our love story, part one | personal.

I started to write about out love story a few weeks ago, and after I read it over again, I realized that our love story doesn't start with our past, it starts with us. Five years ago I went on a picnic with the zombie of Billy Mays, and that is where our story begins.

it's not a walk in the park
to love each other
but when our fingers interlock,
can't deny, can't deny you're worth it
'cause after all this time I'm still into you
- paramore

I think it is a little cheesy to celebrate every single anniversary. First date! First kiss! First "I love you"! I can't remember when most of those dates are, except that they all happened in November of 2009, although I used to have the exact dates scribbled down on a blue Post-It note inside my desk drawer. I would pull it out in the afternoons alongside my Cobb salad and skim over it, smiling at the fresh butterflies and how close the dates were together. 

Getting to Justin was a messy journey, the details of which I will spare you. No? You want to hear some horror stories? Okay then. I had a string of boyfriends through college and afterwards, finally ending a two-year relationship in January of 2009. I was over it. And now, as I type this, it strikes me all over again what a season of change that was and, despite being generally uncomfortable with the landslide of new things (like bellydancing classes, #truth), I dove right in. 

After a few months of being single, my Mom suggested I try online dating. I thought it sounded weird and desperate, but the average guy where I worked was in his 50s and I wasn't interested in "going out." I realize now that it's not anything worth getting in a huff over, and the romantic world of the Internet is bringing people together all the time, but this was 5 years ago and I think it still had that creep-factor to it. As it happens, online dating is not really any less weird than real-life dating. People are dishonest about who they are and they often don't look anything like their photos (did you know that a 5'1" guy can look deceiving tall in a photo that only shows his top half?).  And sometimes they spring surprises on you during a first date, say, you've just stuffed a spicy tuna roll into your mouth and he says, "I ran a half-marathon last month...and I also have a 9 year old son!" That tuna will suddenly taste 100 times spicier. 

Two of my profile pictures from my eHarmony profile. The one on the left was a mistake, I have big teeth and people with big teeth don't do the "smolder-smirk" very well.

I had a subscription with eHarmony for a solid 10 months before I met Justin. I meant to cancel it twice in that time but I kept missing the auto-renew date by one or two days. Finally, in mid-October, I made myself a calendar alert to cancel the service before Dr. Warren sucked me in for another 3 months of answering questions about my ideal first date. I hadn't checked my messages in almost a month and when I signed on, I started deleting like crazy. I didn't even bother reading the messages or responding to the match requests or "winks," just delete-delete-delete. 

I came to one profile, a Justin, who sent me a short "hello," nothing especially exciting or different than the rest. I sat at the computer, hovering my finger over the Delete button and, for absolutely no reason, no gut impulse, no "I had a feeling," I moved on to the next match and continued deleting until he was the only one left. I opened his profile, he was handsome, his profile wasn't anything mind-blowing, just straight forward about his interests and hobbies. His job description read simply,  "Law Enforcement." Guys, I'm gonna be honest here. I thought he was a mall cop. I mean, if he was actually a police officer, why wouldn't he just say so? That's a profession to be proud of, right? 

One of Justin's profile pictures, he's the smiley fella on the right. Bless.

He had a few lines in there about loving his 88-year old grandmother, and I thought that was sweet, but...I don't know. It wasn't like I felt sparks flying and hey, I resolved to cancel the service and that's what I was gonna do. I sent him a message back letting him know my subscription had been canceled and my account would be closed in a few days. We sent a few generic e-mails back and forth and he gave me his phone number...I ignored it. The day my subscription would end, I got one more message from him asking if I got his phone number because his computer was broken and he had been driving to a friend's house to use their computer to message me. I smiled. That seemed like some real effort.

I waited two days to call him. I mean, once he had my number, that was it, right? I couldn't take it back. He might text me full-frontal photos of himself naked in the middle of the night (this happened with a previous match, you can't make this crap up). I stood in the kitchen with my cell phone, slowly dialing and, if I'm being completely honest, praying he wouldn't answer. He didn't. I left a short message in my best I'm On The Phone So My Voice Just Got Three Octaves Higher and hung up. 

When he called back, he told me he was in Pittsburgh for the week and getting ready to go to a Halloween party. He had a nice phone voice, I liked it. He was dressed as the zombie of Billy Mays, complete with an Oxy-Clean shirt he found at a thrift store a few days prior. Now, I know you must think that's a clever costume, but I feigned mock-horror at the tackiness of it considering Mr. Mays had only been dead a few months at the time. We talked for 3 hours. Then 3 more hours every night of the entire week. 

My future husband on the right. No wonder he sucked me in with those white eyebrows.

I couldn't sleep. I would wake up several times a night buzzing with excitement. I floated through the work day, checking the clock every few minutes until it was time to talk again. I couldn't believe he wouldn't be back in town for another week! Ridiculous! We needed to meet!

Finally, a full week after our first phone conversation, it was November 8 and we had a picnic date planned for Sunday afternoon. It was abnormally hot, in the 70s that day, and I remember sitting in church in a waffle-knit shirt, sweating straight through it. I thought about going to the mall before meeting him to get something lighter, but apparently I am incapable of making decisions when nervous. I picked a very open, very public park in downtown Frederick in case he turned out to be a lunatic and it would give me a chance to escape. 

I waited on the steps of a little white gazebo for him to show up and, when he did, it was in the ugliest button-down shirt I've ever seen. But he brought me a handful of Gerber daisies that made for a nice distraction. He packed the picnic all on his own, well, mostly. The friend whose computer he used to contact me? She packed a thermos of vegetable soup and a loaf of homemade bread into the basket, along with white cheddar cheese, a pint of raspberries, a jug of strawberry smoothie, red grapes, and, for my part, a tin of peanut butter cookies. We spread it all out on a maroon-colored blanket, took our shoes off, and sat there for hours and hours until the sun started to drop and agreed to go for coffee. 

A week or two after our first date - le sigh.

We spent another two hours holding hands at a wobbly Starbucks table, followed by a steamy kiss in the parking lot (there is an ongoing, futile debate about who initiated it, but we both know it was him so there's not really a debate at all). By the time he drove me back to my car, it had been a 10-hour date. I thanked him for a great day, drove home to my bedroom in my parent's house, where my steps on the staircase woke my probably-not-sleeping-anyway mother.

I sat on the edge of her bed and she asked how our date went. I thought about it for a moment, and suddenly, my stomach dropped. I didn't think I wanted a boyfriend, I had been doing really well as a single person for the first time in a long time and I had loved the last few months of being on my own. Sure, this guy seemed wonderful, and I really did enjoy our time together, but...I just didn't want to be someone's girlfriend again. Not yet.

"It was good, he is too nice though."

She laughed. "Too nice?"

"Yeah, like, too-good-to-be-true nice. It doesn't even seem real, he's...annoyingly nice. I don't think I want to see him again."

My Mom said something about me being weird or having issues and I went to bed, feeling a little sad and disappointed and confused. What went wrong? We had a great day! We talked all week! Why am I sad!?

Part 2...soon! 

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