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Romance 101.

I couldn't take my eyes off them. I was waiting for a flight in Washington's National Airport when they stepped off an arriving plane. He was handsome; she was beautiful, and they both were at least 75 years old, probably closer to 80. But it wasn't their age or their looks that made this elderly Black couple so mesmerizing. What made them so captivating, so utterly enchanting and entrancing, was the way they were behaving. Like two teenagers in love.

My heart did little somersaults when, as they were walking hand-in-hand to pick up their bags, in the middle of the crowded airport, he stopped, gathered her in his arms and gave her what my girlfriend, Barbara, calls a "soul kiss" --one of those tender, soul-stirring, mouth-to-mouth moments that lasts forever and end only when both people need air.

The second he released her, I knew I was going to do it. Every Sister to whom I have told this story understands that I had to. I had no choice but to ask them what everyone who had witnessed this moment wanted to know: What was their secret? What was the key to their passionate love affair?

"Romance," the elderly gentleman told me after I introduced myself, convinced him I wasn't a nut ease and apologized profusely for the profoundly personal nature of the question. "Never let it die."

"We've been married for 56 years," his wife chimed in, "and I can tell you from experience that romance is the key to keeping the fires burning."

We all remember being in love like this. The butterflies in the stomach. The all-is-right-with-the-world sense of peace in the heart. The giddy, euphoric, I-count-the-hours-until-I-can-be-with-my-baby-again feeling in the soul. Which is why we can't help getting emotional whenever we see an 80-year-old couple kissing in an airport.

It's also why romance novels rake in millions and millions of dollars every year. Why the movie, Titanic, a film we all knew the end to before it even began, shattered box-office records and is the highest-grossing movie of all time. Why just hearing a really good romantic story has the power to make most Sisters I know starry-eyed and teary-eyed.

Like the time Will Smith sent Jada Pinkett hundreds and hundreds of roses--we're talking enough to fill a room, not a vase when he had to be away from her on her birthday. Or the time Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds rented the ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel and filled it with flowers, friends and a full orchestra to surprise his wife, Tracey, on her 29th birthday. Or, my personal favorite, the time Denzel Washington took his wife and four children on vacation in South Africa, and while in the Motherland, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu officiating, he and Pauletta renewed their marriage vows.

While we all remember how being in love like this feels, those of us who have been married or in a committed relationship for as long as Denzel and Pauletta rarely make romance a high priority. The truth is, except for certain days--your partner's birthday, Valentine's Day, your wedding anniversary--it isn't usually even on our radar screen. And that's a shame, since romance is absolutely critical to sustaining the feeling that brought you together in the first place; to, as the elderly Black woman in the airport put it, "keep the fires burning."

And when I say romance, I'm not talking about the grand gestures of millionaires, movie stars and moguls. I'm talking about the little, everyday things that anyone can do--bringing home a bouquet of flowers, calling in the middle of the afternoon just to say "I love you," remembering and celebrating your special days--the first time you met/kissed/made love. And, oh yes, kissing in the middle of a crowded airport.

One of the greatest examples of high romance I have ever witnessed, in fact, didn't cost much more than a dime. I was interviewing Gregory Hines over a dinner at a Venice Beach restaurant when suddenly he got up from the table and bolted from the dining room. We had been talking about his relationship with his wife--how they had met, fallen in love, decided to marry--when he disappeared without a word. Oh, Lord, I silently prayed, after several minutes passed with no sign of Gregory. Please don't let me have said anything that could have offended or insulted him. Just when panic was about to set in, Gregory reappeared wearing a crooked grin.

"Sorry," he said, shrugging his shoulders and sliding back into his seat. "But reliving those times with Pam made me miss her so much I had to call her. I had to hear her voice." Now that's what I call romance.

And it's exactly the kind of thing that Romance Awareness Month was established to celebrate and encourage. Founded 10 years ago by Eileen Buchheim, the annual August event is designed to educate couples about the value of romance and the benefits of making it an important part of daily living, something far too few of us do. As Buchheim points out, "All too often the pressures of family and career responsibilities cause romance to seem frivolous rather than an important ingredient of a fulfilling relationship."

So this August, in honor of Romance Awareness Month, do something magical, something that would make Gregory and Will and Denzel and Babyface proud. Something so over-the-top romantic that you will be telling your grandchildren about it. With a little luck, years from now you'll be the 80-year-old couple kissing in the airport.
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Title Annotation:Sisterspeak
Author:Randolph, Laura B.
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Aug 1, 1998
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