Marriage & Life Partners · Relationships & Dating

Valentine’s Day: Learning Love

10749798865_8f8691aba1_zPhoto by Thomas Hawk via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My father never understood the logic of an all-girls’ college.  In 1960, when I flew from Sacramento, California, to New York to start my freshman year at Vassar College, unspoken but still articulated was the hope that this education he was funding would result, at the least, in an engagement ring. 

There was significant family pressure on me to move from Vassar to Berkeley, and, after two happy but unromantic years at Vassar, I was persuaded to transfer.  I wasn’t ready to get married, but I was ready to date in a more casual way than living at Vassar facilitated. I was curious about boys, and very naïve.

Right away I met all kinds of young men, and I decided I would be adventuresome with my choices. Dating boys with diverse interests exposed me to all sorts of appealing Bay Area adventures.  I learned how to eat with chopsticks, appreciate the harpsichord, and understand the mission of Esalen.  I hiked and danced and sailed, and I loved it all.

Ron Serrano was the boy I met when he asked me to dance at a student mixer.  He was the most interesting and most adventurous of that polyglot lot.  He too was a transfer, with two years at Cal Tech and a year out to earn money.  He was majoring in engineering, fascinated by desalination. 

Ron Serrano was certainly not what my father had in mind when he thought about my marrying.  I was a conventional middle-class Jewish girl, Ron the brown-skinned son of Mexican immigrants, raised Catholic.  And although I loved his company, the conventional girl in me explained to him, as that school year ended, that I couldn’t date a Catholic and we needed to stop seeing each other.

I remember Ron’s looking straight at me and saying in a soft, contained voice, “I am Catholic, but I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve. I am way more than a Catholic or a Mexican-American or an engineer, and if you can’t see that, you are not finished growing up.”  During the summer, I would occasionally get photos Ron had taken, along with brief notes about the photo shoot.  He knew I loved the Golden Gate Bridge at night, and it was that fabulous photo, with a note saying he had driven from Los Angeles to San Francisco to take it for me, that dissolved my resolve. In September we began dating again; I found it hard to date other men, because being with them never worked as well for me. Sometime at the start of second semester, we went to my home in Sacramento for a night. All very polite, but no enthusiasm from my family.  At spring break, we decided to drive to Los Angeles to meet his parents. Read More »

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  • Shirley February 11, 2016 at 7:41 am

    You were so lucky to have found Ron for your first love. He was a wise man at a young age. I am so sorry that he died young.