Friday, May 9, 2008

In Which I Get A Little Sappy

Ok, I'm going to tell a little story here. Why I'm telling this story now, of all times, will be revealed a little later.

I graduated from college in 1995 and got a job almost immediately thereafter. Almost immediately I discovered first-hand what any person with half a brain could have told me, closely followed by a well-enunciated "Duh:" that life after college is very different than life in college. Going from being a happy-go-lucky college student with OK (not great) grades, to being a programmer in a financial services firm that needs those numbers right now was a bit of a culture shock. The time needed for work, and for commute; the money issues (trying to keep all the bills handled at the same time while relying only on the money one earns oneself, without going to the parents every month for extra dough); and the fact that all my old friends were graduating and moving away made for a fairly rough transition. For a little while there I went through a woe is me phase, until I figured out: "Look, pal, this is life. Every guy has to face this stuff and keep soldiering on, just to live. You've got absolutely no right to complain, so man up and live up to your responsibilities."

So I started making some adjustments, started handling money a little better, started building some job expertise at my company, and started to adjust my social life. Things started smoothing out about 1997 or so.

During this time period I started looking at the relationships I had with the people in my life. I wasn't dating anyone, and hadn't been since college. I had several friendships with people at work, but none of them were particularly close. I knew a lot of people from church, but most of these were either once-a-week acquaintances, or they were really close friends who were (alas) at the age where they were moving on in life, and moving away from home. So I decided to myself, I need some new friends.

Or rather, I needed to start cultivating some of these acquaintances and see if any of them could become friendships.

Where to start?

Well, there was this young lady named Tonya who used to sit near me in church every Sunday. This wasn't because of any animal magnetism or anything; I was sitting up front because I often led songs during services, and she was sitting up front because she could see and hear better up there--there are fewer distractions when you're not behind a whole host of oddly-shaped heads. We'd been exchanging weekly pleasantries for years by this point, since we'd first met back in 1990. So one Sunday morning sometime during summer 1997, I asked her out to dinner.

This wasn't intended to be a "date", per se. After all, we didn't really see each other as being in the same league. She was four years older than I was, for one thing; and when I first met her, I was a snot-nosed college Sophomore, and she was in her second year of her Masters' program. Four years is a big difference at that age. Besides, when I first met her she was dating a man who was about 18 years older than me, with a reasonably stable career. No, this woman was not in my league. Now, on this day in 1997 when I asked her out to dinner, I wasn't trying to start anything; I was just trying to get to know one of my comrades a little better. She wasn't dating the older man anymore, and neither of our lives were focused around school anymore, but there was still this sense of "she's not in my league; that's not what this is about."

For her part, Tonya had (after breaking up with the older gentleman) taken some time off dating. And she had been running through the list of all the single guys she knew, and finding reasons why that one would be a bad choice. Turns out, she'd thought about me, evaluated me, and had decided: Nah, too immature.


So anyway, that Sunday morning in 1997 I asked her to dinner, and she said "Ok." (After a moment's reflection, she couldn't see anything that was inherently wrong with the suggestion, so she went with it.)

We had a very pleasant dinner at a Fresh Choice restaurant that is no longer there. (It's been replaced with a Cheesecake Factory, which is a bit of a delicious irony, actually.) We wound up in conversation for a good three hours while we were there, during the course of which we solved all of the world's problems. I was thinking to myself, "Ooh, this girl is smart, and she's got her head screwed on straight." I have no idea what she was thinking of me. But I decided that I rather enjoyed her company, so at some later date I asked her out again.

Eventually we started doing the "dinner and a movie" cliché, and I discovered something else about her that was interesting: this very nice, very proper, very conscientious girl had this weird fascination with violent movies. Those flicks with impossibly larger-than-life heroes, with impossibly larger-than-life muscles, who blow up dozens of their enemies and then crack bad one-liners, sent this rather demure lass into little fits of giggles.

Especially when she was hopped up on sugar.

So our first movie together was the James Bond movie that happened to be in the theaters at that time. Again, we had a blast. Apparently, she liked my company too, since every time I asked her out, she kept saying "Ok."

