Most of the blogs I read have a post in common, usually called “Our Story”, about how they met their husband or partner. Typically these stories are totally cheesy and I love them all the more for it. I haven’t written one because there’s nothing extraordinary about how Chuk and I met, but I’ve decided to do one anyway because it is our fourth anniversary and I want to think about how all of this began.
Before I begin, I think it’s important to note that Chuk is not the man of my dreams. I wanted someone with a surfer’s build and preppy style who was smart, confident and successful. He would be spontaneous, romantic and fun. He would make me laugh and our life would be full of adventure. For years, that’s who I dated.
I remember very clearly the first moment I saw Chuk. It was a Friday. I was walking down the street from the building I worked in to another university building with my boyfriend and a bunch of my colleagues. He was sitting on a bench in front of the university building I was walking towards wearing a stained, ripped orange tee shirt. He looked awful. I think that’s why I remember it so clearly.
He stood up as we approached and smiled. He shook the hand of one of my colleagues, Andriy, who was also a good friend. The university was having a staff appreciation event that consisted of a happy hour/pizza party in the courtyard followed by a baseball game. (It was the first season the Nationals were back in Washington.) Everyone could invite one guest. I brought my boyfriend, naturally, and Andriy, who was foreign-born and didn’t understand baseball, invited his sports fan friend, Chuk, to explain the game to him.
We all grabbed pizza and drinks and were generally having a good time joking around and talking. I challenged my Mets-fan boyfriend with a sprts trivia question. “What does a backwards K mean in baseball?” He didn’t know, but Chuk did. He whispered the answer in my ear. The first words he ever said to me were, “Is it strike out looking?”
The wine hadn’t gotten there yet so I was drinking beer, which is never a good idea for me. For some reason, it makes me drunk really fast. In the courtyard where we were standing, there was a large, square paver missing and I decided it looked like a dance floor. I dared all the boys to dance in it and they all chickened out except Chuk who said he would do it if I did it with him. (His moves are smooth, n’est pas?) We danced together for a few seconds and then went back to the group. Soon after, we all headed to the game. My boyfriend and I left early because I was very tipsy at that point and did not want my co-workers to see me like that.
The following Monday Andriy told me Chuk said he thought I was “cool”. I said he seemed nice. It was awkward.
Fast-forward a couple of months, boyfriend and I were in Boston. He came with me on the first part of a long business trip. The day before he was to fly back to Washington, he dumped me. It came out of nowhere. We were lying in bed about to fall asleep. I was heartbroken. I thought about making him sleep in the rental car that night, but didn’t.
I still had to spend the whole next day with him. I was not going to let him know how devastated I was. I acted normally as we toured a ship and ate at the Cheers bar. I dropped him off at the airport and as soon as he was inside, I called my friend Ben and started sobbing. I was stuck for another week in lonely hotel rooms and strange cities, trying to work when all I wanted to do was curl into a fetal position and die.
When I got back from the trip, ex-boyfriend and I saw each other frequently and spoke on the phone whenever we weren’t together. He told me he loved me and missed me. I thought we were reconciling. One day he called me at work to tell me about his date. I thought I was hallucinating. Your what?! Apparently while I was trying to work things out, he was online dating.
I went into Andriy’s office, closed the door and started crying. He was very sympathetic. He told me he had never liked ex-boyfriend; he was never good enough for me. (Don’t you just love friends who say all the right things when you need them to?) He took me out that night got us both drunk and cheered me up. I felt much, much better. The next week, I told Andriy I wanted him to set me up with one of his friends; I was ready for a rebound. Not ready for a relationship, just ready for a rebound. He said he had two friends he thought would be good for me and he needed to think about which one to set me up with.
Ultimately, he decided to set me up with Chuk because he knew Chuk already liked me, so there was no chance of rejection, which was the last thing I needed at that point. Plans was hatched that I would have a dinner party and invite my next door neighbors, Andriy and his wife, and Chuk. It was an “interesting” evening as Andriy’s wife and one of my neighbors got into a debate about industrial compliance with environmental protection laws. (You know you’re in Washington when…)
The next day, Chuk emailed me and asked me out. I was leaving for yet another business trip (I travelled a lot at that job) and would be in California, Arizona and Utah for the next two weeks. We planned a date for when I got back. We emailed every day in between. He asked me out for a second date before we had had our first date. I thought he was coming on a bit strong, but I agreed anyway.
We had our first date December 2, 2005. It was a Friday. We went to dinner (Mongolia BBQ) and a movie (Walk the Line). We both rode the redline train home. My stop was first and before I got off, I thanked him and give him a very perfunctory peck on the lips. Our first kiss. I thought we would just be friends. He apparently had other ideas. He was right.
He invited himself over that Sunday to work on my computer. He stayed for a very long time and I kept trying to figure out how to get him to leave. Eventually, he did. The next day (or the day after?) we went to a Bonnie Raitt concert, which was the previously agreed to second date. I still wanted to be just friends. He kept making excuses to see me. “You’re going to the grocery store tonight? I’ll meet you there! I have some things I need to pick up too.” I couldn’t shake the guy. (His persistence paid off. Now he can’t shake me.)
I went to a New Year’s Eve party at his house. He told me he loved me for the first time and also said he was going to marry me. We had been dating less than a month. Crazy! Several weeks later I admitted to myself (and him) that I loved him too. We had a partnership I had never known before. We functioned as a couple in a way that was different than any other relationship I had ever been in. With the other guys, it was like going into a store and seeing a really great outfit and buying it only to realize later that it is dryclean only or pinches after a long day or you don’t have anything to match it. You just get over it after awhile. Chuk was like your favorite jeans, comfortable and works well with everything. Not what you went into the store for, but always just what you need.
That’s the thing about not marrying the man of my dreams…my imagination wasn’t big enough to imagine someone as right for me as Chuk. I had ample opportunities to be with the man of my dreams, I know because I dated him over and over again, but my “type” never worked out because that’s not what was right for me. When I let go of that fantasy, I got a reality that was even better.
And that’s the story of how I married my rebound guy.
“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” –Rolling Stones