Like all great small town romance stories, ours begins at a bowling alley.
My now-husband and I met at the first glimmer of hope at the end of our awkward stage, the end of 8th grade. I had just ditched my bangs. He had finally cut off his rat’s tail (yes, I’m serious.) And by pure chance, we were both invited to the same group gathering at the bowling alley.
My motivation to attend was actually because of another guy. This is a theme that plays out repeatedly through our “will they or won’t they” story spanning the next 15 years. I was supposed to meet up with a guy I was casually interested in (I was always casually interested in someone) but as I learned from the pay phone at the bowling alley, he got grounded earlier in the day and wasn’t able to attend. An absolute bummer to a 13-year-old.
Despite my disappointment, I stayed to hang out with my friends and was introduced to, as my journal recalls it, “this super cute guy Hank.” Now, if you’re thinking it’s super sweet that I wrote about him in my journal (or that I still have it), you are correct, but then I also made a note that I couldn’t tell if he was “charming or annoying” so take from it what you will. However, we did spend the evening chatting, laughing, and generally being nonsensical teenagers. But we never exchanged phone numbers so at the end of the night, I went on my merry little way.
Two months later, as we were settling into summer vacation, having decided that a guy who gets grounded right before going out with his friends had fundamentally poor judgement, I was casually interested in another guy. I was now a 14-year-old and obviously, much wiser. My friend’s boyfriend (also a good friend of mine, it was a really small town!) happened to be friends with this new guy so we devised plan to go to movies together as a way to kick-start the romance. However, this new guy wasn’t available to go and my heart was crushed. My friend mentioned he could invite his other friend along who was super nice so that we could all still go to the movies and have a good time. Reluctantly, I agreed.
Well, wouldn’t you know who the invited friend was? Hank. Upon hearing this and remembering that he was “super cute”, as teenage girls do, we devised a plan to ensure that Hank and I sat next to each other, which ended up being a pretty amazing plan. Why? Because we saw Mission Impossible 2 that day, which is a terrible movie, and I was grateful to be next to someone who didn’t like it as much as I did and spent the entire film mocking Tom Cruise with me. This was a really turning point for us. We held hands (awww) and at the end of the evening, he was brave enough to ask for my phone number, which kicked off a four week romance.
Yes, four weeks. Four weeks of spending hours on the phone while he played video games and I painted my nails, talking about all the most ridiculous things in the world. I have a distinct memory of him taking a quiz over the phone from one of my teen magazines. We were able to meet up a few times to get ice cream and even kissed (oh la la.) He went to Hawaii with his family and brought me back a puka shell necklace (that I still have!) And it all came to screeching halt when I went to California to visit family, decided to stay for way longer than planned, and broke up with him over email.
To be fair, this was an age with long-distance call charges and no cell phones. It was either break up over email or use my precious calling card minutes. I’m an economical woman.
Our story doesn’t end there. We stayed friendly through high school, enjoying laughs on the track team and jokes in the hallway.
In college, a chance meeting at a bar in Mexico on spring break would kick off another short-lived romance. Coincidentally enough, I was at that bar to meet up with another guy, who, after partying too hard the night before, wasn’t able to make it out. Hank walked in, saved me from a bar fight, and we decided to start dating. Unfortunately, at the time, we were living in two separate cities and that was a bit difficult for two poor college students to manage, so after about two months, we cut it off.
This led to an awkward stage in our relationship. We were very much so into each other but couldn’t seem to make it work. I moved on to someone else, who I eventually married and Hank had other relationships. We weren’t able to maintain a friendship during this time but always enjoyed seeing each other when we did.
Fast forward to our friends’ wedding (the friends from the movie theater date), we were both in the wedding party and reconnected as friends. A friendship that blossomed and months later, he went with me to our high school reunion…that I was supposed to attend with someone else. Hahaha! Okay, okay, this time it was another friend who was supposed to go with me, but he backed out at the last minute, so having a spare ticket, I invited Hank to go.
And the rest is history. We had a very slow start for people who knew each other for so long but once we got our act together, it was full steam ahead. And honestly, it’s been pure magic.