So I was raised by the ultimate hopeless romantic. In my mother’s defense, she was surrounded by easy love stories in her life. Some of the stories honestly were better than the movies. For example, my grandparents met on the front lines in France during WWII. Two weeks later they were married. Yep. Two weeks. My parents, well they waited two whole months after meeting to get engaged. Add a litany of romance movies where two people meet, fall madly in love, and then live happily ever after you could say her outlook on romance could be a little skewed.
I mean doesn’t everyone meet the love of their life and then marry them two weeks later?
While some kids may have watched a steady stream of Flight of the Navigator, I was memorizing all the words to Dirty Dancing and Pretty Woman. So, you could say the hopeless romantic views may have rubbed off a bit.
I’m not sure I made my original foray into the relationship world an easy one. I mean, my expectation was I would meet someone and we would fall hopelessly in love forever. Even if I was only fourteen. So there’s that. There’s also my penchant for liking the bad boys and following them around like a lost puppy dog. Or trying to like the nice guy, then getting bored, and then letting them follow me around like a lost puppy dog.
I dabbled in dating in high school. Then I dabbled a little more in college. I was never one for long term relationships, because the hopeless romantic in me was holding out for that moment that you just know. And well I never had that movie worthy moment. For real, my grandparents did. It involved champagne, nurses, and first officers in a house on the front line in France. Thanks to a nurse hogging the bathtub and all the hot water, my grandparents hit it off. She was only there for the promise of a hot bath, and ended up married in Paris shortly after.
Thank goodness for a lack of hot water.
You see, I thought I knew what love was. Looking back, it really wasn’t. I liked him a lot, and to be honest I’m not sure I ever loved him. But hindsight offers a lot of insight, as well.
All that dabbling, led to an actual long term relationship in college. And I married him.
He and I both came from long married families, and small towns where being married in your early twenties was the norm and almost an expectation.
So that’s what we did.
BUT, we had no business getting married. Shockingly, no one said this out loud. Zilch. Zero. NO ONE.
One should never get married because you think others expect you to.
Fast forward a few years later, a few big moves, and yet another job change for me. We had become different people, and well, he had developed MAJOR issues keeping his pants on in the presence of a certain coworker.
So I moved on. The hopeless romantic in me was forever gone, though. Cue sad music played, while Suzie wanders Michigan Ave back to her lonely River North studio in 2004.
It’s totes sadder when you don’t even have a bedroom wall…. (Wait…isn’t this how most Rom Coms start out????)
Anyway, it took me awhile to dip my toes back into the dating pool. To be honest, I wasn’t really ready to commit to anything other than me for a long time.
I did try though. Totes tried it all.
I tried online dating. I tried speed dating. I tried the bar scene. I even was set up on blind dates.
Sometimes a relationship materialized out of it. Sometimes they went nowhere. I didn’t even pigeonhole myself to a type during those seven years, because I wasn’t going to rule anyone out. You know, just in case there really was this thing called true love. So I tried to make things work with a bar owner, a cop, a microbiologist, a fighter pilot, and an insurance rep. For various reasons it didn’t ever work.
Every time a relationship ended, I remember being so hurt. And honestly, not sure if I wanted to put myself out there again. On the plus side, dating a lot gave me a good picture of what I absolutely did not want in a relationship. I had a pretty ideal list of the perfect guy: tall, dark hair, decent job, good work ethic, family man, funny, would do anything for his friends.
I also had major deal breakers. I was REALLY good at finding them for awhile.
Did you know that Chicago was originally swamp land? If there are all kinds of fish in the sea the ones that live in the swamp are extra special snowflakes.
Taking me to a bar on our first date, lifting your shirt repeatedly, and asking me to feel your abs while referring to yourself as the “Chi Situation” is one of them.
Back to the swamp, yo.
Not all my dates were awful, and I clung to that hope. Which is probably why I kept my profile active on OK Cupid. I had tried other sites, but refused to keep paying for them if I kept finding idiots that wanted to me to feel their abs. OK Cupid was free. So I signed up. I got lots of messages, and admittedly was super picky and rarely replied back.
Then one day Dan’s picture appeared. (There’s debate now as to whether he messaged me or I poked him for that pic to show up in my inbox). He was cute. And also a man of few words. Seriously, his profile was the least descriptive one I had ever read. One month of messages, emails, and phone calls later we finally had our first date.
I remember walking into the bar, and being so pleasantly surprised that he actually looked like his picture.(I mean he actually looked like the guy in the pic, and he wasn’t twenty years older, 40lbs heavier, or not even remotely the same guy pictured. No joke, these had all happened to me.)The short and sweet profile was to his benefit, too. He’s a humble dude, and never one to oversell himself, and it worked in his favor that night. I left wanting to go on a second date. That hadn’t happened in awhile.
I actually liked him right away. I didn’t realize I loved him until about 6 weeks later.
You see, my dad had had a stroke a few weeks into our relationship. Dan called that first weekend to check on me. The man let me blabber to him for over and hour from the hospital waiting room. I’m not sure he got in more than two words. (Which is probably pretty usual with me, honestly, but in the beginning I totally let other people talk. I swear.) He was genuinely concerned about my family; one that he had never met. He became a constant for me. Something I didn’t know I needed.
A few weeks later, as I lay in bed next to him, I grabbed his hand. In that moment, I needed to hold it. I needed to be even closer to him. I needed to be as close as humanly possible to him.
Which also could sound super creepy….but hey he gets my crazy.
It dawned on me in that moment, that I loved him. That feeling was love.
All those other missteps were for that moment. Ironically, he checked off my entire list, one that I thought was too perfect to be possible. But he was my kind of perfect.
My grandparents had theirs on the front lines in France. My parents had theirs on the steps in the commons at ISU. Our moment was in a condo in Lincoln Park.
In a few short days, I’ll be celebrating 5 years of reaching over and grabbing my husband’s hand in the middle of the night. It’s still my thing. I’m weird. But he’s weirder. It’s cool though because we accept each other’s crazy. The crazy works to balance each other out.
And well, each day in our house is pretty much comedy. So I guess this means that it’s ok the hopeless romantic in me is forever gone, because I’m living out the real life Rom Com dream.
Here’s to 100 more years of reaching over holding your hand, Dan.
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
– Harry to Sally