The Season of Love
by C. K. Thomas
When you’re out and about during the holidays, notice the couples. Can you guess whether they’re married or dating? Here’s a fun exercise my husband and I tried during our Thanksgiving trip to Tubac, Arizona this year.
As we surreptitiously observed those around us, we kept an eye on how our own relationship might look to an outsider. For instance, while in the gift shop at the Tumacacori Mission, I looked at a wooden, hand-carved hot chocolate froth maker I wanted to buy. My husband looked askance at me, and I immediately knew what he thought of the idea. Later, we agreed that if we were dating, he would have bought the thing for me no matter what he thought of the wisdom of the purchase.
At lunch, we noticed couples at nearby tables staring at their phones while texting instead of talking with each other. They were probably married, right? Otherwise, they would have been making an effort at small talk over lunch. When the meals came, we observed the half portions ordered by the older married couples, while among the young dating couples, each had ordered full servings. The married couples paid for lunch with “gold cards,” while the singles often paid cash. As a married couple, we briefly discussed the cost of the meal, but the dating couples avoided looking at the check together.
As a married couple touring Tumacacori, we each went our own way and met up again in the small museum. However, we watched a young couple taking “couple-selfies” and pictures of each other while touring holding hands. These two were laughing and talking all the way around the mission grounds. Conclusion: Probably not married!
Singles in couples spent lots of time turned inward toward each other. Married couples often struck up conversations with the people they met along the way or in restaurants. As we strolled along hand in hand (we’re one of those married couples who do so), we noticed one young guy with his hand lovingly placed on the back of the neck of the woman he was dating. He guided her through the door of a small shop, and I wondered what he bought for her inside.
After a day of observing the nuances of our relationship, we decided we could easily try a bit harder to show each other some of the finer pleasures of dating we’d cast aside after saying “I do.” That guiding hand to the back of the neck might really lift my spirits from time to time or even a peck on the neck at home while I’m washing the dishes. Not being concerned about the price of a restaurant meal says something like, “I appreciate our ability to pay for such a nice meal” and also coveys “I love you” in a subtle and endearing way.
Consider trying your own couples experiment during this year’s “season of love.” It might prove to be the best present you didn’t expect to give or receive.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.