I watched the scene unfold while waiting in my car.
A teenage girl, no more than sixteen, sulks through the parking lot between two fast food restaurants. Clearly upset, she hangs her head, twisting and turning, avoiding the teenage boy who follows after her. He, obviously, has no idea why she’s acting this way. His efforts to solve the problem are fruitless. He lets her walk, follows after her, tries to talk to her. She ducks away, shakes her head, unwilling. They criss-cross the parking lot, leaning on light poles and taking up more than their fair share of the sidewalk. She, moving from place to place; he, following her.
Though not running, he chases her. Every move she makes, he is right behind her. She has given the impression that she is too upset to talk, and that his efforts will not produce a solution. But, I call her bluff, sitting there in my car. This following is what she wants. She wants to be chased.
I used to belong to a small church where people would call me after a missed service. Whether I’d gone out of town or chosen to sleep in, if I wasn’t in my spot on Sunday morning, I could expect a phone call or two from church members checking on me, wondering where I was, and if I was planning on being back the next week. I was a full-fledged member of this church. I taught Bible school for the babies on Sunday morning and put actual money in the collection plate as it was passed. I saw these people at least twice a week. But, those phone calls. They meant that someone missed me; someone wondered where I was; someone thought enough of me to find out if I was okay.
At my birthday dinner last night, my friends and family gathered at my favorite restaurant to help me celebrate. Afterward, I got a text message from one of my best friends mentioning what a good time she’d had but how she’s noticed I’d been a bit quieter than usual. (Quiet is not usually an adjective used to describe me. When I am quiet, people notice.) The truth is, hours earlier, I’d had a bit of an ugly-cry break-down, totally overwhelmed at the tasks on my To Do list, lack of time to do those tasks, and the fact that I was completely exhausted from trying to keep up with an insane level of productivity. And, although I had gotten myself together and had done my dead-level best to raise my spirits and enjoy the blessing of good friends and good food to celebrate a special day, my mood wasn’t it’s normal high. She noticed. And asked after me. And worried about me. And prayed for me.
I used to date a man who would purchase grape, Bubblicious bubblegum for me at the gas station he used. Popular among the adolescence of America, those big chunks of sugary bubblegum happen to be the best bubble-blowing gum on the market. It’s my favorite. But, it’s hard to find. Apparently, the allowances of those adolescence and my infrequent purchasing isn’t strong enough to keep them stocked at checkout counters. So, when my boyfriend found it at his gas station, he started buying me packages. He’d slip them into my purse, never saying a word. I’d reach in for my keys, and there would be a new pack of grape, Bubblicious gum, ready for the chewing. It made me swoon. My heart tugged. He remembered a random story I shared. He spent his hard-earned money on something he knew I’d like. He never called attention to it; he just did it. He thought about me.
The idea of being chased has lost it’s shine in our feminist-driven, equality-focused society. I’m supposed to feel empowered to stand on my own, to be independent of everyone else, to find everything I need inside myself. And, I guess those things aren’t bad, so much as they are limiting. If I never experience the high in knowing I am worth a chase, I miss out on one of life’s heart-fluttering moments. Reveling in the notion that I was missed, that my mood was noticed, that my story was heard makes me feel loved. Being chased is love wrapped in intent and community.
He finally caught her, that teenage boy and his sulky teenage girlfriend. He finally came to stand right in front of her, cornering her, with arms outstretched in an “I give up” motion. Her arms came uncrossed and dropped to her sides, giving him the opportunity to hug her. He kind of scooped her up and they stood there on the sidewalk in that awkward teenage-y embrace for several seconds. It was exactly what she wanted. The whole time. To be chased. And, more importantly, caught.