Drawing on my own love story

June 23, 2016 LifeWriting  No comments

The funny thing is, I do not consider myself to be a romantic person.

I remember being grossed out by Disney movie kisses—Pocahontas and John smith beneath the willow tree (ick!), Aladdin and Jasmine (good grief people, get a room already), Simba and Nala, Belle and the Beast. It was all just a little too much for me.

Except, of course, Lady and Tramp. Because they were eating spaghetti and it was just too cute.

So, like I said, I don’t consider myself an overly romantic person. I think Valentine’s Day is a capitalist scam. I almost forgot my wedding anniversary one year. The idea of intentionally romantic dinners makes my lip curl.

But the irony of that is that my love story has pretty much been textbook romantic.

I was never boy crazy. I had a few crushes, but I was never really interested in actually being with someone in a real, partnership way until I saw Andrew.

The first time I saw him, was when I was twelve years old and my parents made me go to a church youth group. He was older—fifteen, which when you’re twelve, seems worlds away—dark, brooding, mysterious, handsome. I thought he looked like Smallville’s Tom Welling.

I remember that summer, the youth group took a trip to Cedar Point. I walked onto the school bus, and Andrew, standing with elbows bent on the seat in front of him, said to me, “You’re wearing my shoes.”

I looked down at my black adidas with the white stripes. Then to his.

Sure enough, we had the same shoes.

“You’re wearing my shoes,” I said back.

Love at first sight, my friends.

In all my twelve year old wisdom, I realized that, alas, the age gap between us was too big at the time. So, I was content to be nothing more than acquaintances. Rubbing elbows at church events. Talking sometimes on AIM.

I even encouraged him to ask out the girl I knew he had a crush on (it was that obvious. Well, at least it was to me). She was beautiful and kind and seemed to return his affections. Somehow “Follow the yellow brick road” became the phrase we used to help give him the courage to ask her out. Don’t ask, because I don’t remember how that happened.

I told myself that if it was “meant to be” with us one day, it’d happen. No reason why either one of us shouldn’t live our lives in the meantime.

They dated for ten months. I dated a boy or two. I moved to my dad’s, then moved back to my mom’s.

Fast forward three years to the fall of sophomore year with homecoming fastly approaching. He’d been catching my eye again at church events. So I figured, “What the hell? I’ll never have a chance with him if he doesn’t know that I’m into him.” So I asked him out on MySpace (let’s all just take a moment to appreciate that little gem from the past).

I’m pretty sure my request made him extremely uncomfortable, and that he only went with me because he felt bad (and because his best friend went to my school, so we could all go together). 

We went to homecoming together (I still have the awkward photos). And then, we started hanging out. Our first date was at Coney Island. His sonic blue Ford Ranger (read: purple, the truck was purple—regardless of what he says) smelled like Orbit gum and Curve cologne. One Sunday afternoon he stopped by my grandma’s house, she gave him a cannoli, and the rest is history.

This July we will celebrate our five year wedding anniversary in the Blue Ridge mountains of Georgia. This October we will celebrate ten years (a freaking decade!) of being together—most likely, with alcohol. Maybe some champagne to class it up a bit.

By the time I’m thirty, I will have been with him for half of my existence.

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I try not to think about that too much or it gives me a panic attack.

For someone who never had any plans of being with someone, let alone getting married, at the very young, reckless age of  nineteen, my journey with the person I love more than anything else in this world has been the most wonderful, magical, real thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

And it’s probably also a big reason why I write romance.

The imprint of my relationship shows up all over my writing.

Sometimes it’s in the inspiration.

I wrote The Charm Necklace because I found myself wondering what I would do if I lost Andrew. How would I come back from that? Morbid, I know. But it’s human nature to think about and rehearse for worse-case scenarios.

Sometimes it’s in the details.

There’s a lot of us and our dating history in The Charm Necklace—dinner in Ann Arbor, going to the cider mill, the heat blasting through the vents of his truck during the colder months.

In Running to Stand Still, our history shows up in the Red Wings game date.

But mostly, it shows up in the way the male lead is always able to see the female lead. See through her walls and armor to the real her. How he always fight for her.

The female lead is always drawn to how safe the male lead makes her feel. How real and substantial he feels to her. How strong and solid and steady he is, when all she feels is chaos and unsteadiness. The way she doesn’t want to need him, to let him in, but does because it feels too good to stay away from him. There’s always the common threads of warmth and gentleness and protection.

Because those are the imprints my own relationship has left on me. That’s how I see love. That’s what love means to me.

When we meet new people and they ask what we do, Andrew says, “Web programmer.” And I say, “Novelist.” And inevitably they ask, “Oh, what do you write?”

“Romance,” I answer.

Eyebrows go up. Eyes dart to Andrew. “She doesn’t write about you, does she?”

In fact, yes. Yes, I do.

 

Until next time, farewell, & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity.

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