I wanted a really good story about how I met my husband. I didn’t know who he was going to be, or if he even ever was going to be, but I knew wanted an enticing answer to “So, how did you two meet?” when it happened.
My husband and I met online. Neither of us wanted that story. We’ve struggled to come up with another one that we could both tell with a straight face, but we get too embarrassed about lying and find it’s easier to just mumble and walk away. Of course, the longer we are married, the less we care about how we met. But at the beginning, it seemed devastatingly serious. We could see people assess the odds of our relationship and the trustworthiness of our selves immediately upon hearing our disclosure, and the judgment on both counts was low.
I met one guy at a college casino night. He was dealer and a professor and seemed so mature and intellectual. I was an administrator and played my cards right. I knew I was in love and went overboard. He knew I was a summer fling and went abroad.
I met another guy, a Jamaican Rastafarian, at a reggae bar. Perfect match for a small town Protestant prude from Eastern Oregon.
I met a guy at the restaurant on top of the Hotel Washington when my mom ordered a Sam Adams. He was a waiter and a tennis coach from Morocco and he charmed me. It turned out he was a compulsive gambler and a control freak and two months later we parted ways, but it had the makings of a good story. I should have known it would end badly when he told me I better get cable and a recliner in my apartment or he wouldn’t be coming over. I did know it would end, badly or not, when he tried to open a credit card with my social security number and when he showed up one day, suitcases in hand, planning to move in.
I met another guy at a friend’s backyard barbeque. She was introducing me around and I pointed and asked about the guy at the far end of the deck. My friend informed me, with a smile in her voice, that his name was Dave. I commented, somewhat as an afterthought, that he was kind of cute. Surprised, she asked if I didn’t remember him. I definitely didn’t and wondered why I ought.
“Well . . .” she replied, “You two dated.”
Shocked, I was. The story unraveled that we had in fact gone out on a few dinner dates, arranged by this same friend, several years before.
“Well, what happened?” I demanded.
We were reintroduced and, apparently, he’d stood me up the last couple of times due to various family problems. Once he named the places we dined, knowing him vaguely came back to me – he’d even met my father! But, somehow, I’d blotted most of the memories out. Here we were, given a second chance at love and a really good story. It turns out we should have stopped at chance number one. This time, a year and a half later, it ended badly. (When you’re looking for love, if it ends, it is most often badly – even if you are better off in the long run.) It was my time to be in tears, told I was “just too intense” and left broken-hearted shortly before Valentine’s Day. Coward.
In my effort to be strong and prove I didn’t really need a man, I became uber-active. I worked out more, skied more, and got a German Shepherd-Rottweiler named Tanya from the pound who drug me around the block to walk more. I filled my schedule up well into March, and then promptly threw out my back. I’d done it before, but this time was worse. I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t feel my right leg. The diagnosis was a pinched nerve due to a herniated disc, but even when sensation, accompanied by severe pain, returned, my foot drug along beside me in a useless and awkward way.
Laid-up on medication, seeing dot-to-dot pink elephants dancing on my white closet doors, I decided that when life bucks me off, I should get back in its saddle. A few days later, less drugged, I was still spending more time horizontally than vertically and logging lots of hours on my laptop. I was also still clinging to my determination to get back into a social scene. Enter Yahoo! Personals. I made a brilliant profile. It was witty and engaging, carefully constructed to not be too intense and or too silly. It was just right for me, and for the sixty-five men who responded in the next day.
We are a lonely world. I am a woman with some cleavage and a smile. I was stunned and amazed, flattered and overwhelmed. And then I was creeped out. Because, it did seem that the people who spent the most time on the personals were somewhat lower down on the trustworthiness scale and perhaps a bit higher up on the perverted scale. I made it four days into my seven-day free trial before having enough and jumping off. Keep in mind that during these four days I was still largely immobile and still somewhat recovering from a broken heart, so I, too, was one of those people who spent quite a lot of time in this enchanting land of the personals. This overexposure may have led to me reaching my saturation point sooner than I expected.
All was not lost for there were a few intriguing, if not good, men out there. I decided to create a new email and let these select handsome gents know that, should they wish to pursue me further, they could find me in the land of Gmail for I was departing Yahoo!
I met one guy for a walk in the park with my dog on Saturday afternoon. He was shorter than me, which shouldn’t matter, but it did surprise me because you really can’t tell that sort of thing online. He was quite nice and I felt like I was hanging out with my brother, if I had one.
I met another guy for cocktails on Saturday night. He was a lawyer. He didn’t really try to hide his dismay when I told him I, too, was a lawyer. And, then, he didn’t even try to make conversation.
I met a third guy for coffee Sunday morning. He never looked in my eyes and spent most of the conversation reminiscing about a band he and a friend started in his garage when he was in high school twenty-plus years ago that would have gone really big if the friend would have just stuck with it. I am not kidding. He ended our conversation by complementing my boobs, noting that they were real. He apparently really appreciated this, he generously explained, even though mine weren’t as big as his last girlfriend’s, because hers were fake. He’d moved up to Oregon from San Diego, so perhaps he felt compelled to embrace the Pacific Northwest back-to-nature ethic as a means of fitting in.
And then I met my husband. He looked like a bad boy in his pictures. There was a gleam in his eye that told me he was going to break my heart and I was not even going to care. I went back-and-forth for days, well probably only hours given the overall length of my online stint, before deciding to throw caution to the wind and say “Hi” to him. Yes, I said the electronic hello to him – all these other fellows reaching out my way and I ping him. We had some wonderful email exchanges before we spoke on the phone. This part I remember vividly. Talking to him on my landline cordless phone in the kitchen of the Roselawn House. Going back over the where did you grow up, what do you do territory, and other parts of the making an acquaintance refresher course – so you have kids (me to him), so you went to law school (him to me).
“So you have kids,” I say, because I’m particularly curious about this given that I’m 36, never been married, and currently live alone with a dog and a scared-of-the-dog cat. “How many?” I ask.
“Five.” he says.
“F I V E!!!!!” I mouth, silently and dramatically, as I dance around the kitchen in disbelief. I never in my wildest dreams expected so many. And then, quietly, with a calm, composed voice, I respond, “Five, eh? Wow, so you Mormon? Catholic? Just really fertile?” What, I wonder, is his story?
And so we began, telling each other our story. Two days later we went out for dinner and two more days after that we went out for coffee and two weeks further on we went to a Cinco de Mayo party in that friend’s backyard who had reintroduced me to the guy I'd forgotten I'd dated, and another month passed till I met his parents and his kids, a few at a time, and then all together. Another couple of weeks beyond that, he made the trek to meet my parents.
The best memory I have from those early days of coming to know and fall in love with him is when I came home one day to find a package waiting for me on my front stoop. I opened it up to find that this man I’d just met and barely knew had sent me a box of books. My heart soared. Books. Shipped directly to my house from an online order. Bliss. I read and read through Jan Karon's Mitford series and emailed him quotes that I loved in the middle of the night and said, “Hey you,” and knew I meant, “I love you.” And I do.
He tells me his sweetest memory, the reason he fell in love with me, was my writing. The story I told about myself in that silly little personal ad and the emails I wrote him about the daily little details of my life, those books and the thoughts they triggered, and my wondering, hungering, eager asking about him. Now the story is writing itself and writing us into it and it turns out to not really matter how it started, only that it did and it is beautiful.