We haven’t had an installment of our Tiebreakers series in far, far too long, and although this post doesn’t technically qualify as a Tiebreaker, it’s at least a first cousin.I’m posting this today because this coming Saturday Melissa and I will celebrate our first wedding anniversary. (Actually we’re going to celebrate it on Friday because I got the date wrong when I made the arrangements.) I have some thoughts about marriage I’ll share later, but for now I want to post something from the transcript of our early relationship, which was easy to find, because our entire relationship is preserved for posterity in emails, chats, and blogs. Not since John and Abigail Adams has a couple’s correspondence been so fastidiously recorded. Flirtations, fights, breaking up, making up – it’s all there, and searchable by key word. In honor of our first anniversary, I’m printing the very first email I ever sent Melissa, which also doubles as me asking her out for the first time.
I actually think this is the first picture we ever took together. And the only one I know of where my eyes are dramatically different sizes.
A little context: I’d met Melissa a few times before sending this email. We were in the same ward, and knew a few of the same people. I had even tried to strike up a conversation with her a time or two, only to be met by one-word answers and minimal eye contact. Realizing that cornering her at church wasn’t doing the trick, I asked a common friend for her email address and sent the following:
Hi. I wanted to talk to you today, but you seem to travel in a pack, and I’ve never been good at approaching packs. Which is weird, because I was raised by wolves. Anyway, I would like to take you to dinner this week. Here is a list of reasons why I believe you should accept my invitation:
* I will pay. And I will allow you to order anything under $9 (including tax, but not tip).
* I will come with a list of prepared conversational topics should we find ourselves without anything to talk about. (Sample: “Melissa, why do like me so much?”)
* I am moderately handsome with the right lighting.
* I will put you as one of my top Myspace friends for one week if you accept.
* My patriarchal blessing says I will marry someone whose name rhymes with Shmelissa Shmarison. So, you know.
I’m fairly free this week, and can accomodate your schedule.
Am I the kind of person who asks people out via email? Yes. But you’re the kind of person who flashes peace signs in photos, so I think it all evens out.
Now, is it my best work? No, it’s not. Are there some jokes in there that make me wince? Yes, there are. Is it strange and a little heartbreaking to think of the simpler days when we used Myspace? Yes, it is. There is one joke in there, though, of which I am excessively fond, and that is the one about the patriarchal blessing. I’m pretty sure our audience here is exclusively Mormon, so I’m not going to bother defining that term. If you’re reading this and you’re not Mormon, shoot me an email, and I’ll have two of my friends go to your house to tell you all about it. Anyway, I loved that joke, and was pretty sure it was going to establish me in Melissa’s mind as a fun, funny guy.
Imagine my surprise, then, when after a few months of dating Melissa confessed to me that the patriarchal blessing line had very nearly been a deal-breaker. Apparently it was “creepy.” How can it be creepy if it’s very clearly a joke? It can’t. (And this is further evidence of my theory that girls like to act like they’re creeped out by suitors when they in fact are not. “Ewwww, you guys, he brought me flowers!!! Creepy!!!!” Topic for another day.)
So, Melissa says this joke/email was “creepy,” I say it’s “not creepy/great.” You say . . . “not creepy/great.” I knew it.
True love is sitting through a 3D U2 concert movie for someone.
This email demonstrates a phenomenon that I’ve always found interesting when it comes to relationships of any type: You don’t know someone, and then you do. I know, right? But seriously, it’s so interesting to think back to a few years ago when I was a random acquaintance of Melissa’s; she really didn’t know me, and I really didn’t know her. She had her circle of intimates – friends and family – with whom she was close and shared a great deal of history. These people were extremely important to her, and I wasn’t.
Trying to date someone – or trying to be their friend – is essentially declaring, “Hey, I want to go from being this person you only kind of know, this loose acquaintance on the outside of your world, to being like those people inside it, your friends and your family. People who you love.” Tacitly making this declaration by trying to date someone or be their friend always made – and in the case of friends, still makes – me feel a little vulnerable, like something of a striver or an interloper, someone trying to get into a party to which they weren’t invited. It made me feel like an outsider looking in, and perhaps for that reason I’ve always been anxious to get that phase of the relationship over with.
Whether it was creepy or awesome, I’m glad I did it.
I sometimes felt like saying, “Look, I know I don’t mean a thing to you right now. We haven’t shared anything, and I haven’t proved myself as someone who you can trust or who has attributes that you will love. You already have a bunch of people in your life who you love and trust, and you’re going to go home from this date and call one of them and tell them about me and our date. But in a few month’s time, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be one of those people. You’ll be calling me after hanging out with them. So is there a way for us to just sort of, you know, skip to that point?”
I never said that, of course, but the desire to say it probably led me to be the kind of guy who joked about getting married in an email asking someone out on a first date. And my desire to skip to the part where your lives are deeply intertwined turns out to have been a well-founded one, because once you’re there it’s pretty great.