For Valentine’s Day, we need to relearn art of romance

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, February 14, 2018

by Tom Purcell

I still have no idea why Laura Lindsey liked me, but she did.

It happened during my sixth-grade year in the spring of 1974, when she transferred to our school.

Laura had grace and style and was instantly embraced by the popular girls.

She was out of my league, but I pursued her nonetheless.

Trying to impress her one day while playing “keep-away” during recess, I grabbed the ball and ran near her.

I didn’t know it then, but thousands of years of DNA were at work — the same primitive energies that caused cavemen to club each other as cavewomen looked on.

Laura looked at me. For a moment, our eyes locked — I felt a spark in the middle of my heart.

Laura Lindsey liked me! I wanted to buy her something romantic — which was a problem.

First, everything I knew about romance, I’d learned from the fathers in my neighborhood, one of whom bought his wife snow tires for Valentine’s Day.

Second, I was broke. All I could afford was candy.

I got a quarter out of my piggy bank and rode my bike to a nearby Mom-and-Pop convenience store. I eyed the candy display like a jeweler seeking the finest cut of diamond.

After passing over the more costly fare — I almost bought a Mallo Cup but worried I’d eat it before giving it to her — I settled on a Big Buddy, a flat stick of bubble gum that only cost a nickel.

I soon found myself sitting in my sixth-grade classroom, pen in hand, trying to compose the perfect words to write on that flat stick of gum’s wrapper.

After several edits, I settled on this gem: “Laura, here’s something sweet for somebody sweet.”

I set the gum on her desk and rode home.

I couldn’t sleep that night, certain I’d made a mistake — certain I’d be rejected the following morning.

What happened next was worse.

You see, my first act of romance was not met with ridicule, but with Laura’s euphoria and gratitude.

As older generations might say, “I chased her until she caught me!”

I was a wreck.

In the span of 15 hours, my emotional state went from puppy love to doubt to utter terror.

I dodged Laura the rest of that day, the rest of that week and all the way until school let out.

I dodged her the first week of summer by diving under Mr. Bennett’s forsythia shrubs as she rode her bike down my street.

To be sure, practicing the art of romance has never been for the faint of heart.

But why are we making it harder?

We pretend there are no differences between men and women, when the truth is, males and females are incredibly poor at understanding what the other is thinking – at least until we get to know each other well.

We pretend that “hooking up” is fine and dandy, then wonder why there is so much confusion and hurt as we jump from one short-lived relationship to another.

We pretend we don’t admire the romance older generations mastered as they slow-danced, shared handwritten notes and enjoyed an ever-deepening love through many acts of kindness over many years of marriage.

We desperately need to relearn the art of romance — especially a clumsy oaf like me.

In any event, I grew to miss Laura Lindsey over that summer. I hoped to pick up where we left off in the fall.

But before school resumed, Timmy Schmidt swiped her from me.

My first girlfriend dumped me, and I was the last to find out about it.

TOM PURCELL, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Wicked Is the Whiskey,” a Sean McClanahan mystery novel, both available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. Send comments to Tom at