Raphael hangs out at our house a lot. He was here again this afternoon, and he is pretty adorable. He’s a foreign exchange student here from France for his junior year of high school. He is tall and as skinny as a toothpick, with wavy brown hair that keeps falling into big brown eyes. He is friends with Anya, who is friends with my daughter Erin. So when Anya is here, most likely Raphael is here, too. Since he hangs out here, he has met my other daughter, Megan. He’ll come over sometimes just to hang out with Megan and her friends.
He wandered into the kitchen one afternoon when my sister was here, and we plied him with questions about France, which he was happy to answer. His accent is very thick, and it’s hard sometimes to understand him, but I would bet he has trouble understanding us sometimes, too. Another day when he was here he wanted to cook, so he pulled up a recipe in French on the Internet and proceeded to make us a potato gratin, which was really good.
The other day there were three of them here, Raphael, Megan, and Megan’s friend Tynea. If I hadn’t know that they were actually teenagers, I’d have sworn they were preschoolers, piling sofa cushions on each other and beating each other up. Now, part of me says whoa, these are young adults and they should be sitting on different chairs in different corners and just waving at each other. They should not be sitting on top of each other, however many thick cushions might be between them. Another part of me says, it’s okay. They are not doing anything wrong, just responding to a basic need that we all have for companionship and physical contact, a hug, a pat on the back, a touch on the arm that says no, you are not alone. If they don’t get that contact in basic ways, they will look for it somewhere, somehow, and perhaps it will not be so innocent. They are still treading that fine line between childhood and adulthood, and as I recall, it’s a difficult line to cross.
The thing is, though they all just hang out and play video games and make fun of each other, Raphael has asked Megan if she would go to the winter dance with him in a couple weeks. She agreed, though she says he’s just a friend. She thought it was kind of funny because it’s traditionally a dance where the girls invite the boys, but of course, Raphael was not aware of that. Erin has never been interested in having a boyfriend, but Megan has had a couple. They didn’t last very long. Sometimes I wonder when she will meet someone she will want to marry.
We talk about it sometimes, and I make them both promise to let me give an opinion on the dates they bring home to meet us. They agree. Common wisdom states that love is not enough; there has to be common sense involved. Like: Is he handy around the house? Does he drink/smoke/do drugs/have the names of ten former girlfriends tattooed on his chest? Is he kind to small animals and children? Do you like his mother? Does he have a good job? Common sense is important. Some of those things would be deal-breakers, for sure. But I would venture the opinion that if you have met the right person, you will expend the effort needed to overcome less than perfect circumstances. If he has all those good qualities, but you don’t truly fit together, life gets hard after a while, and the happiness you thought you had found can slip away.
Coming to our house must make Raphael happy; he is always popping up at the front door. That’s something that makes me happy — watching Erin teach Raphael how to play MarioKart.