Scott and I celebrate our tenth anniversary this year. Today, actually. October 13th. And we’d like to do a dozen things that parents of young kids just don’t have time for. So we will not be going on a cruise. Or taking a thoughtful hike for miles and days down the Appalachian trail. Or even trying out skydiving together. (I’m not sure Scott would have acquiesced to that one anyhow.) Thanks to my friend Linda and her husband Robert, we did catch Garrison Keillor in Tuscaloosa last month, and that was something anyway. Other than that, we will be staying in this year. So, in lieu of a party where we invite all our friends and get rowdy with some toilet paper and the neighborhood trees, I’m writing a blog entry.
No, wait. That didn’t sound like I wanted.
What I really meant to say was that back in April when I started blogging, I presented a lot of people, the characters in my life, but not Scott. He is an extremely private man, and I don’t want to expose him in a way that makes him terribly uncomfortable. However, I don’t like mentioning him only tangentially here. I mean, we’ve been married for ten years and dating for a dozen. Nothing will go into this entry that he hasn’t vetted first (since I do want to stay married to him), but I want to tell you our story. For those of you who have come with me this far, I want to introduce you to my husband.
Scott and I met just before spring break my first year of grad school. I was twenty two and going numb from the program. I had figured out that graduate study was a lot more hoop-jumping than I was typically capable of, and I was reeling from fighting the urge to drop out. My bipolar had not been formally diagnosed or treated, but I knew it was there, and oh how it made every little thing worse for me.
And then he walked in.
Yeah. It really happened like that.
As soon as we started dating, I found myself fighting everything I believed about my future. Let me backpedal a minute to explain to anybody who doesn’t know it already exactly how much of a nonromantic I was. I watched my parents fight for my whole childhood. Not physically abusive, but verbally so, and I thought, “Jesus, I’m not going to put myself through that. No way. None of it.” So I was not getting married, and I was certainly never having children. One of my Dad’s short-lived careers before I was born had involved going to seminary, and we were nominally Presbyterian. So, I felt that
if I did for some damned fool reason fall for a guy, he was not going to be Presbyterian. Preferably, he wouldn’t be Christian at all, since my experiences with them had been pretty universally negative. Anyway, that caveat mattered only if I got dumb enough to fall because, remember, I was not getting married and having babies.
Which was not to say I wasn’t interested in guys. I’d had several passionate crushes during my undergrad years. But I was two years younger than most of my near-aged
classmates, and terminally clueless about the mechanics of attraction. So I had
a lot of relationships-in-my-head that never made it into real life. (And I tanked one awesome friendship when I felt humiliated because I realized exactly how “in my head” the relationship was and how not interested the guy was.) The guys I was into, well, they weren’t into me. Or maybe one or two of them were, but I rather doubt it, and
we will never know, because I had no more idea how to ask a guy on a date than
I would have known how to shoot skeet.
Anyway, that’s my back story. Scott’s is much less drama laden. He had dated in the past, but was focused on finishing his last PhD classes when we met. He was so deep in his program that he only actually went to one party in two years of coursework. Graduate students at the University of Kentucky won health insurance benefits from the college. It was nose bleed coverage to be sure, but a lot of people fought hard for it, and they had a big bash when success finally came. And Scott went to the party.
I was twenty two. Even twelve years ago, a full time student at that age was still resting comfortably on her parents’ policy. So I was happy for the big win, but not in a very personal way. My officemate Michelle, on the other hand, needed no excuse whatsoever for a party. She went and danced all night.
It is a testament to the amount of beer consumed by both parties that he was hustling his moves on the floor and that she thought he was great. Scott and I have not shared one public dance in the whole time we’ve known each other, and he assures me I’m not missing a thing. He doesn’t dance, and so I know he’d had quite a lot to drink if he got out there with Michelle for most of an evening.
