by Amanda Judah
When Yvonne McBarnett took the stage on February 13 at Hillside Cafe, everyone could tell this would be a different sort of Agape Latte speech. She danced up to the stage to “24K Magic,” a favorite song of her husband’s, as preparation to share their love story. Ms. McBarnett shares close ties to Boston College, having received two BC degrees and worked for the university since 2002.
In her current role as Montserrat Manager, McBarnett is able to form close connections with students. Many know her as “Ms. Smiley” for her charismatic personality and laughter. During the talk, she used anecdotes about her dating life to give the audience insight into developing stable, healthy relationships of their own.
McBarnett described how it took three tries for her and her husband, Mark, to actually form a relationship after seeing each other in passing. By sharing the bumps in the road of their relationship, she dispelled any notions that they were “destined to be together.” For instance, when Mark invited her on their first date, McBarnett was too afraid to get out of the car, and they had to reschedule.
She harbored wounds from a previous relationship that made her question Mark’s fidelity once they started dating. This caused her to make up lies about her identity, testing him to see how he would respond. Mark, however, provided a virtuous example, re-affirming her by saying, “I’m attracted to you because of who you are inside.”
These past mishaps allowed McBarnett to assert that the most important foundations of a relationship are “communication, trust, love, and honesty.” She acknowledged that sharing a vulnerable part of yourself can be scary, but the destruction of a relationship may be worse. McBarnett warned the audience that lying is never effective because it is impossible to hide behind lies forever. Instead, it is best to be authentic and give their partners the chance to love them for who they really are, strengthening their relationship.
After almost 25 years of marriage, McBarnett was able to discuss the joys and challenges of married life as well. She described how two people living together for the first time, coming from different backgrounds, can face many small conflicts. However, she stated that her husband’s “unconditional love has made me who I am today,” and the ability to work through these conflicts as a team made them stronger.
At the close of her talk, McBarnett quoted the familiar verses of Corinthians 13:4-8 as a representation of what agape (or total, self-giving) love looks like: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…”
With less than 24 hours until Valentine’s Day, she also encouraged her audience to focus on what they can give of their hearts instead of material things. Instead of “hiding behind the chocolates,” students were encouraged to focus on what they can “give from their hearts.” For those not in a relationship, Ms. Smiley suggested an increase in self-love, remarking, “When you can love yourself, people will love you for who you are.”
McBarnett certainly lived up to her nickname, leaving the audience with hope and smiles on their faces.