Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tam + Tom = A Love Story (For Valentine's Day)
I was single for a very long time.
There are people who love being single – who choose it and embrace it. I envied those people. I was not one of them.
I dated during those years – sometimes seriously, sometimes not so much. I had my heart broken in tiny little ways and in great big epic the-world-can’t-possibly-keep-spinning-with-this-much-sadness-weighing-it-down ways.
As I moved from my 20’s to my 30’s it became more and more difficult to meet people. Going out to bars and clubs wasn’t as fun as it used to be and was starting to smack of desperation. I was doing early intervention, at the time – working with babies with developmental delays or at risk of developing delays. All of my co-workers were female and all of my clients were new parents. Not a great environment in which to meet men. I was going to grad school, but, once again, my major was one traditionally pursued by females. I wasn’t meeting men there, either. My girlfriends were pairing off. I was living with an almost crippling sense of loneliness. And I was starting to collect cats...
With a friend’s encouragement, I decided to try a dating service. Even though a friend had encouraged me, I told no one, not even her, when I finally went in, filled out my profile, had my photos taken, taped my video, and wrote a check for a ridiculous sum of money. I hated it. What was I doing there? I didn’t need this! This sort of thing was for losers! Who uses dating services, anyway? Who is that desperate? Well, I was.
And then the calls started coming. Lots of them. Men were coming out of the woodwork wanting to date me. This was crazy! And, for the most part, they were nice, attractive decent men. Not the desperate losers I expected at all. Just folks like me who were having a hard time meeting people through more traditional means.
I read Tom’s profile and let him know I was interested. He called very shortly thereafter and we shared a very long conversation during which I took notes. Yep. I took notes during conversations with potential dates, that’s just how much dating was going on at that time in my life. If I didn’t take notes, I would get them confused. I’d take notes during conversations then study those notes before an actual date. Romantic, no? Tom’s profile had stated that he was involved with environmental issues and enjoyed a lot of outdoor activities. Something like that. Sure do wish I still had those notes so I could confirm… At any rate, there was something that made me suspect he might be a vegetarian. While I could respect that, it wasn’t a time in my life when I was willing to even entertain the notion of giving up steak. So I asked, and – yay! – added to my notes in big caps, “meat eater”. I think I underlined it and drew little arrow thingies to it as we continued to talk.
We decided to meet, and, oh kids, we liked each other right away.
The problem (if you want to call it a problem) was that we were both pretty new to the dating service business and we were both pretty overwhelmed by requests for dates with other people. For people who had been so deeply lonely for so long, this was just an amazing turn of events. Neither of us wanted to get too involved, because we wanted to keep our options open. There were so many new options! But there was a connection which was undeniable.
On one of our first dates – and we both recognize this as a pivotal point in our relationship – he asked if I wanted to stop for a drink. We were driving by a Chi Chi’s at the time and I suggested we stop there. Except I pronounced both Chi’s with a long ‘i’ sound rather than the long ‘e’ sound (which would be the correct pronunciation. The long ‘e’, that is) I did it in reference to a Les Nesman joke from WKRP in Cincinnati - a show which had, at that point, already been off the air for decades. I didn’t have to explain the joke to Tom. He got it right away. It was so obscure, and yet we were on the same page immediately. The heavens opened and the angels sang.
Except we didn’t listen to them – not right away, anyway.
For the next two years, Tom and I developed a deep friendship. Ok, a deep friends-with-benefits-ship. It was so good. But, as I’d said, we both dated other people as well. Every time he met a new girl I would get excited for him. I loved him at this point, but it was a friendly love more than a romantic one. I wanted him to be happy. So every time he met a new girl I’d be happy. For a little while. Then he’d say something that just didn’t sit right with me, or I’d meet her and just not like something about her. I always thought he could do better. This was a far from one-sided endeavor. He was doing the same thing with me – being genuinely happy for me when I got excited about a new guy, then starting to find fault as soon as it looked like it might be getting serious.
We had a hard time finding our way to the same page again. Sometimes I’d feel like I wanted to take it to the next level with him, but he wasn’t ready at the time. Sometimes he’d want to take it to the next level with me, but I wasn’t ready. But through it all, we saw each other several times a week and spoke to each other daily. He had truly already become the best friend I’d ever had. The feeling was mutual.
Then one day, after about two years of this, we were smack dab in the middle of what I thought was a me-wanting-him-more-than-he-wanted-me phase, when he said we needed to talk.
That’s almost never good.
He told me that he loved me. I told him I loved him, too. He said, no, I LOVE you. He went on to say that it was practically statistically impossible for every girl he’d dated in the past two years to be a whiny bitch with motives (my words, probably). About the same odds were in play for every guy I’d dated in the past two years being a total jackass. (Actually, the odds of that were probably a little better…) Anyway. He said he thought that neither of us could find a way to actually accept anyone the other was dating because we were in love with each other. He proposed that we give it a shot; that we stop seeing other people and give our relationship a chance. I giggled and said, “Are you asking me to go steady?” I was 32 and he was 30 at the time. He said, “I guess I am”. I accepted.
And neither of us has ever looked back.