Clint and I were set up on a blind date...by our mothers. You see, our moms had been college roommates, and when they reconnected after many years, they were excited to discover that they had children who were practically the same age. They were even more excited to discover that neither of us was seriously dating anyone, and so their matchmaking began.
At first, I wouldn't even take his phone calls. It was my last year at Clemson and frankly, I was sick of dating. All I wanted was to fully enjoy the last, carefree days of college and not be saddled with the same date to every party. I think Clint called about two dozen times before I finally answered. He will tell you that it became such a game, he stubbornly decided to just keep at it to see if I would eventually wear down. If it weren't for my friend Katie, who finally threw down the ultimatum that someone in our apartment was going to answer that phone, and someone in our apartment was going to date Clint, and she didn't care if it was me or if it was her, I would probably have missed the boat all together. But she convinced me to at least take his phone call, and then the situation further spiraled out my control when I found myself agreeing to go on a date. And so it began.
You already know I didn't want to like this poor guy. He drove all the way from Atlanta to Toccoa to pick me up, and then went an extra 30 minutes out of the way to the Italian restaurant I suggested. Over dinner, his nerves (coupled with the fact that he was also a college-age male) obviously made him thirsty, because he ordered not one, not two, but three vodka tonics during the course of our meal. For a first date, that's a fair amount of cocktailing. I could hardly wait to go home and report this fact to my Southern Baptist mother. Take that, matchmakers.
We left dinner and headed to the movie theater. Ever the gentleman, Clint let me choose what to see. I looked over the movie posters and tried to find the least romantic, most offensive movie playing, and hence chose American Pie. That's right, I took my mother's friend's khaki-pants-and loafers-wearing son to see THAT. While we were standing in the lobby waiting for the theater to open for seating, a man happened to pass by who, shall we say, was a tattoo enthusiast. I made some snarky comment about how "classy" that was, at which point my date lifted the hem of his khakis and showed me the inside of his ankle, complete with...a tattoo of his very own (his fraternity letters, lest anyone think it might be a flaming arrow or a heart with "Mom" inked inside it). I was horrified, and immediately tried to cover myself by telling him what a tasteful choice his particular inking was. Needless to say, I did not foresee a second date in our future. Which was absolutely, positively, fine and dandy with me. If you're keeping score, that's Susie-2, matchmakers-0.
After the movie, he drove me back to my parents' house and--in a manner that I would find out later was completely and totally out of character for the boy--talked my ear off. I wanted the date to be over, wanted this blind date to leave, and I could practically hear the clock ticking above the mantel in our living room as he chatted on and on...and on. As he wound down, he mentioned that he and some friends were going to see Willie Nelson in concert the next weekend and he had an extra ticket if I would like to go. I was on the spot, and I couldn't think of a way out. The sheer length of the evening had worn my resistance down. I said yes. And spent the next week complaining about getting myself into this second date situation. I told anyone that would listen I would see this guy one more time and that was it. Ah, the best laid plans.
Our second date went swimmingly well. We saw Willie play at Chastain Park in Atlanta, and enjoyed a fantastic dinner on a white linen tablecloth with candles while he played under a warm, summer sky. I couldn't help but notice that my date had impeccable manners: he stood up when I left the table, opened doors, and even had a handkerchief at the ready when I spilled something on myself. The odds of me finding a way to clumsily get dirty are high; the odds of a 22-year old fraternity boy having a handkerchief to remedy the situation is slim to none. I took it as a sign, and I was completely smitten.
|Here we are in 1999 on our third date, and by that point, we were both actually glad to be there.|
Since that first date, we graduated college, honeymooned, moved to a new state, bought our first house, got a family dog. We've traveled near and far, from Dollywood to Hawaii and New York to California, and we're about to add Italy to our list of visited places in a few weeks. We've grown up (some), and we've also done our fair share of kidding around. The boy I didn't really want to date has put up with hormones, hot rollers, and hissy fits. I'm still putting my foot in my mouth, forever needing his handkerchief, and going along for the ride when Willie Nelson is playing. And when he's running late (most of the time), when we disagree (less often as the years go by), or when he's taking forever to finish one of those home improvement projects of his, I just remind myself: give him a break, and take a second look.
Happy Valentine's Day!