(Photo credit Dr. Manny Saltiel, who is also the father of my darling daughter-in-law.)
When I was single, I was anxious about almost every first date. I wondered: Could he be the one? Would he find me amusing? Was my lipstick smearing? Was his smile genuine? But when I first went out with my husband, Jeff, there were no such anxious thoughts, nor any awkward silences. From the moment we introduced ourselves, we fell into easy conversation for hours. I had the odd sensation that somehow, Jeff was not a new person in my life, but an old friend whom I simply hadn’t met until that evening.
Jeff had fallen into my social orbit seemingly out of the blue. He had just moved to town and gotten my phone number from a mutual friend in another city. She had scribbled five names and numbers on a small scrap of paper and handed him this ticket to a new social sphere in a new town. She put a star next to my name, saying, “Start with Judy.”
Thank God he didn’t lose that little scrap of paper, so fateful to our futures! He he carried it in his wallet for weeks before calling me, and after explaining how he got my number, he casually said, “I wanted to know if you want to get together, so I can see what you look like.” This got my attention. It could have been obnoxious, but his tone was so friendly and understated he got away with it. “I’ll take that challenge!” I thought.
I felt so at home with Jeff during our first dinner together I did something I would never have done on a “real” date and ordered spinach quiche, warning him to tell me instantly if any got on my teeth. (None did.) Although we had a great time, I never expected to see him again, because things had gone too well for this to have been a date. I know: crazy thinking! I was also actively husband-shopping, and since Jeff was only 22, with no job yet, no car, and still living at home, I didn’t rate him as a prospect.
I was thrilled when Jeff called again a week later. When we met again after he had spent a day job hunting, the suit he was wearing made me notice that he was really handsome, with good broad shoulders. Yes, the clothes do help make the man.
Conversation flowed easily again, and I had the sudden notion: “Hey, maybe this is a date!” I was struck by the notion that perhaps a date did not always need to feel like social root canal. But I nearly blew it that night. Jeff had been disappointed by a hard day of fruitless job searches. I assured him that he would be employed soon, but then blundered, “Call me when you get a job!” I sincerely meant this as an invitation for him to share the happy news of his employment when it happened.
But what he heard instead was: “Don’t call me until you get a job!”
So I didn’t hear from him for two weeks. Meanwhile, the other men I was “really” dating began to suffer in comparison. They had cars, jobs, and apartments, but they didn’t have a dry sense of humor. They didn’t share enough of my values. They weren’t good listeners.
I called Jeff. “I thought you didn’t want me to call you until I had a job!” he said, sounding surprised.
“What? That’s ridiculous!” I was startled to realize I had unintentionally hurt his feelings.
Fortunately, my instincts about what can hurt the male ego have been honed to a much finer degree, although Jeff still occasionally kids me about that small throwaway line uttered years ago, potentially as fateful as that piece of paper with my name and phone number on it.
While we dated, Jeff would sometimes ask, “Do you ever worry we’ll run out of things to talk about?” But after 25 years of marriage, four kids, career twists, painful losses of our parents, and other twists and turns of life, that hasn’t happened yet. Something tells me that it never will.