Too Many Boys
The night I met Joe, I had six guys to choose from. It could have been worse, but they left a couple of friends at home.
This was January, 1999. I had recently broken up with my last boyfriend and I thought it would be healthy to be single for a while. My new friend Leah made her invitation to a game night sound like a chance to make friends, but it was really about throwing fresh meat to the hounds. Fortunately for me, they were a rather shy pack. I had a greater chance of being mugged by nuns than of being assaulted by these guys.
Leah's plan was to meet at the driving range, hit a few buckets of balls, then go back to her and Dave's house for barbecue and games. Ok, cool. I had only been to a driving range once, but I liked barbecue and games. She mentioned that there were a lot of guys in her social group, but I've had guy roommates and lots of guy friends, so that was ok too. I told her about five times that I didn't want to be set up with anyone and that I didn't want to talk about my ex. She was very reassuring. We were just going to hang out. This was just about friendship. Yeah, right.
It was a pretty fun evening, but I'll admit there were a few times I felt nervous. When we got to the driving range, Leah and I were the only girls. Leah introduced me to Joe, Dave, Rob, Tim, Jim and Dean in one quick swoop. Then she and Tim wandered off to the other end of the driving range and I was left standing with five smiling strangers, all of whom were eager to lend me their golf clubs. Ok, fine.
I learned a couple of things really quick. One, I don't know anything about golf. Two, these guys were far too shy to be scary. Everyone was smiling, but no one said much beyond some very minor-league small talk. Joe was the first one to approach me and he did what he could to help me out with golf. He lent me the proper size club for my height, showed me the proper way to hold it, and explained the basics of the swing. I won't claim I did well, but I can honestly say I swung with enthusiasm.
Back at Leah and Dave's house, we were given drinks, brought to the living room, and then Leah and Dave disappeared to go cook dinner. I offered to help, but they sent me back to the living room. So there I was, alone with the smiling men again. Someone finally asked, "Who are you, anyway?" and I realized that Leah had left them in the dark too.
So I started talking about the current state of my life and how I met Leah. I didn't mention my ex at all, because I wanted a break from that subject. Pretty soon I realized that these guys needed to be prompted into talking or I was going to be holding forth all night. I teased them into going around the room and each telling me something about themselves.
Instead of just telling me about their jobs and other basic stuff, it turned into a weird dominance ritual where they started telling me embarrassing things about each other, with each of them trying to make themselves look better by making everyone else look worse. Jim was a workaholic who still lived with his parents. Rob slept on a futon mattress on the floor. Joe made a huge mess in the kitchen every time he cooked. Tim nearly drowned almost every time they went river rafting and was still stubborn about wearing a life jacket. None of it was headline-making stuff, but the fact that they resorted to it was hilarious. It was hard to believe they were all in their thirties. Somebody tried to slam Rob for not having a date since college, but then it was revealed that most of them hadn't had a date since college.
The only one who stood out during that part was Joe. He was sitting next to me on a small couch. Instead of slamming anyone else, he started telling me about some of his funnier skiing mishaps and cracked me up. I liked the way he told a story. I liked that he had a sense of humor and could admit that these things happened because he goofed. I liked that when he laughed, he laughed very loud. I do that too and people are always getting on my case for it. I really, really liked his eyes.
Even when they were slamming each other, you could tell that these guys truly liked each other. They didn't cross the line into hurting anyone's feelings and everyone was a good sport about taking their turn on the hot seat. They reminded me of guys I grew up with. I teased them and joked around with them as if they were a bunch of my cousins or something and they just took me in. I was invited to all their events for ages after that night.
Eventually, Dave and Leah came in and fed us. We started playing card games after that and the seats were rearranged so that Tim was sitting next to me. I hadn't really noticed him before then. He and I took turns beating everyone else at the card games and it gave us a chance to chat and joke around. Looking back, it's a bit hard to explain exactly what I found compelling about Tim.
Tim was a self-described computer geek. Things you could tell just by looking at him: he was never a bad boy, he has no idea how to dance, he doesn't argue with his mother, he drives the speed limit, he hasn't dated much, and his idea of a wild night is probably everyone else's idea of PG-13. He also looked far too timid to have ever broken anyone's heart. I wasn't head over heels, but I was very aware of him.
Joe, on the other hand, came across as more of a grown-up. He had a quiet self-assurance. He moved in a way that made me think he'd be a fun dancer and a good athlete. He was the only one in the room who got my literary references. He dressed well and looked like he knew how to take a girl out on a proper date. He showed the wonderful balance of having a sharp brain and a silly sense of humor.
The group of us played cards and hung out until pretty late. By the end of the night, I felt that life after my breakup could end up going pretty well after all. I felt like I had made some new friends, and I saw possibilities for the future.
I hadn't mentioned to the guys that I wanted to be on my own for a while, but Leah told the guys about it a couple of days later. She knew that Joe and Tim were both interested in me after the game night and she asked them to give me a little space. Joe listened. Tim pounced. It took me a while to figure out which guy was right for me, but I did, and I've been with Joe ever since.
Postscript: Joe and I were married on September 6, 2003, in the presence of our close friends and family.