Friday, October 12, 2007

The all-true story of how we met or...let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments

If you ask my husband* when we met, he'd say it was in a doorway my junior year, his first senior year, when I was dating another guy. If you ask me when we met, I'd say it was in Astronomy class my freshman year, his sophomore year when he was dating another girl.

The truth is, we did really meet in the Astronomy class, and we did actually notice one another. Just not in that way. He was dating a girl I knew. Plus, I wasn't shopping, or even window shopping, anyway. I had my hands full of plenty of boy troubles of my own. And at the time, whether it was due to that, or his boyfriend of friend status, there just wasn't any spark. In fact, I was sort of obnoxious to him. I did my usual teasing jokey schtick, but he got all flustered. I felt sort of badly about it, but before I could change the tone, his girlfriend and her roommate started teasing him.

It will come as no surprise that he decided to never sit with us during class, and other than greeting his girlfriend, avoided us entirely. I got the hairy eyeball every time he came by, on his way to other seating. I think he was glad, if he thought about it at all, that his girlfriend and I were merely acquaintances and didn't spend much time together. I, on the other hand, suffered a major guilt complex about the teasing thing, especially because he never sat with his girlfriend since she always sat with me. It apparently never occurred to either of us that this might be a Red Flag from her.

Once I offered to go sit elsewhere so they could sit together and he shot me a look to kill. Then said very mildly, and somewhat shyly, "No, she likes the back so she can chat. I'm here to learn, and I prefer the front."

I felt suitably chastised, and after that, never again made any friendly---or otherwise---overtures. After he and the girl broke up, we lost touch. And completely and utterly forgot one another. For a while.**

If you ask my husband when we started dating, he'd say it was after that Mardi Gras in New Orleans due to the whole Tulane-Brandeis incident. If you ask me when we started dating, I'd say it was the previous fall when he kept asking me to go with him to concerts, clubs, dinner, lunch, movies, etc. (alone).

During that year when I first became aware that Jon existed on the planet, I made two huge relationship mistakes and broke six hearts, including my own three times. But then I met this guy, and he just seemed great. All was going swimmingly...until...well, he cheated. And told me I was cool, great on paper, but not for him. And asked to be friends. I reflected on our entire relationship, ones from the past, and decided I felt pretty stupid about men. So I decided I needed some alone time. Well, time without complicated relationships. This is why I say I wasn't dating anyone when we met the second time. I wasn't. I just had some guys who were "going out with" friends.***

During that time, Jon also had his own life experiences. He's a real romantic at heart (in feeling if not in action) and had a penchant for---well, in my own biased judgment---women who weren't even good on paper.

That's why I say we were both free and clear, albeit feeling fairly bruised and more than a little stupid about the opposite sex when we met again. That's why we can't quite agree on when we started dating, because our wounded and fragile little souls accepted our togetherness at different times.

If you ask my husband who asked who out first, he'd say it was me. If you asked me, I'd say the same thing, regardless of either of our time frame.


We did meet again that fall. It was in a doorway, a crush to get out of a meeting about international culture and how to live in unity and harmony. He'd been involved for a while, and I had just learned about the group through a long-time friend and one guy who was my "go to clubs and dance" friend.

I looked at this man, who would eventually become my husband, and I felt this lung-crushing sense of urgency: don't let him get away. I'd been staring at him during the meeting, and had listened to the things he'd had to say. Now, fortuitously, and with some fast footwork on my part, here we were, together, in the doorway.

"A couple of us are going out to dinner," I said, a sort of nervous yet oddly confident smile on my face, "You should come." My boldness wasn't out of character, but I was surprised, nonetheless.

He pondered for a second, and then said, "Okay." I felt a surge of relief.

"Great!" I said.

Then he thought twice, "I have this project, a deadline," he said, "I really should get going, I shouldn't go out."

"It's just dinner," I cajoled, "You have to eat anyway." And so he came. We sat on our own end of the table and spoke exclusively to one another for hours. After that, if we're honest, I think each other came first to mind when we wanted another person, as company, for an ear, for anything. You might say we were best friends, first. But I also don't think anyone missed the attraction, either.

If you ask my husband, he was being honest about where he was in life. If you ask me, I'd say he was running scared, making one last grasp for a flotation device when the truth was, he just needed to believe he could swim.


My friend Karen from high school---who I recently connected with again through a really bizarre set of circumstances, which simply proves some sort of fate, providence or serendipity---would be surprised to learn that it was at her first wedding that Jon assured me he would never, ever get more involved with me than he was at that time, and warned me that we both needed to back away for some space. My response surprised us both: I laughed and said okay. The truth is I knew our coming together was way bigger than either of us and we neither of us would have much say. I knew it in my bones, so his speech didn't hurt or scare me, and it didn't warn me away, either.

