I met my husband through my blog. No, not this one, the first one.
I meant the first blog, not the first husband. I’ve only had one husband.
The “blog” began as a repository for funny forwarded messages and political commentary. I constantly reminded others that it wasn’t my online diary, they should never address me by my real name–I coined the bizarre code name Yolanda for all who didn’t refer to me by my screen name, RaggedyAnne, or my first initial–or reveal where I lived, and since “blog” sounded like something to fall from one’s nose during a cold they should never refer to my page as such.
Sometime during my first year of blogging, as I was wandering among the sites of strangers I discovered rustycage. I recall laughing at the juxtaposition of his long-haired, artistic photo displayed on his latest post: “I grew a pair and joined the Marine Corps today.” (I was kind of a jerk and I had a certain type to which I was attracted back then. hint: This type did not include musicians.)
I figured the emo kid needed some encouragement, so I left a comment to the effect of “Congrats on growing a pair!” and didn’t think anymore of it. He logged in a couple of months later, saw my page–which did not, at the time, feature a photograph of myself–and started following. He also changed his profile photo, revealing that the shadowy emo kid was, in truth, a handsome devil the same age as myself. He had a captivating smile, intense yet friendly eyes, a clean haircut, and, let’s admit it, some very nice muscles. (When he tells this story he swears it’s the muscles that won me over. I retort that it’s the wicked stomach upset he got from having to drink so many protein shakes every day to maintain those muscles, and that’s an acceptable reply since he’s already ruined the moment first by basically calling me shallow.)
Anyway, he had nice muscles so I went along with it.
He asked for my screen name and we started chatting. I was still sticking to my very strict “no dating people from the Internet because they could be axe murderers” rule, but I figured chatting was okay. Well, that didn’t last for long! He eventually convinced me to hand over my phone number, then he called and quickly laid to rest my fears that he had a voice like Mickey Mouse or he couldn’t maintain an interesting conversation the way he had been able to do online. He made me laugh a lot, and he held my interest more than I’d expected. So he called again the next day and the day after that.
The next step seems to have stretched out the more I tell this story, so I no longer remember how long it took before I nervously agreed to a date. B was–and is–a very smooth talker, but not in the way you’d describe a car salesman. He’s honest, and he knows what he wants. He knew he wanted a date and he wasn’t about to give up. I knew I was stubborn and afraid of axe murderers but that I magically seemed to melt when I heard his voice. So when the day rolled around when I’d finally agreed to let him drive nearly three hours to take me out to dinner, I was a nervous wreck. I nervously fidgeted at my work-study job all afternoon with the knowledge B was on the road barreling toward me at about 70 miles an hour.
The rest is a blur until he called to let me know he was on the campus. I remember walking outside my dorm and standing at the curb while he drove up in his rusty, beat-up Isuzu Trooper, slowly and calmly stepped out, and crossed the street toward me. I felt my stomach jump into my throat as I watched him saunter toward me and I realized that rustycage, the Internet stranger, had it goin’ ON. (A note about that Trooper: For our first few dates anytime I rode in his car with him I was convinced he only made me climb in through the driver’s side door because he wanted to stare at my ass and not because the passenger side door didn’t actually work. I was totally okay with this.)
Our first date was fun but a bit awkward. Never mind the parts that come next; I blame him for all the awkwardness with the first notable event of the evening, when despite his cool facade B managed to knock over a glass of ice water and send it dripping down the leg of my jeans at dinner. I think he was trying to figure out if I’d melt, but the way he tells the story he had been trying to gawk at me over the top of his menu and his nervous fidgeting had made him clumsy. *spoiler alert* It worked out in the end, so you can choose whichever explanation you prefer.
After dinner we wandered out to a haunted house in Austin, to make up for my planned absence to hit the presidential campaign trail during Halloween. Also, I realized I’d never actually had to plan a date before because my exes and other dates had always planned everything, so I sucked at it. It was ridiculous and we’ve never been to a haunted house since. Yuck.
Later I drove us back to my dorm and we commandeered my suitemate’s futon to watch a bit of my then-favorite HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers. And he quoted it. And we laughed and booed together at David Schwimmer as Herbert Sobel. And I realize this isn’t typical first date material, but I was a total weirdo who had previously dated a guy who couldn’t stand that I was so obsessed with the miniseries, so it was kind of a test.
I was not the type of girl who planned her dream wedding. I was the type who made fun of her girlfriends as they planned weddings around grooms they hadn’t yet met. I was the type who had run the other direction with my hair on fire when a previous boyfriend had mentioned children. I WAS THE FREAK WHO THOUGHT BAND OF BROTHERS WAS APPROPRIATE FIRST DATE MATERIAL! But not long into our relationship I slipped and made a joke about “us.” Panic and surprise sank in quickly as I realized what I’d just said, but when I turned to B he just laughed, took my hand, and grinned. We never really went through the motions of a proposal and wedding planning. Rather, one day he just looked at me and said “So, when are we going to do this?” and we announced it to our families soon afterward. (They said, “well duh!” when we told them, which was kind of a relief since for a while his mother had been convinced I was bad news since by my nineteen-year-old wisdom I’d thought it hilarious to put things like “Djibouti calls” in the Hobbies section of my online profile.)
