Fiancé Steve chimes in with his take on our first meeting (and makes me blush).
You’ve heard from Sandee about how we were introduced through a mutual friend and became acquainted on Facebook before meeting in person. Indeed, Steve R. told me about Sandee on February 21st (isn’t e-mail archiving great?), and I contacted her that evening. We traded a few e-mails, scrutinized each other’s Facebook pages, learned what Google seemed to know, and set up a brunch date for February 24th.
We’d agreed on a nice restaurant in her neck of the woods, so I had plenty of time to reflect during the 45-minute drive in. As I motored along the interstate in light Sunday morning traffic, I tallied up what I knew about this woman. Steve R. had introduced her as smart, adventurous, really nice, and single. Excellent qualifications! He never mentioned her beauty, letting the photos I saw on Facebook speak for themselves.
Driving through gray, tree-bristled mountains, I mused that one positive sign was her active outdoor lifestyle. She hiked, ran mud runs, backpacked and mountain-biked—things I also enjoyed doing in the beautiful forests surrounding us. She held an academic position, which meant we’d made some similar choices, had some similar experiences. College professors always seem to have plenty to talk about, even if it’s only commiserating on the elegant dysfunction of so many academic departments.
I’d found an essay she’d written, so I knew she was skilled at expressing herself with grace and humor. And I knew she was witty—in one of her first e-mails, she implied Steve R. told her I had a Marie Osmond doll collection. What a great icebreaker! It poked fun at those red-flag oddities most Internet daters eventually tell stories about.
I knew she was comfortable in her own skin. I’d read with interest (bordering on awe) about her nude modeling on Valentine’s Day. Mind on the road, Steve, this is your exit!
I obediently followed the directions of my car navigation system to the restaurant, arriving early, as I usually do. (My Navy captain father instilled an almost obsessive attention to punctuality and efficiency, and academia has not quite beaten it out of me). By the time I sat down in the restaurant, eyes on the door, I’d catalogued a fair bit of knowledge about the woman who would soon walk through it. Things seemed promising.
However, I’d also endured six years of mid-life dating. I’d discovered how someone looks “on paper” does not necessarily translate to real-world compatibility. I was getting much better at restraining my optimism. I was hopeful, but not confident.
She walked into the restaurant.
The sun did not illuminate her hair like a halo from behind, nor did the camera switch to slow motion as she crossed the room, unfurled her scarf and tossed her hair. I didn’t look into her eyes and see inevitable love.
I saw a beautiful woman, a friend of a friend, someone willing to spend part of her day with me.
I don’t remember what she wore. I don’t remember what we ordered. I don’t even remember what we talked about. I do remember the time passing far more quickly than it usually does, the awkwardness of a first date melting gradually into the easy conversation of a pair of like-minded individuals. Once the bill had been paid, the waiter was more ready for our date to be over than we were, so we headed outside and sat a bit longer in the rare, warm, February sunshine.
For too long, I’d been a daydreamer, and I tended to let my mind skip to the future so quickly that I failed to savor the present. I’d often made the mistake of anticipating what might be rather than fully enjoying what is. It was so much better to enter a first date with no expectations other than “maybe I’ll make a new friend.” It allowed me to see what was really there before me: I had, indeed, just made a new friend. And without all those expectations and imaginings occupying my head, there was time and space simply to let things unfold.
I e-mailed her that evening to ask her on a second date.