A Weekly Column

By Joseph Walker



Andrea likes Jon. And from what I can see, Jon likes Andrea.

They're not sweethearts, exactly. But they're not "just friends," either. They're buddies -- really good buddies -- or whatever you want to call a couple of 17-year-olds who like each other a lot but who don't feel compelled to push at the edges of their relationship envelope at this point in their lives. They talk on the phone, they pal around at school, they even date occasionally. And for now they're content to let that just be that.

Still, when Jon called the other night to invite Andrea to go to a movie with him and his little sister and their cousin, I knew what her answer would be: an enthusiastic "yes." Unfortunately, she wasn't home at the time to give it.

"She just ran to the store with her Mom," I explained. "She'll be back in a few minutes."

The decision to go to a movie had been pretty spontaneous, Jon confessed, almost apologetically. "But we need to leave right away if we're going to make it on time," he said.

"Well, I know she's going to want to go," I said. "So why don't you just head out? She'll be home by the time you get here. I'll let her know you're coming, and have her hurry and get ready."

I don't know why Andrea is always complaining about how difficult it is to get a date. I wasn't even trying, and I was able to set something up for her.

And just as I suspected, she was pretty excited about it when she got home from the store. Oh, sure, she whined about how she looked, and how difficult it was going to be to make herself presentable so quickly. But she was smiling while she was whining, so I knew she wasn't too upset.

By the time Jon arrived, she looked more than presentable. She looked excited, sort of exhilarated and ready to go. "What movie are we going to see?" she asked on the way out the door.

"'The Mummy,'" Jon replied casually.

Now, you need to know this about Andrea. She has her mother's brains, talent, good looks, and desire to do what's right. About the only thing she seems to have inherited from me is an absolute terror of being terrified. We don't like to be frightened. We don't like spook alleys. We don't like scary stories around campfires. And we definitely don't like horror movies. In fact, we had seen TV commercials promoting "The Mummy," and we looked at each other and said, "No way."

Which is why I'd give just about anything for a picture of Andrea's face at the precise moment Jon told her that they were going to see "The Mummy." I didn't know it was possible to have an expression that simultaneously reflected ultimate levels of delight and dread. If an artist could capture it on canvas it would be called "Apprehensive Exaltation." Or "Rock Meets Hard Place." She really wanted to go out with Jon. But she didn't want to see "The Mummy." For a moment at our doorstep I could see the debate waging in her mind: Jon. "Mummy." Jon. "Mummy." Jon. "Mummy."

Eventually, her desire to be with Jon won out over her fear. She survived the movie, but not without inflicting a few claw marks in Jon's arm with her fingernails -- think of it as "poetic justice."

Relationships are like that, especially the most meaningful ones. Although our greatest joy and happiness comes through these relationships, they also bring us face-to-face with some of our greatest fears, and the greatest potential for pain. At some point in time we have to decide if we're going to give in to fear, or if we're going to overcome it to stand confidently beside those we love.

Or are buddies with, as the case may be.

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--- (c) Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and