The military decided our timeline for us. Soon after B finished his west and east coast training, a roster was abruptly changed and he was slated to deploy to Iraq for the first time. We ditched our earlier plan to marry after my graduation and told the family we’d be making it official at Christmastime, a little over a year after we first met. As I studied and was preoccupied with final exams and my year-long research project, my mother arranged a casual wedding “ceremony” for us. When B came home on leave and I drove home for winter break, we walked into an “Insert bride and groom here” wedding that took place in my aunt and uncle’s backyard in north Texas. The weather decided to take a quick turn, as it often does in Texas, so the cold temperature of the day before was replaced with sunny, 80+ degree heat. We were stifled by our new wool sweaters–his gray, mine cream-colored–and blue jeans. B and our dear friends who helped us to turn the ceremony into something more than just an afternoon lunch and family get-together plotted to have Johnny Cash playing as we turned to face our family and announce our marriage. Hearing Johnny’s craggy voice butting in on our “big day,” I laughed and automatically punched B in the arm seconds after we were declared husband and wife.
And so, with an act of violence, we were married.
And by the combination of the sweaty wool sweater mistake and my sweat-flattened hair, you’ll probably never see any of those wedding photos besides this one.
B deployed not long after, and I suffered through my final semester at college feeling quite out of place. I had decided to graduate early in order to move out to California when he came home, so I kept my nose to the grindstone all the way to graduation, working three jobs on the side in order to store away some cash for the trip across the country. Those months in between were difficult. I was a married university student whose husband was always absent. Most of my friends still hadn’t had a chance to meet B since we had dated long distance, so they had their reservations. My senile great-grandmother still called him by my last high school ex’s name. My very best friends loved B from the start, but a few still confessed to me later that they thought I’d gone off the deep end by marrying someone I hardly ever saw and barely knew. Doubt crept in at times and was magnified when students I didn’t know would single me out of a crowd and remark at how bizarre it was that I was married, since in a university population of young adults whose goals were their careers I stood out like a sore thumb. (Facebook was still new then, and I remember that when I updated my status to Married I started getting lots of friend requests from freshmen who wanted to see if the rumors about a “Marine wife on campus” were true.) And, oh yeah, there was also the fact that the only times we had to “work on our marriage” were the 5- to 15-minute, very delayed “Can you hear me?” phone calls we didn’t even get to have every day and which always left me feeling terribly lonely afterward.
After graduation, as I said goodbye to the friends I’d made in college, to my family, and to everyone else I’d known since my childhood, I had to resist the urge to show my hesitation. I remember digging my nails into my palms and biting my tongue to stop the tears as I said countless goodbyes, so I could hold my head up and convince those around me that I was confident and I knew what I was doing, even though I wasn’t sure I did know what I was getting myself into. I reminded myself constantly of how B could calm me on the worst of days, and how I felt when I got to be near him after we hadn’t seen each other in weeks or months, and knew I wanted to be with him.
I was 21 when I made the trip to California. My mother traveled with me but had to return to work soon after we arrived, so my first few nights were spent by myself in various hotels. (The crummy beachside town ones that are always full of sand and smell like wet tennis shoes. Yayyy.) When I arrived to check into our pre-arranged living quarters on the base I was told that our assigned housing was below my husband’s newly acquired rank and I needed to find housing elsewhere, meaning I’d be added to a wait list. I was spending $80-$100 a night to sleep in a hotel with everything I owned in the back of my car and my bank account slowly winding toward empty and I didn’t even know how to contact my husband’s command to try to enlist their help with the situation. My anxiety and fear bubbled to the surface, and in simple terms I told the housing company I was going to be given a house on the base and if they turned me away I was going to ask them to pay for my room and board elsewhere. They gave me a key that afternoon, and whether it was because of my determination or not I chose to accept the small victory.
I walked into our itty bitty closet of an apartment, closed and locked the door behind me, and finally let the facade fall away. I don’t know how many hours I spent sitting on the floor crying, but when I finally stood up to unload my car and start cleaning and moving into my new home, it was dark outside. I was alone.
Our first homecoming happened soon after. I thought I was going to puke when the buses appeared, as all the spouses, girlfriends, children, parents, family pets, etc. stood watching their ant-sized Marines unload their weapons into the armory down the hill. We watched the ants board the buses again and inch toward us. I had no idea which bus he would be on, and I feared I wouldn’t recognize him in the sea of matching tan uniforms. (This irrational fear returned at the end of each of his three deployments, even after years of marriage.) My sister-in-law gave me a nudge and laughed at me when I finally spotted B stepping off the bus and suddenly realized I was glued to the spot, completely paralyzed. I had time to take a deep breath and think “This is it,” before he wrapped his arms around me and then we were both shaking and crying and nervous and excited together. Fortunately there was no puking involved.
We’ve come a long way since that day, and I often wonder how we made it through those early years without giving up and running separate directions. Then after I’m finished with my reminiscing I usually run and find him wherever he’s currently hiding and high-five him and declare in my best-worst Borat voice that we’re a “Great success!” and he just high-fives me back and does a better Borat impersonation and never even asks why I’m being so weird or if it was actually Borat I was trying to imitate. And that’s how I know it’s love.