My husband and I met for the first time in March 2011. Immediately I thought, “Wow, this guy is incredibly good-looking.” Then we parted ways for the evening and a short while later he texted my friend/co-worker (who also happened to be his uncle’s girlfriend) and asked, “Who’s your friend with the beautiful smile?” But I was “dating” someone at the time and decided to let it go. And we didn’t meet again for another fifteen months.
I spent most of 2009 and part of 2010 in a relationship with a self-involved, self-righteous schmuck. It was one of those energy-draining, soul-sucking, physically wearing relationships. And after it was over, I was determined to live differently than ever before. I moved into my own place, enjoyed time with my friends, and I lived up the single life. When I started dating again, my goal was to do the opposite of my last relationship. If you know me, though, you know I go all the way when I do something. I kept in control of the situation, I kept emotions out of it, and I made sure it was someone I would not truly invest in. And my friend (the one who introduced me to my now-husband, Bobby, on that fateful night in March 2011), totally took advantage of my apathetic attitude. The whole time I was dating that last dude, she periodically dropped in tidbits of information about Bobby.
“You know how you care about people and societal justice, Stefanie? Well, so does Bobby! He’s really passionate about non-discrimination, criminal justice reform, and gay rights. You two would get along.”
And in my head: Yeah, okay, he sounds like a good guy, but I don’t want to invest in anyone right now.
“Oh hey Stefanie, you know how you’re really into books, films, music, food, video games, and art? Bobby is, too. You two would really have a lot to talk about.”
And in my head: Those are some of my favorite things. But I don’t need to share those with anyone else in order to be happy.
“Hey, you know how you’re a spiritual person but not into conventional religion? That’s what Bobby’s into, too! You should hang out.”
And in my head: Wow, that’s pretty uncommon, especially in the south. But…I’m sure this guy can’t be all great, so just let it go.
“Stefanie! You know how you’re kind of introverted and would rather chill at home than party out on the town? That’s Bobby! He loves staying home, too! You guys were meant for each other.”
And in my head: This guy sounds like my soulmate. But thinking that without having really MET him is weird, you weirdo. Stop being such a weirdy-weirdo.
But I couldn’t get him out of my head.
I was “dating” that last dude, and I couldn’t stop thinking about someone I had never really met. I tried to cut ties with that dude, but I had a difficult time doing so. Those who know me know I have a habit of going out of my way to help others. This is why I’m a social worker. In the case of this last faux-relationship, I ended up feeling so sorry for this person that I couldn’t break things off. He had no reliable family support, no job, nowhere to live, etc., so I let things continue despite feeling like an empty shell just going through the motions. Eventually I realized I was doing more harm than good and broke things off. One month later, I “met” Bobby…again.
It was June 15, 2012. Those of you who have been in Chattanooga long enough know that’s right around the time Riverbend is occurring. In fact, it was the last Friday of Riverbend and the Goo Goo Dolls were playing. My friend and her boyfriend (my husband’s uncle) set up a “blind date,” as it were. I knew of this “blind date,” but insisted that it was really just a group gathering and emphasized to her that I did not want to feel pressured into anything with this guy.
Honestly, I had this perfect image of him in my head based on that first statement he made about me (probably the sweetest and most charming thing anyone has ever said about me), remembering how handsome I thought he was, and thinking about all of the things we had in common (at least according to my friend’s version of him), and I was terrified of having it destroyed. He, without knowing it, had brought me hope in the fifteen months since I had met him. He was a light in the darkness I had created around myself. And I was desperately afraid that meeting the “real guy” was going to conflict with the “perfect guy” who lived in my imagination.
In case you didn’t catch the foreshadowing…he defied every fear and doubt I had. He rose above even my greatest expectations. From the moment we laid eyes on each other (again), we were fated to be together. We spent that June evening talking about music, social norms, interests, individualism, personal flaws, joy, and comfort. Actually, we didn’t talk about comfort. We WERE comfort. I found out a few weeks after we had been dating that he sent a text message to his best friend on the night we “met,” which said: “I just met the girl I’m going to marry.” And the night after we “met,” I spent the evening with a friend raving about how I thought this guy was “the one” but that I couldn’t say that to anyone else because they would think I was crazy, that it was too soon, or that I was being impetuous. I didn’t know it at the time, but Bobby’s friends were thinking that about him, too. Until he met me, he told everyone he was going to be a lifetime bachelor, never get married, and never have children.