You can imagine how well this worked out for me—at first.
He wasn't my type.
We worked together, and he kept asking me to do things with him, in a collegial sort of way. But when my friends asked if he might be a romantic possibility, I assured them that he wasn't my type at all. I had always been attracted to powerful older men —the kind who charm the pants off every woman they meet.
You can imagine how well this worked out for me.
But Jeremy was a peer. He was almost three years younger and a fellow reporter for the same newspaper. I always dated aggressive guys whose idea of a good time was hurtling down a black diamond run. Jeremy was a bespectacled theater expert who had spent the Vietnam War years as a conscientious objector teaching emotionally disturbed children.
But Jeremy was also patient and persistent; no matter how many invitations I declined, he didn't take offense and always tried again. As cultural news reporters, we were both required to see the same plays, so we'd go together. Afterward, starving, we'd go to dinner. Our conversations grew more intimate.
As the months rolled by, my friends became increasingly suspicious: Jeremy again? Are you sure there's nothing going on here?"
"Absolutely not," I insisted. "He's not my type at all." And, if truth be told, I was pretty sure I wasn't his type, either. His previous wife was very short, dark, introverted, and Jewish. I am a tall, blond, extroverted WASP. We were clearly not a match. But I was 36 when I met him, and pretty soon I was 37. My biological clock was making quite a racket.
As for Jeremy, every time we passed a baby in a stroller or saw a toddler at a restaurant, the smile would never leave his face. He really wanted to start a family, an issue that had been a source of conflict in his former marriage.
"Do you want to have kids?" Jeremy asked me late one night as we waited for our hamburgers at a 24-hour diner.
"I would have loved to, but I've accepted the fact that it's probably never going to happen," I said. "I've made my peace with it."
He smiled so understandingly that my eyes welled with tears. Because that's just the type of person that he is. I had recently gone into therapy (mostly to try to figure out why I had such disastrous taste in men). So I'd see my shrink, sob through my session, and come to the office with mascara smeared all over my face.
One morning I arrived in particularly terrible shape, still weeping. Suddenly, he was at my desk. He didn't ask if I was all right because it was obvious that I wasn't. Instead, he told me to go home and get some rest. And then he called to check up on me.
That was when I knew.
Then one day, Jeremy invited me to a theater a couple blocks away from his apartment. My closest office friend wasn't convinced. She told me that he was going to ask me back to his place, just so he could make a pass at me.
Jeremy did invite me to see his apartment, and he did make a pass. The next day he asked me to marry him. Here's where I have to admit that I was a commitment-phobe myself. Stalling, I asked if we could have a long engagement. When I frantically called out 10 years, he just shook his head calmly, still smiling that understanding smile. My eyes welled with tears again.
At our wedding, I was so terrified of getting married that I almost fainted. Jeremy kept a steady grip on my elbow. Panicked, I kept sneaking sideways looks at him and thinking desperately, "But he's not my type!" By then, however, even I knew better—at least in my saner moments.
Jeremy was smart, talented, and interesting. But unlike some of the guys I dated before him, he was also honest, trustworthy, and dependable. When I watched him play with other people's children, I knew what a wonderful father he would be.
He was calm and steady in a crisis, and I sensed that I would be able to count on him as a husband, no matter what challenges arose. He had a mature understanding of what commitment meant, and he wanted it.
His kindness to me reflected the way he interacted with the rest of the world. He's the sort of guy who helps little old ladies cross the street and graciously motions other drivers to cut in front of him. Maybe he doesn't arrive at every dinner party determined to dazzle all the guests; he tends to speak up only if he actually has something to say.
When he does, his views are intelligent and humane, often containing unexpected insights. When he feels comfortable with people, he's absolutely hilarious. Even after 20 years of knowing him, his sense of humor is as wicked as it is sly.
And despite the difference in our backgrounds, our values have proved compatible on almost everything, including parenting.
Jeremy and I celebrated our eighteenth wedding anniversary last summer; our children are now 17 and 14. We share a life together. My heart still leaps every time I hear his voice on the phone. When I talk to younger friends, they often tell me about men they've rejected after one date.
"He's not my type," they insist. "There was no chemistry." If I urge them to keep an open mind, they snort derisively and assure me that they know what they're talking about. But I don't believe them—the first night I spent with Jeremy is proof of that. I feel sad for what they might be missing.
There may well be such a thing as love at first sight; I know people who claim to have experienced it, although the ensuing relationships rarely lasted over the long haul.
And when I think about my friends, I realize that every single one who's in a stable, longterm, and healthy relationship married a man she initially claimed was not her type. But I think perhaps there are other lessons here as well.
A successful relationship is the product of many factors; compatibility is certainly one of them. But timing is equally critical. You not only have to want the same things; you have to want them at the same time. My boyfriend before Jeremy was an infamous womanizer.
He was in his forties when we met; a year and a half later, when I realized he wasn't remotely ready to settle down, I broke up with him. He was in his sixties when he finally got married—to a woman half his age.
But when I met Jeremy, we were at the same stage in life. So why didn't I recognize him as a kindred spirit? The fact that he didn't match up with my mental checklist of things I was looking for only goes to show you how absurd such a checklist is in the first place.
I know many women still think that love is a mystery (and part of a coup de foudre). But I don't. To me, love is more like a plant. When you scatter seeds in the earth, you never know which ones are going to sprout. While some may die, the strong ones keep growing for years.
For when it comes to love, "you just never know," my husband says. "Until you know."
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