Eleven years ago today, my wife and I went on our first date.
J and I had met a year prior when we worked at our university’s writing center. We liked each other and would always sit together at meetings. Unfortunately, J had to leave school that semester to take care of her mom who had cancer. When she returned the following semester, Spring 1998, I was so excited to see her. That she was in one of my classes was the best of news. In this class, we became close. She would sometimes drive me home from school, and we would chat, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and laugh a lot. At the time, I was primarily dating men, and while I had been with one woman before, I hadn’t pursued any others (the girl broke my heart). When J told me she was gay, I remember blushing–not because I was uncomfortable, but because I quickly realized that the path we were headed down was something other than friendship.
The class was over midway through the semester, and J began to pursue me in earnest. She would show up at my house with coffee, ready to take me for a drive, or she would find me after class, buy me lunch, and drive me home or to her house. One night, I went to her house after having a drink or two with friends, and she had plans to seduce me. We painted, and she played music (I distinctly remember her giving me the eye as she played Dave Matthews’ “Say Goodbye”–a one-night stand song), and her best friend N–a man who was in love with her–showed up and thwarted her plans. It was long before I was weary and decided to go home. It really is best, for I think at that point, it would just have been a one-night stand.
Time went on, and we became closer friends. J would drop poems in my mailbox in the writing center. She would take me for drives to the beach, where we would sit in the dark in her car talking. I was nervous as hell because I knew something was happening, but my nerves sent her the wrong signal, and she started to back off. I didn’t like this. And so, I invited her for dinner one night, very subtly letting her know that I missed her advances, and the mutual flirtation began in earnest.
About a week into this, J called me to tell me about her upcoming sorority formal. You see, she had been pledging a sorority just for the hell of it. She was a senior in college. She was older than all of the girls in the sorority (she had served a three-year stint in the military before school), and it really was this strange little game she was playing. I think she enjoyed the friendships she was making, but she was only out to a few of them. Many of the other girls were fairly conservative and undoubtedly a bit homophobic. Well, the formal was to be her initiation–a graduation of sorts–and she was to bring a date. When she called, she mentioned that she thought it would be funny to shock all of the girls by showing up with me as her date. As someone who never turned down an opportunity to make people a little uncomfortable, I was game, but she wasn’t asking in earnest, and our conversation ended with me wondering what that would have been like. Minutes later, my phone rang again, and J asked me if I really would like to be her date. I gave her an unwavering yes. I was so nervous, so excited.
The following week was spent getting ready, flirting like crazy, hugging and staring at each other but never kissing, shopping for the perfect clothes, and just generally getting excited. It felt like prom. We found J a flowy black velvet suit, and I had a short burgundy velvet dress. If nothing else, we’d be the cuddliest people there. When the night arrived, J had to go to her super-secret initiation first. I arrived with the dates of the other new pledges, and I stood in the lobby with these guys as we waited for our ladies to emerge and take us to the party. Soon, J did come out. We hugged, and we made our way into the ballroom of the hotel where many of her new sorority sisters learned for the first time that J was a big ole lesbian (most were really great about it, but some were visibly shocked that she had brought a woman as her date). We had a blast that night. We danced and danced, ended up at the hotel lounge where karaoke was happening, and we held hands for the first time as someone sang some song I can’t remember very, very poorly. It was all magical, full of sparks and butterlies in the stomach.
That night, J spent the night at my house for the first time. We had still never kissed. We went to bed and snuggled. She kept falling asleep, and I would nudge her or rub her arm to wake her. Finally, in the middle of the night, she awoke, and our faces were no more than an inch apart. We kissed and kissed and kissed and feel asleep again. We’ve never stopped kissing. We never will.
Happy Anniversary, my love.