The day before I first met the beau I spent a couple of hours after work at a Wet Seal-like store, trying on jeans. The pair I ended up buying were bleachy white with lots of stretch in the knit and had some kind of filigree flourish on the butt pockets. When I got home that night I discovered that the plastic anti-theft device had been left on, so the next day I had to rush back to the store on my lunch break to get it taken off, because those were THE JEANS I was going to wear that night to meet some guy from a fake personal ad on Craigslist1, and I’d be damned if I was going to be prevented from making a good impression with my snazzy butt filigrees.
I remember those jeans well because I wore them straight through the rest of that year, but the detail about the plastic anti-theft device could have easily been forever lost to the ages if it wasn’t for ICQ. In those days my best friend and I would spend hours IMing every night as only two single 24-year-olds can. She’d bitch about grad school and recap her readings (“Poland was pretty decimated by WW2”) and I’d… whine about wanting to eat macaroni & cheese every day. Apparently! One benefit to this period of excessive text output, besides the obvious window onto our youth, is that I now have a wholly accidental history of Getting to Know My Spouse as it occurred in excruciating real time.
When I told my friend the beau’s name on IM she responded that it sounded like “some polo-playing James Spader-like WASP.” When I found a grainy thumbnail of the beau in a pose imitating Dr. Evil2 on his rugby team’s website (pre-Facebook! pre-Myspace!) she noted sagaciously, “you have to admire someone who would allow that picture to be posted online.” When I asked for tips on meeting him she said, “don’t obsess.”
My mind’s recollection of it is that I didn’t obsess; I played it cool as a cucumber in the months after the beau and I first met. But ICQ tells a different story. Every other night was a lengthy examination of why he did or didn’t call me, and what could he possibly be thinking?
Cool my ass.
How do you know that internet stranger you agreed to meet at his house and then go shoot pool and drink Jack & cokes with is The One? You don’t. I didn’t, anyway! Over the ensuing years I worried, aloud and to his face, that he:
- Didn’t read enough of the right kinds of books;
- Wasn’t creative enough to meet my sensitive artistic needs;
- Seriously doesn’t write OR play music, what is going on with that;
- Maybe is too nice (????);
- Isn’t the kind of person that people go and have those intense romantic film-like relationships with and is that a problem;
- Wears calf-length white socks with sneakers and shorts and doesn’t he realize how STUPID that looks;
- Has way short legs, like his torso is way long compared to his legs, why is his body all disproportionate like that.
I’m a pretty great date!
When I begged him to tell me all the things that worried him about me, SPILL IT KID SPILL IT, he said he didn’t have any. When I pressed even harder, after some mute inner searching he would finally say something that was to me a giant yawner of a non-issue, like how I sometimes took myself too seriously. COME ON. Tell me something juicy, like how you stare at my dumb face over breakfast and fantasize about some alternate life path involving a spirited blonde named Stacey. I don’t know.
It took me a long time to understand that the beau is truly, purely, and sincerely uncomplicated of mind, body, and spirit. I’ve asked him 100 times and 100 ways over why he ever liked me and each time he said, unvaryingly, because he thought I was awesome. There was nothing deeper there, no wretched yearning of a disquieted soul. He liked me. Because he thought I was awesome.
Somewhere along the way it finally dawned on me that this Craigslist dude is a national fucking treasure. And maybe instead of picking it apart by messy handfuls looking for the bad, I could instead just enjoy the unfettered thing we had.
Ten years ago tonight was a Wednesday, and on that Wednesday I changed into my new filigree-butt jeans that no longer had an anti-theft device attached to them. I drove downtown with the MapQuest directions I’d printed out at work in my lap and found his house and knocked on the door and we made awkwardly enthusiastic small talk on the way to the bar. He asked if he could smoke a cigarette and I said yes even though I meant no, but that didn’t matter in the long run because he quit of his own accord six months later. There were so many things to obsess over, to worry about, in that first year and the years after. But a decade in the exigencies of having a relationship have fallen away and left me with something clean and comfortable to wear like a favorite hoodie. Because it turns out that all of those interests we don’t share, I greedily, gleefully get to keep for myself. I get to be wholly myself every day, and that’s better than showing up to the party with someone wearing cool socks, I guess.
Life rarely seems remarkable while you’re in it, but if you’re lucky in time and rich in ICQ records you get to look back and say yeah, that was pretty great.
I’ll say this: the beau is probably the best Craigslist deal I’ve ever gotten outside of my dresser. And my dresser kicks ass.
1 If you already know the backstory please don’t read this as I find that blog to be incredibly embarrassing THANKS.
2 This is UNFORTUNATELY a photo reference of Dr. Evil and not the photo of the beau in question.