In many ways, this is an ode to one of my favorite men.
If the movie hadn't already gotten me thinking about him, I'd have started once I got off the marathon phone conversation. Or when I pulled out the envelope of old photos. Or when he left the smart-assed comment on Friday's post.
I went to see "Southside With You" (alternately known as "the Obama movie," at least according to the woman in line in front of me at Movieland) because I loved the idea of a film about nothing more than a couple's first date.
That it was set in 1989 and that they wound up being President and First Lady only made the movie's appeal greater. But what I was really hoping for was nothing more than romance.
Because it was simply the story of a guy's attraction to a girl and how he wrangled her into spending more time with him on their first date than her lack of interest in "dating" him warranted. Of course he did it brilliantly, suggesting an Afro-centric art exhibit, Spike Lee's new film "Do the Right Thing" and her favorite dessert, ice cream.
In addition to admiring the man's game plan, part of the pleasure in watching the film was the simplicity of the time.
Barack drives a grody old Nissan Sentra with a hole in the floorboard that reminded me of a long-ago friend's VW Bug with a similar view of passing asphalt. Janet Jackson's "Miss You Much" blares from his car radio as the credits come up while he drives to pick up Michelle for that first fateful date.
Watching the characters fall into conversations about their pasts and passions, discussing everything and nothing while navigating Southside Chicago on a summer Saturday was truly a primer on how to have a successful first date.
Keep talking, talking, talking and never stop listening. Eat and drink in between and look at things you can talk about. And godspeed.
And though the audience knows what will ultimately happen down the road, the film ends with both sitting at home alone taking stock, trying to process the magic of what's just transpired between former near strangers.
It's a feeling anyone who's ever been on an unexpectedly successful first date recognizes. I know I do. I can remember coming home and marveling at the time spent in non-stop conversation with someone I barely knew that morning.
But not everyone's long first date, even the wildly successful ones, results in a 24-year marriage like the Obamas. Some result in a marriage approaching 40 years and that's where my friend L. comes in.
When we first met as college students, we hit it off, becoming fast friends among a large circle of colorful characters. I don't recall a time when he didn't have his girlfriend, but I was still surprised when they got married and even more surprised when they stayed married.
But as I've gotten older, I've realized that, like the Obamas, they saw something in each other early on and worked at nurturing it, probably in an atypical manner since they're both decidedly individualistic.
Today's plans had been built around a scheduled phone call to my best friend from college, with whom I hadn't spoken in probably close to two years and could no longer stand it.
Allowing for the time difference - she's in San Antonio - I got up barely in time to eat breakfast before sprawling in my favorite chair with a view of my wall of books for a wide-ranging conversation to catch up.
We cackled when she admitted her rabble-rousing DNA had been passed on to Son #2 and how she's at a point where she finds herself caring for others because, she laments, "I'm surrounded by nitwits." Fortunately, her degree is in criminal justice, so that helps, I'm sure.
Somewhere around the two hour plus mark, she mentioned her surprise and delight that I finally have a bevy of female friends, something I most definitely did not as a younger woman. I'd always had her, but she's one of those rare people who has as many male qualities as female, putting her in a category by herself.
But it was when I mentioned that L. had said the same thing that we turned our attention to the subject of our long-time friend and his wife and how they've achieved what so very few of our friends have: a decades old thriving relationship.
My friend admitted that she hadn't expected it to last. He was a gregarious and social Detroit boy and she was a quiet, sweet girl from an Iowa farm, so what were the chances? When we first met her, they seemed like the unlikeliest of couples.
I mentioned that I'd pulled out some old photos last weekend, shots of our posse back during that era, and there was L., a hat on his Afro, a flowered shawl on his shoulders, smiling at the camera as he danced with a girl named Mary at a long-ago Halloween party.
The entire tone of the party is evident in his energy and enthusiasm.
Neither of us recalled his girlfriend being there and there were no photos to suggest she was. Maybe their first date hadn't happened yet.
Because clearly, something significant happened the night it did - just like with Barry and Michelle - or they wouldn't still be happily together.
And on that subject, I once again defer to Miss Jackson.
Our friends think we're opposites
Falling in and out of love
They all said we'd never last
Still we manage to stay together
There's no easy explanation for it
But whenever there's a problem
We always work it out somehow
They said it wouldn't last
We had to prove them wrong
Cause I've learned in the past
That love will never do without you
It would just be a song if I hadn't seen it unfold with my own eyes. A great first date proves that you just know when the other person is non-negotiable.
So far as I can see, there's no easy explanation for it. Ain't love grand?