let's always have adventures, let's always be together. It is the word that matters, not distance, not being on an airplane. Not whether it's written in digital or on paper (although you will always have an opinion on that one).
There are many weathers in which to fall in love. There is, of course, no one right way, no one telling of any Roman myth. But even after ten years of summers and springs, even after carving pumpkins, even after submitting to a good rain, and saying "you've got sunblock all over your face," for myself, I will always choose winter. I will always take off my glove and reach it, so briefly, through the cold air until I feel that other ungloved hand.
(For Greg, on our 10th. Love, Julia.)