Last night as I was trying to drift off to sleep, I realized I have known my husband for 12 years. I even went back to the email archives to pinpoint when we met and it was sometime in April of 2006. (And then I started re-reading emails from 12 years ago and my goodness, my procrastination knows no bounds.) This is shocking to me.
Derek and I met after I turned thirty. Many months after I turned thirty, but it’s important because I had a very cliche, ridiculously sad thirtieth birthday. A few weeks prior I had broken up with a boyfriend, who I also happened to live with. It was one of those breakups where it seemed mutual, but then I realized I’d been snookered into the breakup. I want to note here that this breakup was way overdue and I should have known better because it was an awful relationship. Side note: I recently read a tweet that said something about how you can’t change toxic work environments, but they sure as hell change you, and I can safely say that’s true of toxic relationships as well. All these years later I’m not sure he was the terrible person I thought he was after we broke up, but I do know that when we got together it was caustic and damaging. It’s very very good that it ended and I wish it had ended sooner.
When my thirtieth birthday rolled around, we were still living together on the third floor of a house we shared with two other men. I slept on a futon while he slept on the bed (which was also a futon, so it’s not like one of us got the short end of the stick.) He offered to take me to the beach for my birthday and I accepted because I was still in a state of denial that we had truly broken up. It was a bad time, I felt snarky, he felt unappreciated. When we got back we got in a fight and he yelled at me about not eating the piece of cake he’d bought from Whole Foods. I angrily ate it and then threw it all up. It’s amazing what stress does to a stomach.
I called my mother after he stormed out and proceeded to sob into the phone about being a failure and how my life was meaningless and what was I doing? She understood nothing because I was inconsolable. It was, as I mentioned, cliche.
A few months later I moved out, into a nice place with two other roommates. I felt sorry for myself for a while and then I decided, with the help of my very gregarious roommate, that it was time to go on dates. This was a new thing for me, I’d never dated. I’d mostly met all of my boyfriends at school or work, and we would hang out and then start dating because he liked me and I liked him. It was not choosing, it was settling. It was easy.
Dating, was not easy. It was weird and awkward for me but I approached it like an experiment. I wanted to see how I would choose if I were given many options to choose from instead of just one. Everyone I worked with was very invested in this project because the stories were absurd.
There was the guy who met me at a bar called River Gods (RIP) near Central Square in Cambridge. About five minutes into the date he told me he was looking for a nice girl, the kind of girl who he could take to church on Sundays. I blanched. I’m a secular humanist now, but at the time I was a pretty solid atheist. I have been to many churches and synagogues, but it’s really not for me. (So I guess when I was younger I sort of “dated” religion? Huh. I never really thought of it that way, but that’s what I was doing!) I told him I appreciated his candor, but that person was absolutely not me and if he wanted to cut the date short I would totally understand. He said no, no, we can still have dinner.
At one point during the increasingly uncomfortable meal in which we discovered just how little we had in common, he left for the bathroom and the two women sitting next to me leaned over and told me they were listening and if I needed help to just send them a signal. I smiled and thanked them and because I’m aggressively polite even when I don’t want to be, I finished the dinner. As we were walking to the T station I said goodbye and he offered to walk me home. I told him that wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. I was not comfortable with the idea of him following me to my house, but I knew my roommate was home and I wasn’t sure how he would respond if I just took off running so I let him walk with me.
When we got there I again said goodbye and he told me he needed to use the bathroom. My roommate stood in the doorway of her room down the hall and I stood at the front door of our apartment and waited for him. When he finished and came out he told us how impressed he was that we had Playboy magazines in our bathroom and we gently ushered him to the door and sent him on his way, locking the door behind him.
Another time a very nice guy invited me to a theatre where the Dresden Dolls were apparently filming a music video. We took the bus to Arlington and stood in line with a bunch of Dresden Dolls super fans. I only knew one song, but that’s the song they were all singing while we waited (Coin Operated Boy) so I sort of fit in. It was a fun time, hands down the most unique date I went on, though they never used the footage for the video. On the bus on the way back to Davis Square, he said to me: “I bet nerdy guys all over the world dream they’ll one day meet someone like you.” Which was one of the nicest compliments anyone has ever given me.
There were other dates, with nice guys and weird guys and lots of long conversations online, but then a few months into the dating experiment I met Derek and I finally discovered what I was looking for. I get sick of most people at some point, and sometimes Derek is annoying, it would be weird if he wasn’t, but I am consistently amazed and delighted we’re still having fun after 12 years of knowing each other.