He is 33 tomorrow. A good age, waist deep into exploring, into being. Old enough to understand his strengths and weaknesses. Old enough to have a wife. Old enough for his style to freeze (hipster professor). (Mostly just professor, but I like to watch his face when he reads these.) Old enough to know how long food can stay out of the fridge before it goes bad (I have three years to learn this), to know what his hair will do if left untamed in the morning, to offer words or silence when asked, and to know which is when. The age Jesus was when he died. The age my mom was when she was finished having kids. Mark Zuckerburg’s age. Prince Harry’s age.
So yes. Old enough to have waded through significant events, to have earned the faint etches on his forehead that disappear in soft lighting. I complain to him about meeting later in life, like I know what that is, because I want to know him longer. He never agrees. High school would have been too young, we wouldn’t have understood each other, wouldn’t have gotten together, wouldn’t have been the persons we became. And besides, we needed years to be single and make fantastically disastrous mistakes (read: hair styles) without being part of each other’s stories. I often disagree with his statements — had we met in college, I think he would have been fond of my braces, purple hair, orange legs (WHY neutrogena fake tan?), and David Bowie muscle shirt (and by David Bowie muscle shirt, I mean a muscle shirt with a giant image of DB from Labrinth with “Your eyes can be so cruel” written under it). (I still have it.)
My imaginary future love story never included the internet. To be fair, online dating was still relegated to Craigslist ads, chatrooms, and some sort of Myspace dance when I was growing up, the realm of desperate and/or exhausted singles who couldn’t hack it in real life. Or, if they could, they were smart enough to make up a meet-cute that didn’t involve 1s and 0s. I’m not exactly sure how I thought I would meet my future someone, but I did write him occasional letters congratulating him on landing someone like me (“You must be pretty special”), and I did expect him to be smart, with funny as optional. 18 had me declaring I wouldn’t be married before 30, and 25 had me lamenting a definite eternal spinsterhood. I decided I didn’t want a Romantic Guy. The songwriters, the poets, the guys with capital letter feelings were hurling me upon pedestals when I belonged in the mud. Not because I’m terrible, but because mud is fun and dirty and probably good for your skin.
But then I tried dating Lowercase Feelers; the ones restrained with their admirations, stilted in their language, fumblingly affectionate in ways I couldn’t receive. And I felt like an insane person because I had all of the expressions and the googly eyes and the Taylor Swift spirals that intimidate and push and generally frustrate Lowercase Feelers.
We met online and didn’t see each other in person for six months. I told my mom I had met someone special, he told his friends he had a penpal in Korea. (No she’s not Korean. Yes, I know your friend Danielle is Korean, but she’s not. No, you never told me Danielle had a crush on me. That would have been nice to know before she got married).
Days marched into weeks, and we Skyped every day. There were nice parallels: I told my friends I had to leave social events to do laundry (more suspicious if you know me), he huddled in the basement laundry room of his cousin’s house in Seattle. He read me his favorite stories and I listened, enthralled with his slight Southern accent and searching eyes. Early on, I discovered he was a Romantic Guy (RG), but that I didn’t seem to mind, probably because I had built him an equally fabulous pedestal, so we felt somewhat matched.
I didn’t keep a journal during our first visit. My mother said “This is special. You should write about it every day.” I said “Yes, that is a great idea.” And then I spent my time baking and walking in the Seattle sunshine and discovering cafes and bookshops and hand holding and smiles. But I didn’t write it down. I don’t remember all the details. I know we played Scrabble and laughed a lot and made pesto from scratch and baked my first loaf of bread (it was overbaked/hard and our guest was carb-free) and it turned out our pheromones didn’t hate each other and we were still cute in real life.
I didn’t know that he would be my husband. I didn’t know he would be my best friend. I didn’t know that we would have a small apartment and two cats who tolerate each other and shared friends and TV shows that we sometimes sneak ahead on. I didn’t know I would be writing about him five years later, on his 33rd birthday. I didn’t know that he would see me and know me and affirm that I am enough, even as he encourages me to grow. We still play scrabble and laugh a lot, but hell if I ever make pesto from scratch again. Pine nuts are priced like diamonds of the forest.