In 1991 I got out of a particularly volatile relationship. I think it lasted ten months but it felt much longer. She was a very beautiful and passionate woman, which made for an exciting romantic life, but made practical daily living a constant struggle that took way too much effort. I’d had enough and moved back home.
While I licked my wounds at a local watering hole, one i’d occasionally performed at as a local musician, I saw a woman I’d admired from afar ever since I laid eyes on her years before at a local pizza joint, projecting all sorts of unfounded fantasies about who she was.
To me at the time, Cheryl seemed completely out of my league. A pipe dream. In fact, I happened to know she was dating the owner of the pizza joint she worked at. He was an ambitious, business-minded, go-getter in the process of building a successful franchise. I was none of those things so I dismissed any thoughts of approaching her. What would she want with me?
She was tall, thin, easy-going, and very attractive in a simple, unassuming way (i.e. my “type” if I ever had one) She was playing pool (billiards) with a mutual friend of ours who invited me to join in. We really had fun, despite my behavior later that night.
Apparently I was annoyed I wasn’t called to the stage to sit-in with the band but her now ex-boyfriend/pizza-business-owner was called to perform. I must have considered this a slight, and resented him and that particular band even more than I did before. They were actually good friends and I was no more than an outside acquaintance – by choice. These were the kind of people who seemed to expect automatic deference and I wasn’t a willing sycophant.
I don’t know why I was so angry. Maybe it was professional jealousy. Maybe it was the fact that he so easily dismissed a woman I really liked. Maybe I was just drunk. I’m not sure, but it only took one look from him, a look that said, “You ain’t shit!” for me to go directly for his throat. I recall us being pulled apart somewhere near the entrance by the crowd. I got kicked-out of the bar.
A few days later, after I cooled-down, I called our mutual friend to ask if Cheryl would consider going out on a date with me. As it turned out, she was right next to her while she was on the phone so she played mediator. A moment passed while she conferred with Cheryl.
“Yes, she would very much like to go out with you,” our mutual said.
That was probably one of the happiest days of my life. I was elated. For some reason, probably low self-esteem, I really didn’t expect to get what I wanted and I was still under the influence of my unrealistic romantic projections.
Memorial Day was fast approaching so our mutual friend suggested our first date take place at their co-worker’s annual canoe trip down the Huron River. Perfect. Safe for her, casual for me. It took the pressure off both of us.
About a dozen of us rented canoes and, in our mid-twenties, became “those people” on the river; the young, drunk and disorderly crowd. But we had a f’n blast. Our first kiss took place standing on a submerged rock in the river while we nearly lost our balance. Good times.
I moved in with Cheryl just weeks later when one of her roommates moved out. They needed the rent money and I needed to get out of my parent’s basement. We discovered living together was easy and drama-free. We could do this.
The annual Memorial Day canoe trip took place every year for a while, until people started to drift away with their own lives, commitments, kids, etc….
Finally, five years after our own child was born, a wedding, among many others that day, took place on February 25th, 2000 at the Candlelight Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Yes, it was quite the extended engagement; nine years. But we knew we weren’t going anywhere. I didn’t need a piece of paper to signify my commitment, but she did, so I acquiesced and we’ve been together ever since.
Looking back now after 32yrs of being together and 23yrs of marriage, it hasn’t always easy – it still isn’t – but it works, even after any shred of romance has long since faded. We fight but we forgive quickly. We’re reliable partners, practical companions, and there’s very little drama – at least from her.
In fact, unlike other girls I knew previously, she was never very susceptible to drama, which was a breath of fresh air to me when we met. What I didn’t realize at the time was that also meant there’d be very little passion, at least not from her. Now I wonder how I missed that important clue. It seems projections can last well into a relationship, decades in fact.
But it’s ok, all things considered. We’re still a good team and our relationship has deepened in ways I never could have predicted. We’re lucky in so many ways and we know it, and today is the day we’re supposed to appreciate that – and we do, though we’ve never made it a big deal. We just roll like we always have, effortlessly.