Anyway, his office was four floors above ours, and a few days after the party, he dropped by to yak. I was there, and so I joined in. He left to go teach, and I thought, “Shit. Here I go again with the relationship in my head.” Because I didn’t know if he was single, straight, or interested, and I already had a horrible crush on him after one conversation.
He came back the next day to talk some more. On that occasion, Michelle, who had just settled in for a long grade, suddenly picked up everything she had laid out on the desk, from the freshman essays, to the red ink pens, to the grade book, to her calculator, stuffed it all in her book bag and left. I’m not sure whether she thought Scott was hitting on her (she was married; he knew that; and he wasn’t), whether she thought the whole conversation would have been a distraction from her grading, or whether the nausea of having swallowed her toothpaste that morning spiked suddenly, but she went away and did not come back.
I tried my hand at relationship initiation. “I’m going down to the mezzanine to buy lunch pretty soon,” I said.
“Oh,” said Scott. “I should go so you can eat.” I didn’t have enough nerve to say “Do you want to come with me?” And if I had, I think he would have said something like, “Oh, that’s OK. I brought my lunch”. And he wouldn’t have been turning me down exactly, anymore than he was turning me down when he said he’d leave so I could go eat. Because he had no idea I was dropping hints. I was lobbing relationship softballs right over his head, and they were all missing him. Which is funny because I’m about as subtle as a brick.
Anyway, my other officemate, Amelia, came in right about then and saved us. She and I were planning to go to a movie that weekend, and we all talked about it together. Scott left, and Amelia asked, “You like him?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Here’s what you do. Go up and say ‘I’m so sorry, we were talking about this movie right in front of you, and it was so rude of me not to ask if you wanted to go’”.
My heartbeat still accelerates when I think of the ride up to seventeen, during which I imagined myself wandering the history floor of Patterson Office Tower going in and out of offices trying to find the man without humiliating myself. And then, in reality, when I did find him almost as soon as I stepped out of the elevator, he was in conversation with a colleague. I thought With my luck, she’s his girlfriend, and I’m about to ask him out in front of her. Just typing that makes me sweat all over again. Proofreading it makes my skin prickle. It’s almost like I fear that thinking about it will reverse time and change the actual moment.
After all, he had been ignoring my lunch hints.
But I used Amelia’s awesome line, and he said yes.
And here’s how awesome a friend Amelia was. I had never been on a date before. I had no idea what to do, and I was terrified. She agreed to come with us. If things were going well, she planned to ‘receive a phone call from her mother in Mexico’ that would ‘require her to go home and wait for a callback’. Things went well. She took the imaginary call and left. It was March 13th, 1999.
What a true friend. And I’ve completely lost touch with her. Oh well. We’ll catch up someday. Friendships like that don’t just evaporate.
Scott and I became a couple so quickly that I think we both felt suffocated. We maintained the fiction of separate apartments until he finished his coursework, passed his comprehensive exams, and proceeded to the dissertation stage of his program. But we went from barely knowing each other to being completely in love outrageously fast. He told me, and I completely agreed, “If I could have chosen a time to fall in love, it wouldn’t have been this one!”
For my part, I had all these emotional walls erected that I just didn’t let people past. I still don’t have many close friends, just because I’m very slow to trust. It’s easy enough to meet me, but a bit harder to get through that shell. I am used to emotional limbo, still, even though I’ve been living with Scott’s stability for more than a dozen years now.
With Scott, it was like the walls never existed in the first place. I’m pretty sure it was his smile I first fell in love with, but it could also have been his infectious giggle. I was hooked from the beginning. I trusted him at once, which terrified me. And I knew before we’d been on a second date that I would want to have kids with him. It didn’t matter about my hating all but a very few children. Or about his being Presbyterian. Or anything else I had believed a scant week before. I fell in love at first sight, and it was true love. We meshed as soon as we met, and neither one of us pulled away from it, even though I’m sure it gobsmacked him as hard as it did me.
I still love him as passionately as I did in those first months, and I hope I’ll feel the same way a hundred anniversaries down the road. I love you, Scott. Happy anniversary.