My only moment of doubt---maybe we should call it despair and annoyance at arriving at the same destination at two different times---came at Mardi Gras. Jon was working two ends of the situation during that long weekend: (1) making the absolute most of the entire laissez les bon temps rouler atmosphere and (2) proving his point to me, and everyone else. The cost of this action was hurt and shame for me, and pity from my friends. I don't know which was worse. So I did two silly things: caught up with an old friend at Tulane Law and hooked up with a new friend from Brandeis. In the ultimate act of irony, Jon pulled me aside at one party and told me I was being an idiot. I challenged him. He made the mistake of playing it safe. I stormed off and told him I was through. Goodbye.

And yet we are married so how did it resolve? If you ask my husband, he'll say it evolved as these things do. If you ask me, I'll say ummm not quite! It came about due to an ultimatum from me that was, and I do quote, the choice between, "Fish or cut bait...there are more fish in the sea, and I've got other fish to fry." Which is sort of gross, but anyway, more or less how I put it. So, again, playing it safe (which if you ask him is his MO) he decided to fish. Do not mistake this for "went off happily into the sunset and lived happily ever after." It came about very, very stormily, with a great deal of difficulty, which was strange for two people who came together with such ease in the first place.

Once we got over the hump and agreed we were Involved Seriously, we assumed a typical pattern of slowly but surely merging lives. This involved much more adjustment from others than it did from us. I think many people had resigned themselves to believing Jon and I would never be. I think many people felt happier about that outcome---the apartness---than they did another---the togetherness. It amazes me how invested and involved people became in our relationship, without any invitation or opening from either one of us. It impresses me how we remained and grew stronger as a unit, in part because of that.

We supported and encouraged one another through a really difficult point in life: early adulthood, trying to find your path and footing as an independent, newly formed adult. Our wings were barely dry and yet we were expected to fly and manage as well as matured adults. With each other, we did, we managed. Maybe not 'as well,' but we managed constructively, and that's about as good as you can hope for, really.

He supported me away from my original plan of law, when I changed my mind. I supported him back to his original plan of architecture, when his dream job that used both of his degrees didn't come true.

If you asked either of us, we'd say we got further in life than either of us ever expected due to the presence---the support and encouragement---of the other.

I'm not sure if either of us would say that we are where we thought we'd be in life based on our assumptions 15 years ago, other than together, which I think both of us expected, 15 years ago, when we committed to our relationship.

And now we celebrate 14 years of marriage, and more years than that of togetherness.

There is something to be said for meeting and marrying when very, very young (in our mid-20s). We became Us at the very beginning of our own lives. There is something to be said for such a history together, growing up together, for sticking it out through thick and thin, for realizing that at age 20, you had either a guardian angel or good judgment---or both---and lucked into connecting with a really amazing person.

Happy Anniversary, hon.


*************************************************************************************

*For the record, for what it is worth, we wrote this post jointly. Okay I wrote it and he clarified, edited, and commented. But he deems himself "perfectly satisfied" with this post as it stands.

**One day, after we moved in together, we were flipping through photo albums and sharing stories about times that didn't involve one another. As I flipped through photos of a hiking and camping trip he went on, I pointed to one photo and said, "Hey that's funny, why do you have photos of my friend Wendy and my old roommate Sarah?" He gasped and he said, "What! You know Wendy? She's my ex-girlfriend and Sarah was her roommate!" And I said, "No way! Wendy and Sarah and I were buddies, and Sarah and I were roommates and sorority sisters!" Then we looked at one another, gasped, and each yelled, with pointing fingers, "OH MY GOD. YOU!!" It all clicked. He was Wendy's studious boyfriend with no sense of humor and I was Wendy's obnoxious bitchy friend. How right and wrong we were in our initial assessments of one another. Boy did we have a huge laugh about that.

***Jon would prefer that the record reflect that although I did not "get it" Alejandro (my "go to clubs and dance together" friend) considered our "dating" far more seriously than I did. He maintains to this day that Alejandro had strong feelings for me. I confess this was not my perception, but concede to a possibility of obtuseness, potentially deliberate. I will definitely concede the Suresh point. He did have a different perception: he thought "dating" and I thought "criminal stalking" and "kidnapping." Jon concurs and believes I ought to add that Suresh was one effed up individual. True.

In the olden days, when we got married, there weren't digital cameras. And, for a variety of reasons (hurricane season, renovation, not unpacked fully from move), all of our photo albums are packed and inaccessible but I was able to get my hands on a photo of us on our first wedding anniversary, in San Francisco, Chinatown to be precise. I have photos from each story told her, packed away, and someday, if I can, I'll share them. In the meantime, this must suffice. I cannot believe how young we were then.



P.S. Are you interested in the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern? Come read my article "The sugar cookie snack monster" at Moms Speak Up! And be sure to surf the site to catch other great articles. Definitely read The Onslaught about the media images young girls are barraged by if nothing else. It's by Izzy so you know it's good.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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Using My Words
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31 comments:

Queen of the Mayhem said...