Well, this went on for the better part of a year. And during most of this time, neither of us was trying to "make" "anything" "happen." But eventually, when two people of the opposite sex spend enough time together--and when that time is uniformly enjoyable by both parties--one or the other will almost inevitably start to think of the other in "that way." In our case, it was me. Tonya was more or less clueless, I think.

So I started thinking about whether I should try to tell her how I felt, and would that wreck our friendship? Because that kind of thing can wreck friendships, you know. It happened with that girl, and that one, and... Hm. This seems to happen a lot with me, you know? So how do I tell her what I'm feeling? Or do I tell her what I'm feeling? And am I really feeling it, or am I just kidding myself....

I'm reminded of that Far Side cartoon, captioned "Same planet, different worlds" in which the top frame shows a man lying in bed, looking at the ceiling, thinking: "I wonder if she knows I exist... Should I call her? Maybe she doesn't even know I exist? Well, maybe she does... I'll call her. No, wait!... I'm not sure if she knows I exist... Dang!" And of course, in the lower frame, the woman is lying in bed, looking at the ceiling, thinking: "You know, I think I really like vanilla." This was exactly the dynamic that was at work here--including the part about Tonya liking vanilla.

So I asked some advice from a young lady I knew and trusted from a completely different social circle, and then planned THE date with Tonya. We were to have dinner, and then I would tell her there was a vista point I knew of, up on the hill side where one could see the entire Bay Area stretched out below--quite lovely on clear nights. And then I would explain to her how I felt about her, and ask her if she had anything resembling similar feelings about me.

It was a lovely meal, but I don't remember enjoying it all that much, from all the butterflies in my stomach. But she just said "Ok" when I suggested that we go for a bit of a drive into the hills, so that was the first hurdle crossed....

Thankfully I didn't make her carsick on the way up. That was a real danger; so I made sure to take those corners pretty gently.

So we got up to the vista point eventually, and it was calm, peaceful, and quiet up there. Unfortunately there was a bit too much fog up there to be able to see the usual spectacular view, but that was probably just as well.

So as we sat up there, in the quiet, and the dark, I swallowed hard... madly tried to think of the right words to use... took a deep breath of air... and then tried to explain to her how I felt about her and why I felt that way. I tried to sound calm. I most certainly was not.

Her response when I finished my spiel, as far as I can recall, was something along the lines of, "Well, I suppose it's a good sign that I haven't developed a sudden desire to run for the hills."

(This was followed by a giggle and the comment, "That's because we're already here.")

Now, knowing Tonya, this response came to me as a huge relief. So we were able to talk about it some. She hadn't specifically been thinking about me in romantic terms--there was that whole vanilla thing and all--but she wasn't dead set against the idea, either, and wasn't freaked out by the fact that I felt that way about her. So we talked for a while....

And eventually, I couldn't resist, and I asked if she would let me kiss her.

She said (after a brief pause), "Ok."

It was about twenty minutes later when we finally came up for air. ;-)


So why do I mention all this?

Because that date was May 8th, 1998. I would have blogged about this yesterday, but we've been having a wonky internet connection (that didn't really get fixed until the phone company guy came and worked on our wires this morning). And besides, one doesn't want to celebrate important anniversaries by blogging about them, right?

Still, after ten years, one rather sizable (but thankfully simple) wedding, a move, and three kids later, I'm proud to say to my beloved wife:

Happy kissy-face day.


Anna said...

Awww.... Tonya is very blessed.
Our story is similar, and involves a skunk. Truly.

Timothy Power said...

Now that is a story I want to hear. Do tell!

Anna said...

I won't tell it nearly as well as you, I'm sure.
The short version is that we were on a blanket looking at the stars. Dear Hubby had been very hesitant, because it was his very first kiss as well.
So, he finally decides it's okay to kiss me... leans in...

and we hear rustling nearby. A skunk, probably a baby, runs up between us with this look on his face. It was shocked, likely just from meeting humans, but it seemed to us to be from walking in on such a scene.

The skunk runs away, and he gets that first kiss. :) We were married a year later, about a mile from that spot. No skunks were in attendance.