I thought I would take a few minutes out from panicking about getting a job and talk a little bit about how I met my husband, Lionheart. This came to mind because yesterday I listened to Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” which was our garter-removal song at our wedding (more about that later).
On the evening of Friday, April 4th, 2003, I went to a book-signing for author Laurel K. Hamilton at a bookstore about 20 minutes south of where I live. She writes the series “Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter”. Not everyone’s cup of tea. I got there early enough to snag a good seat (although referring to a metal folding chair as a ‘good seat’ is the height of irony) and, since I always have a book tucked in away in my purse, I pulled it out and started to read. I was vaguely aware of someone taking the seat next to mine but didn’t look up or pay any attention, since, for me, reading is an addiction and not something I stop doing for trivial things like food or people. This person turned out to be a man, a very persistent man, who insisted on conversing with me. I finally gave in and put my book away and we talked – about the author, her Anita Blake books, her other books, then other books we know and love, and so on, until time got close to the author’s appearance.
This happened to be a book signing where you show up and take a number, then get in line in numeric order. He had gotten there early enough to pick up his number plus four numbers for his friends who were supposed to arrive later. When the time got close and his friends hadn’t shown up, instead of simply giving away the four tickets, he stood up and organized a ‘number exchange’. If your number was higher than one he was holding, he gave you that number and then you had to find someone else with whom you could exchange your old number. Sounds clumsy and time consuming but he accomplished it quickly, many folks were happy because they had moved up a few places in line, and the book signing started on time.
He was in line ahead of me and disappeared after his book was signed (I found out later it was because his friends had finally arrived). After my signing I went up to the registers to pay for my other purchases. While I was standing in line, with about ten people in front of me and about ten people behind me, he suddenly popped his head around a display sign and, right there in front of all those people, asked, “Would you like to go out sometime?”
Now let me explain something: I have naturally blonde hair and big boobs, and I guess blondes really do have more fun, if they are so inclined, because I get hit on. A lot. Everywhere. Although I’m sure the boobs play a “big” part of it, too, pun intended. There is no flattery to me in this. The men who are hitting on me don’t know me as a person and probably could not care less – it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction. Or some other reaction occurring below their belt, anyway. So I mostly walk around in a “shields up” mode (yes, as implied above, science fiction and fantasy are my two favorite genre) with this sentence at the tip of my tongue and ready to fire: “Oh, thanks so much for asking, but I’m not interested at this time, sorry.” Because I was just not into casual dating. I had been single for six years and loving every minute of it.
But something in my brain short circuited when he made his invitation and refused to let me fire off my standard rejection sentence, giving me, as my daughter calls it, a serious case of the ‘uhhb duhs’. You know, when you just stand there and say, “Uhhb duh, uhhb duh, uhhb duh” until your brain finally kicks in again and you can manage a coherent sentence. The sentence that did finally come out of my mouth was, “I’ll meet you over in the coffee area after I pay for my books and we can talk.” He said, “Okay, see you there,” and walked away.
I just stood there for a moment in shock. Then aloud I said, “He asked me out!” and a voice from the back of the line said, “Go for it!” Then I said, “But I’m older than he is!” and a voice from the front of the line said, “That’s okay. My aunt is seven years older than my uncle and they’ve been married for twenty-three years!” Wow! Good advice from total strangers! Who’d have thought?
So I paid for my books and met him in the coffee area and we talked for over an hour and at the end I told him I don’t go out with men I’ve just met, but that the next night was the weekly Parents Without Partners dance and he was welcome to join me there if he was so inclined. He said to give him the directions and he would be there. I was surprised and skeptical. It would be a long drive for him, since he lived about an hour south of the book store.
But now here is the part that I’ve spent all this time building toward. I think it defines the whole basis of our relationship. He said, “I’ll be there, but I have to warn you, I can’t dance.” And I replied, “Well, that’s okay, but I CAN dance, so I’m not going to just be sitting there hanging on to your shoulder all evening.” And he said, “I understand.”
Not in that pitiful, subdued, manipulative way, but in that game show host/announcer sort of way, like “Heeeeeeeeeeer’s JOHNNIE!” “Aaaaaaye understand!” Like it really was okay.
There it is. Total honesty. Are you listening, Diogenes? We say it all, we lay it on the line, and the other person takes it and is okay with it.
I had to be okay that he didn’t dance and he had to be okay that I would dance with other men and leave him sitting. And I did. And he did. Except he found other ways to interact – the monthly birthday cake ended up on our table and he cut and served the slices to folks as they came up, always with a quip or a comment of some kind with each slice. And I danced swing and cha-cha and foxtrot with other men, and some slow dances with him. And then we left the dance an hour early and went to the 24 hour diner next door and sat and talked for another two hours.
And the next day I called to thank him for coming up to the dance and he asked me out to a movie, and I said yes. And six months later he asked me to marry him, and I said yes.
And he suggested “Paradise in the Dashboard Lights” as our garter removal song, and I said yes.
But that is another story.