A Smitten Dose of Sarah
Buckle up kids, because this is a long story but it’s a good one. It’s about relationships and the fact that, for the first time in almost 34 years, I have a Valentine on Valentine’s Day.
I’ll tell you about him, but first I’m going to go back a ways. Long before I lived in Minnesota, before New York, before college. Way back when I was in high school, I made a list (because I was always making lists back then)* of qualities I looked for in a guy: sense of humor, good heart, considerate, honest, loyal.** I kept the list in a box under my bed and took it out from time to time to look at it or change items if they no longer seemed to fit. I starred the ones that I thought were really really important (my non-negotiables) and also listed ones that were nice but not absolutely necessary (like height). But mostly, I added to it.
I left the list in that box under my bed, but I kept a mental note of the items on it when I moved to college. I saw other people in relationships that I thought were great and added more things. I saw other people in relationships that I thought were not-so-great and added some more. I saw other people in relationships were terrible, and I was grateful I was not one of them.
I didn’t have a boyfriend until after college, didn’t really date until I moved to New York and each time I’d keep that list in the back of my mind. I went out with plenty of people who had a decent number of the qualities, several that didn’t have many, a few that had close to none. But, you have to kiss a lot of frogs,*** as they say.
One of my roommates’ friends once asked me what I was looking for, and I rattled off a few, “Honesty, integrity, funny, smart,” and he nodded along. And then I kept going.
“Whoa, that’s a lot of qualities,” he said. “You probably won’t find someone with all of those qualities.”
“True,” I said, “But you’re a lawyer, right? You deal with negotiations? If I’m bringing it to the table, he should be bringing it to the table.”
That isn’t to say that I think I have all the qualities I listed or that I think I’m perfect. I could definitely rattle off my flaws.**** But I believe I’m worthy and deserving of someone who has as many positive qualities as I do. And I try to be a really good person.
Sometimes I felt really discouraged: would I ever meet someone who had a majority of the qualities? Was I being too picky?***** But then I would think about the people who were in happy, compatible relationships–you know, the relationships you envy–and I would think about the characteristics they seemed to have and I would feel better about sticking to the list.
I moved to Minnesota and kept dating, though the pool seemed smaller here. People marry young. They settle down. Some of them settle. I worried that I was too old, that I missed my window. A couple of guys I dated had a lot of the qualities, darn near all of them, but we didn’t have the chemistry. Or I just didn’t find them attractive. Or vice versa.
Last fall I went back on Match. I’m not a fan of online dating, preferring the spontaneity and surprise of meeting someone randomly in real life, but I realized that I couldn’t expect someone to just invite himself into my living room.
Enter my Valentine.
No, he did not invite himself into my living room, at least not the first time I met him, but he did show up out of the blue at improv practice on a random Saturday in January. I had actually met him before, through a mutual friend, but neither of us remembered it until midway through the practice. I thought he was cute at that time but totally not interested in meeting me. We both thought it was weird when our friend forced him to come out of the theater in order for us to meet (but said friend swears he doesn’t remember this).
Apparently, the reaction was much different the second time. For both of us. I thought he was really cute, and I was kind of hoping he would ask for my number after the practice; he did one better and asked me if I wanted to grab dinner right then and there. I thought it was totally spontaneous; he says he had been planning it for much of the practice.
And, even though it was only a little over an hour, it was the best first date ever.
We talked about the usual “get to know you” things: where we went to college, where we grew up, what we do. But we also talked about things that you’re not supposed to talk about on a first date: politics, family stuff. I knew he was someone special by the way he described his younger brother: very positive and complimentary, and similar to how I would describe my younger sister (cooler and better looking than I am). It was like I had known him forever, except that I just wanted to know everything about him.
When he messaged me a (respectable) two days later, “I almost spit my club soda all over my laptop when I saw your facebook cover photo. Well done. I’m planning to see the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts this weekend. Care to join me?” I got that nervous excitement I’ve gotten before big important things.
We started chatting, about bad movies and good movies and Halloween. I sent him a picture of my siblings and me as kids; he sent one of him with his brother carving pumpkins. The more I got to know about him, the more I liked, and before I knew it, it was after midnight.
I got all fluttery when he messaged the next day: “Hey – I had a good time chatting with you last night. You’re pretty darn awesome.”
He’s pretty darn awesome, too.
Before we went out, I asked a few of our mutual friends about him, to make sure he was as good as he seemed. Not only did they confirm it, they were really excited about me dating him. One told me that when she posts on Facebook that she’s not feeling well, he messages to ask her if she wants him to pick up some pho for her, because one time she posted that she wanted pho when she was feeling sick.
He’s so smart and funny and kind and considerate. He’s thoughtful and generous and sweet. We have the same sense of humor and taste in books, movies, and music. I like the way he looks and smells, I like the way he talks and what he says when he’s talking. I’ve watched him interact with people–from the woman bringing up groceries on the elevator and her two kids (he held the door for her and helped her off at her floor) to the waitstaff when we’ve been out (he looks them in the eyes and thanks them, and he’s a good tipper)–and each one of them gets treated with respect.
He’s got beautiful, kind green eyes I could stare into for hours. He listens intently and responds with follow-up questions that show he’s interested. And he remembers things that I’ve said. One of my favorite things about him is that if he doesn’t know something, he looks it up and tries to figure it out. And he treats me really well: he makes me feel comfortable and beautiful and safe. I feel like I can tell him anything, and I’m not afraid of how he’s going to react.
AND HE READS! A lot. He compared my writing to one of my favorite authors, and when I went to his apartment, on the top of a stack of books next to his bed was the very book I wrote my grad school entrance essay about.
And he’s a really great kisser.
Normally, I’d be nervous and freaking out about how much I like him; now, I’m just excited and enjoying the ride. He makes me want to do things that I usually don’t like, such as hold hands or kiss in public or see someone several days in a row.
In fact, a friend from middle school saw us walking down the street holding hands the other day and she messaged me:
Hi Sarah – I had to drop you a note. I saw you walking up Ford Parkway yesterday afternoon…You looked absolutely blissful. I hope that’s the look you were going for–you pulled it off perfectly. If you were going for sullen, try again.
This is all very early of course, but I have a pretty good idea he’s going to be around for a while****** and I’m really excited about it, so I wanted to share it with everyone.
I know this is gushy and it’s obnoxious to hear about other people’s relationships, but my hope is that if someone out there is in the situation I was just in–wondering if there were any nice guys left, thinking no one could possibly have all the qualities on their list, contemplating giving up completely–they will read this and see that it is possible, that great people do exist. And they come out of nowhere.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Love, Sarah
*I’m still making lists.
**No, this is not a comprehensive list. Yes, most of them are qualities/characteristics, but there are some physical attributes, too. Like nice eyes.
***I didn’t kiss most of them, though.
****But I’m not going to here, because that’s not what this is about.
*****I hate this phrase. What they’re basically saying is, “You should lower your standards.” About someone you’re spending a large amount of your time with.
******But if it doesn’t work out, he told me I should try OkCupid because it’s got a better demographic (younger and geekier). So he really cares about my well-being.