She didn't believe in love at first sight until she met him. Now she asks, "Will we last forever?"
In the summer of 1978, my mother accidentally flooded her boss's apartment, and got sued. It's a long story. The important part is that the young lawyer/aspiring rock star she hired to represent her later became her husband—my father. They settled the case out of court within a week. Afterward, she invited him to dinner, ostensibly as a thank you, but really because she had decided that he was The One the instant she stepped into his cluttered office and saw his wide smile and thick black curls.
In some ways, I couldn't ask for a better model. They fell in love, took a risk, and emerged victorious. None of the big questions were answered ahead of time, but they survived anyway.
Still, when I envision their clueless twenty-something selves, I want to sit them down and give them a talking to: He has cute hair and so you feel you ought to get engaged? Sweet Jesus. This is destined for disaster.
My parents grew up and fell in love in the era of "'til death do us part," An Affair To Remember, and the Beatles singing "All You Need Is Love." Mine has been the era of friends with two households, Fatal Attraction, and advice gurus warning us that we need to be on the same page as our partners about everything from money to religion to kids to laundry detergent if we want our relationships to stand a chance.
My friends and I seem to take dating a lot more seriously than our mothers did. Perhaps too seriously. We obsess about every interaction, overanalyze each conversation. As much as we crave relationships, they also scare the everloving crap out of us because we have all seen what can happen when a woman makes the wrong choice.
I dated my high school boyfriend for three years, my college boyfriend for two. Even then, I was asking the big questions. If we couldn't agree on child-rearing practices during our junior year of high school, then what was the point of staying together in the long run? Imagine my dates' delight: what 16-year-old boy doesn't want to weigh the benefits of day care versus stay-at-home parenting?
The point of all this questioning, I suppose, is to keep ourselves safe. If we can solve the small stuff, then maybe we'll be able to conquer the scarier, unanswerable issues, too: Will we get married? Live happily ever after? Break up next Tuesday? Stay together for 42 years only to have you leave me for our grandchildren's buxom piano teacher on your seventy-fifth birthday?
I think it's vital to spend a long time getting to know someone before you commit to a life with him. But the constant analysis doesn't leave a girl with much hope of walking into a room one day and being love-struck, the way my mother was. Or so I always thought.
Then, a little over a year ago, I met Colin. He came highly recommended by mutual friends. "He's a Southern gentleman who holds doors open, and his mother is a feminist," one of them gushed.
"He once listened to me cry about my ex all night long, and afterward he paid the check," said another. "He has more hair on his head than 98 percent of the men in Manhattan," whispered a third.
Usually, a guy so lauded—but not scooped up—by other women is either physically deformed or gay. But this one was actually quite handsome. And there was nothing even remotely metrosexual, let alone gay, about him. I later learned the following: He's in multiple fantasy baseball leagues. He does not think shampoo is necessary. He owns only two bath towels, both stolen from hotels.
Five minutes into our first date, I knew that everything had changed.
That night, I text messaged my friend Laura: I am smitten. She left a voicemail an hour later that went something like, "You?! Smitten?! Smitten?! You?!" From the tone in her voice, you would have thought I’d said, "I am a rare tree frog." I also told my mother that I’d just met a man I was going to love. Going to love, mind you. Because, smitten or not, a girl like me draws the line at love at first sight.
It had actually happened. Someone had captured my heart in an instant. But that certainly didn't mean we were about to get married. I was still me, and so the questions began: What was his take on politics and God and sushi and Sinatra and 401Ks? I kept waiting for him to provide an answer that would rule him out. But that didn’t happen. It wasn't that we always agreed—far from it—but I never heard a single answer from Colin that I couldn’t learn to live with.
We waded into official boyfriend-girlfriend territory with the trepidation and clumsiness of two sixth graders. We said "I love you," nervously, then boldly, and later, offhandedly: "Gottarunintoameetingnow. Loveyoubye."
We met one another's close friends and families. I plugged a flat iron into his bathroom wall, and half of his socks somehow ended up under my bed. We fought about large issues like religion, and smaller ones, such as the ongoing debate in which I tried to sell him on the wonders of Centrum, and he grumbled back: "I'm not taking your damn vitamins unless you wrap them in bacon first."
A year has passed and, while in some ways we feel eternally linked, in others, we are still just getting to know one another. I complain about his snoring, the fact that he sleeps too much, the amount of golf he watches every Sunday, his aversion to the outdoors, and his scary passion for late-night poker games and Doritos. He complains mostly about how much I complain. There is also the business of my being moody, messy, bossy, and inexplicably fearful of both making calls for takeout and answering the door once it arrives.
At the same time, I know that we are in love, that we actually get each other, and that as soon as he is out of my presence for three seconds, I want to see him again. I find him hilarious, generous, gorgeous. He is kind to friends and strangers and dogs in the park. His amazing brain contains more random information than Wikipedia; he loves his mother to the moon and back; and he is the most well-read NASCAR fan the world has ever known. Colin brings out a strange blend of the romantic and the practical in me: I don’t believe in The One, but I still hope that he is it.
Two months ago, after much deliberation, we moved in together, and so far it has been wonderful. But the most important question still remains: Will we last forever? I suppose this is where things start to get interesting. Because although we have already taken a big leap, we’ve yet to land.