A man and woman were together for a while. Then she did or said something that drove him away. And he went away, without a word, which ended up bothering the woman more than she expected. So she, perhaps through friends, sent some signals to him: hey, you should have told me I was wrong, you should have tried harder to keep us together. Which he ignored. This also bothered her much more than she anticipated it would. So she let some more time pass, an entire year, waiting for the hurt to heal. But it didn’t. And so it was time for a more direct approach:

     How long was it gonna take
    For you to forgive me
    Whoa, baby, it was worth the wait
    To find you and dare you to kiss me!

Eleni Mandell, the singer and songwriter, tells this story against a girl-group melody, in an approachable voice supported by a terrific guitar line that should have been mixed a little higher (the guitarist is Jeremy Drake, the album credits tell me). The point of view is that rare combination, adult and romantic, not the easy romance of a top forty pop song (which can also be great) but a hard-won, constantly-tested, around-the-block-a-few-times romance.

There are other adult romantics out there. But Eleni isn’t a grizzled romantic like Leonard Cohen, or an always-disappointed one like Jackson Browne, or even a perpetually unrequited romantic like any number of songwriters. She’s a demanding romantic, and a hopeful one (she states this outright on another song, “I love to feel…hopeful,” with a little heartbreaking catch). Longing for its own sake is not for her. She wants action. As other songs on the album (“Artificial Fire”) put it:

     If you don’t kiss me/We will never reach the stars

     You’re gonna miss/What you don’t know/
     You’ll want a kiss/But you’re letting me go

These are challenges, throw-downs. Not, “I feel bad because you won’t kiss me” but, “Go ahead and kiss me, let’s see where it takes us, what have you got to lose?” And the kiss represents love, of course, but also more, it stands in for all the things you can demand of life, joy, meaning, significance. “I want some magic in my real world,” as the Waitresses, also famously demanding, sang.

Anyway, a nice Valentine’s Day sentiment. I hope the guy took the dare and kissed her back.