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Steve Speaks: From the Other Side of the Table

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.

Dinner celebrating our first dating anniversary, Seattle

Dinner celebrating our first dating anniversary, Seattle 2014

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Once Upon a Facebook Status: How We Met

A Valentine’s break-up, a sad Facebook status, and a set-up: what could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, nothing at all.

Endings

The day before Valentine’s Day in 2013, I texted a man I’d been dating off and on for a while, asking if he’d be interested in catching a happy hour gallery talk at the art museum the next day. Shortly thereafter, my phone rang.

“Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied.

“That’s, well. You know.”

I did know. I knew we’d been drifting away from each other yet again. I knew spending Valentine’s Day together would signal we were headed in the same direction, when clearly we weren’t. I knew these things so well, in fact, I’d already made alternate plans for after the lecture, anticipating that otherwise I might well be spending the evening alone. Instead, I was scheduled for my first-ever figure modeling gig with a community drawing group.

“That’s okay,” I said. And it was true.

 Middle

The next day I went to the lecture alone, then hopped in my car to drive to the drawing class. I’d mixed up my directions, so by the time I arrived, I was more anxious about being a few minutes late than getting naked. I quickly changed into a robe, then almost just as quickly dropped it. I concentrated for the next hour and half on holding poses.

That evening, I posted on Facebook:

Spent my Valentine’s evening as the sole naked woman in a room full of strangers.

If you can’t make love, make art.

Steve, as yet unknown to me, also posted about his day on Facebook:

For Valentine’s day dinner—an evening at Bull & Bones with guys from the office and the Forest Service. Sigh. Such is life. At least there was decent beer!

Meanwhile, our mutual friend Steve R. scrolled through his newsfeed. He spotted our lonely-hearts updates—one right after the other, I like to imagine. He’d already been contemplating setting us up. A few days later, he sent me a message about a nice guy he knew who was looking to meet someone.

 Virtual Beginnings

After I agreed to be introduced, Steve R. sent me a message saying he’d told Steve about me. That was at 8:05 pm. By nine, I had my first message. Steve’s eagerness was refreshing, and the decisiveness seemed a good sign.

We traded a few messages on Facebook, including a running gag about Marie Osmond memorabilia. Since we’d both already learned that extended online communiques prior to meeting face-to-face were a bad idea, I quickly said yes when he suggested getting together that Sunday. I had afternoon movie plans, so we settled on brunch.

It was the first best yes ever.

 Beginnings

When I walked into the restaurant Sunday morning, Steve had already arrived. He was seated at a booth along the left wall, and as soon as he saw me, he rose to his feet, his face hopeful, a little anxious. He was tall and bald, neither a surprise, vis a vis Facebook. After I joined him at the table, I noted his bright blue eyes and warm, handsome smile.

I don’t remember much of what we talked about that day. As academics, I suspect we shared our current projects—I was on sabbatical, working on a book; he was in the early stages of founding his center for sustainable forestry. I do remember that we lingered until it felt impolite to keep occupying the restaurant’s table, then lingered a bit longer over drinks purchased at the coffee shop next door. It was warm for February, so we sat outside in the sun talking until I had to leave to catch my movie. Steve walked me to my car and gave me a hug good-bye.

I liked him. I didn’t yet know where it might or might not go, but I liked him. And I really hoped he’d meant it when he said we should get together again.

Turns out, he did.


Today is the two year anniversary of that first brunch date. 

Happy anniversary to my honey, Steve!


Photo, Mountain Lake, April 2013: first picture we had taken together. Photo credit: B. Rotche