I’m not big on Valentine’s Day as a holiday. Too much pressure to “correctly” perform a form of romance that has nothing to do with the rest of our lives together. Too little imagination about the varieties of relationships that exist out there. Far too much commercializing of a particularly insidious kind.
I still celebrate the day, however, just not as a holiday. For me, it’s the anniversary of my first date with my husband, eighteen years ago. Inspired by this Role/Reboot piece on the death of traditional courtship, I thought I’d share how we got there.
When Ben and I first met, we were each dating other people. That wasn’t really a big deal, except that the people we were dating had, not so long before, been dating each other. It hadn’t ended well. That meant that, while we technically met at the party–we might even have been introduced–we really didn’t interact with each other.
Fast forward a few years. I’d eventually managed to kill that relationship dead (nearly requiring a wooden stake and burial at a crossroads) and been through another that taught me a great deal about what I didn’t want from a relationship. I hadn’t been in a relationship for several months and wasn’t looking for one, though I was enjoying the company of several guys in a platonic capacity.
Ben was completing a staking and burial of his own. He was also rooming with a friend of mine, soon to be two friends of mine, and hanging out in the same crowd I was.
This crowd included a lot of musicians, some of whom had a regular Tuesday gig at an Irish dive bar tucked under a motel that has since been torn down. Tuesdays became a thing for a large part of the crowd. Having a work schedule that made Tuesdays my Saturdays and liking dancing and Guinness and one or two of the guitar players, I was a regular.
This time we met properly, introduced by Ben’s roommate, who was perfectly happy to have us talk and get along. There was some silly serious-but-not-serious flirting (*tap on shoulder* *tap* *tap tap* “What are you doing?” “I’m hitting on you, of course!” *groan*), but no moves toward going out on a date. It was really just a open, relaxed atmosphere in which any kind of conversation could happen and did. There were confidences made under the cover of loud music, and there was deep, deep geekery on a number of subjects. They weren’t particularly different than the conversations I had with plenty of other people in that bar.
Then Ben stopped showing up on Tuesday nights. We weren’t so close that he told me ahead of time it would happen, certainly not why. I found that out from his roommate. He was having a particularly intense semester at school.
The funny part about that information was that I hadn’t asked for it. At least I hadn’t asked out loud. Ben’s roommate had noticed something that I hadn’t: Every time she walked into the bar, I apparently noted that Ben wasn’t with her.
We didn’t start dating immediately after the semester ended. I did pay more attention to how we interacted, though. A few weeks later, I asked him over to my place. It turned out the date was February 14, but no pressure. I made soup.
We went on a two-week road trip less than three months later and didn’t kill each other. After a year or so, we moved in together. A couple months later, we decided things were working out and we should get married. So we did that.
There were very few traces of any traditional courtship anywhere along the way. I’ll be making soup again this weekend by request.