Oh.....I love this post! Mr. Mayhem and I have a story that is similar to this! ( Well...kind of similar)

You just can't fight fate! Oh...and the immense amount of hard work to keep things together....that and FATE! :)

Happy anniversary!

Gwen said...

Happy Anniversary, you two crazy kids! :)

Great stories.

hello insomnia said...

Happy Anniversary! I love how you laid this story out.

wordgirl said...

Though my husband and I agree on the date/place/manner in which he asked me out for our first evening together, we differ on the reasons why we only dated three or four times...and then stopped. We stayed friends and then he left the country after graduation to go on an archaeology dig. Six years passed and I didn't see him or hear from him. Out of curiosity and at the urging of a friend, I called his parents to get his number. He called me back. We went to dinner and though we both took turns getting cold feet, we got married 10 months later and that was 21 years and three sons ago. Time flies.

wordgirl said...

Oh...and Happy Anniversary!

Mayberry said...

Happy anniversary! I love how-we-met stories.

Sober Briquette said...

You two look like babies! Happy, happy anniversary.

Cathy said...

Happy anniversary. Great story. And I love the photo-album revelation!

Jenny said...

Beautiful and perfect.

You're too good for blogging, my friend.

Happy anniversary!

Kellan Rhodes said...

Happy Anniversary - I hope you always have each other!

ewe are here said...

Happy Anniversary!

And fabulous 'how we met' post... I love these!

Tere said...

That was great - happy anniversary!

You've inspired me to do something similar about Ben and me sometime in the near future....

Cecilieaux said...

Call me a curmudgeon, but I'm at the point that whenever I see a couple I think, "hmm ... I wonder who'll leave whom." Nevertheless, congratulations. A golden moment. You'll treasure this one day, whether on matching rocking chairs or in divorcehood. It's a wonderful, unrepeatable time of life.

Family Adventure said...

How interesting to really delve into people's differing perceptions of things. Even someone as closely connected as your would-be-spouse. Hmmm...I might just go ask MY husband how, when and where WE met. Thanks! :)
Happy Anniversary!
- Heidi

Jeff said...

Well then, Happy Anniversary you two!

I love the beige-ness of your shirts in that picture - you crazy kids you.

Dana said...

Happy Anniversary! My husband I will celebrate six years tomorrow (the 13th)!

:) Your story was beautiful. I really enjoyed reading it.

slouching mom said...

This is one of the best relationship stories I've read in awhile.

Happy Anniversary!

HomeGrown said...

I always love hearing these stories of beginnings. And of course, there are always two different perspectives on how things really happened! Happy Anniversary.

Marie said...

What a wonderful post!! You have such an interesting way of writing...it's like reading a good novel.

Happy Anniversary!

(I feel the same about my husband... we were so young, and I really knew so little about life and who I was and what I wanted. I could've made a terrible mistake with who I married, but he's GREAT. Genuinely cares about me and my needs above almost anything else. It could've been so different if he wasn't the man he is.)

flutter said...

LOVE the way you did this, Julie. You two are so so special

slackermommy said...

What a fun and interesting post. Puts my anniversary post to shame.

Happy Anniversary!

painted maypole said...

happy anniversary. fun post!

Lawyer Mama said...

Oh, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!

This: "There is something to be said for such a history together, growing up together, for sticking it out through thick and thin, for realizing that at age 20, you had either a guardian angel or good judgment---or both---and lucked into connecting with a really amazing person." That's me & T too. We always talk about how lucky we were. I mean, who meets their soul mate at that age? Apparently you both did too!

You and I really have led parallel lives, my friend.

Julie said...

Hey Julie, I haven't been commenting much lately -- much on my plate -- but I wanted to let you know I'm still reading.

And thanks for your comments on my post yesterday. I'm headed out for some me time RIGHT NOW. : )

jen said...

what a terrific post about a lovely union. i love that you co-wrote it as well.

happy, happy anniversary.

Aliki2006 said...

Wonderful stories! Happy anniversary to the both of you!

kim said...

As gross as the "fish or cut bait" thing may be, certain types of men have to be told this. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law finally told Roy that if he didn't give me a ring soon, they were going to.

Great story and Happy Anniversary!

baby advice said...

very nice stories!! I like that you added even what he would say!

Happy Anniversary!

Bon said...

i loved this, Julie...you weave a complex and beautiful story, about a complex and beautiful thing.

and you two? back on anniversary one? cuties. you look about twelve to my aged eyes, but cute as bugs' ears.

Karen said...

Happy Anniversary to you both - that was a great spin off with the whole who is your man? meme going around!

Suki said...

Happy Anniversary, you two!

Lovely to read about how your relationship evolved - that's just so sweet to read back on! :)