So I have a few traditions for Valentine’s Day. I’m not one to save all of my professions of love up for one day – I like to spread them out throughout the year – but I usually write Mr. Barrett some love prose and on some occasions, I’ve sung a love song (usually a jazz standard) to him. Don’t cringe! I have a great voice!
This year (my debut author year!), I’ve decided to start a new Valentine’s Day tradition — to give an anecdote from my personal life and try to relate it in some way to romance novels. The guest post I wrote for Ravencraft Realm last week on starting new relationships was a good start, but the post would have been much stronger if I’d included a personal anecdote, especially as the beginning of my relationship with Mr. B. was not as smooth as it could have been. So without further ado, here is the story of our first date:
Mr. Barrett and I had our first date on Memorial Day weekend. We decided to meet at a low-key café near to where we both lived. It’s one of those places where you order at the counter and then find a seat. They give you a number and the servers bring the food to your table. Mr. B. insisted on paying (over my initial objection), and then when I thanked him, he made a joke about how he’d let me pick up the tab on our second date, and that he would pick someplace more expensive. Huh, I thought. The café was crowded and it wasn’t clear where we would sit. Mr. B. then proceeded to snake a table out from another guy who had also been eyeing open tables. Awkward, I thought. But there was a cheekiness about him – a spark of humor and of deep intelligence in his soulful brown eyes, so instead of bolting at what could be perceived as rude behavior, I stayed. Over the next few hours, he told me he was a jokester. And that he’d lived in Hong Kong (where at cafés with open seating, he’d learned to grab a seat the moment a table opened up – or else he’d be stuck without one). Suddenly, his reactions made a lot more sense – things that would have made me blow him off if I hadn’t stuck around to hear the explanations.
For a long time, the conversation flowed easily. And then, it didn’t. I told him about my family history, and he told me in a not-so-gentle way that I was wrong about when my ancestors immigrated to the United States. Absolutely wrong! He was smug, kind of like this guy (A.J. Jacobs, if you’re reading this, I love your books!).
I was shocked – how could a stranger challenge me about my own family’s history? Preposterous!
But then he tempered it with more humor and more intelligence, and he was so straightforward and smart and (let’s face it this is Mr. B. we’re talking about) kind of adorable – that I stayed. Of course, little did he know then that the way to my heart has always been through my brain.
NB: If you’re going to tell a potential love-interest that s/he is wrong, especially on your first date, I would highly recommend that you (a) be extremely intelligent; (b) be able to back up your assertions with facts; and (c) have some way to ensure that your date thinks smarts are hot.
After lunch, we walked down the street to a nearby park where we continued our conversation. Several hours later, long after our date should have been over, he asked me to dinner. Not wanting to push things too far, too fast, I declined and made up some excuse about prior commitments. (I went home and did my laundry). And then he walked me to my car and shook my hand goodbye, which I thought was extremely gentlemanly.
I found out later that he was right – absolutely right – about my family’s history. To his credit, he wasn’t as smug about being right as I thought he’d be; he simply wanted me to be right about my own history. Plus, he was still kind of adorable. And so, I let him take me out on a second date (where I did, indeed pay, although the place wasn’t expensive). And a third. And ….well, you know the rest.
Now all of this begs the question – if I hadn’t looked past Mr. B.’s less-than-stellar behavior on our first date to peer beneath the slightly supercilious exterior, we would not have had a second date, let alone gone on to make our own clan of little Barretts. In a romance novel, as I mentioned in my guest post, the characters’ relationship may not start out smoothly, but (thanks to the author) they are forced to stay and battle it out. But my life isn’t a romance novel. I could have walked away. So what made me give him another chance? Another glance? Another look?
The spark. That je ne sais quoi that either can make a relationship, or break it. I’ve thought about what drew me to Mr. Barrett, despite my first impression, and both during and after the date, this is what was going through my mind: This guy is wicked smart and pretty funny. He has kind eyes and a sweet half-smile. I think there might be something more there. I want to see where this leads.
Finally, I will say that while it was absolutely Mr. Barrett’s intelligence that initially sparked my interest, without a doubt it is his humor that sealed the deal. But that is another story for another Valentine’s Day.
Oh, and I’ve never asked Mr. Barrett what he thought about me on our first date. Honestly, I don’t want to know!
If you’re still here, I’m going to leave you with two related questions:
Have all of your relationships started smoothly? If not, what made you stay and give someone another chance?