Chapter 10: Two Squirt Guns

tolars, 007

This is the experience that in hindsight made me want to write a dating memoir.

In 2007, I was play ultimate frisbee when a handsome ginger asked me out. S worked for the forest service and met all of my wild, hippie fantasies. He was soft spoken, a great athlete, smart and interesting. He’d traveled a bunch and it didn’t take long before we were regularly spending time together. Indoor rock climbing was his thing; I tried my best looking cute in stretchy pants on an early date.

My friend Mini was organizing a 30th birthday party for her husband, Jason. The party was themed “James Bond.” Men were to wear tuxedos and women to wear fancy gowns. We were going to enjoy martinis shaken not stirred (or whatever suited your fancy), play cards and have fun. I’d been spending a bit of time with S before I asked him if he wanted to come to the party. Mini’s father JT was the one who got me interested in ultimate frisbee, so S  would another man attending.

He didn’t hesitate. Yes, he wanted to go. He even had a tuxedo t-shirt that was perfect.

I was delighted.

The week of the party, we went to dinner at a local brewery. It was a Tuesday. We ate and chatted and at the end of the meal he looked at me, suddenly serious.

“I can’t do this.” He jabbed at his empty plate with his fork.

“Okay.” I felt my neck grow warm.

“I’m sorry. I really like you but I am newly out of a relationship and I am just not ready.”

“Okay.” Now, I felt resolute. And stupid. There was a girl on another team — a blonde — who regularly hung around our matches. I’d seen them speaking. The cards were falling into place. “That’s fine. This isn’t anything anyway.”

Silence. We sat there as the server came and left, water glasses were refilled and people wandered by wondering about the awkwardness happening at table 12.

Finally and impatiently I said, “Look. We don’t have to break up. There is nothing to break up. That’s fine. I’ll see you next week at ultimate and that is enough.” I started to grab my purse.

“But what about the party Saturday?” He looked at me with wide eyes.

“What? You can’t possibly still want…”

“No. I said I was going and I am going and that’s that. I am going. It will be fine. We can go as friends, right?”

“Uh… sure?”

FRIENDS? We are not friends! We are people who are just getting to know each other who have shared a couple awkward kisses in a Honda Civic. We do not have to do this. I was kidding about ultimate. I’m obviously going to be “sick!”

“Great. Okay. So, let’s meet at my house. Saturday at what time?”

“Well, the party starts at 7, so I guess I could come get you then…”

I just didn’t know what else to say. Fast forward to Friday when we email and he says he is still excited and has his outfit picked out, etc.

Saturday morning I wake up and decide I need an ice breaker. I need something silly to break the tension when I seem him. Also, I need a great dress. I spend the day shopping and show up at his door at bit after 7 pm in a Bond girl dress cut to my navel, my bits and pieces strategically hiked upward with abandon, and two squirt guns and a bottle of tequila. I am also wearing stilettos. I only make mention of this because I am terribly clumsy and tall, and more so in stupid shoes like stilettos.

So, there I am teetering toward his doorstep in a dress cut to here and shoes up to there, holding squirt guns and a bottle of tequila when he opens the door and looks at me from head to toe. It was in this moment of sizing each other up that I realized:

  1. He’d somehow forgotten this commitment in the last 24 hours. He was wearing dirty hiking clothes.
  2. The blonde from the ultimate league was standing in his living room, just behind him, also in hiking clothes.
  3. I looked like an idiotic prostitute.

He stumbled saying “Oh, I… um… am so sorry. I don’t feel well and…”

I looked him in the eye and said, “Never speak to me again.” I turned, very carefully, on one tiny toothpick of a shoe, and then ran as quickly as I could back to my car carrying the unexplained props. I’d thought we could fill the squirt guns with tequila and bring them as our props to the party — shooting people in the mouth when possible.

I went to the party. I came as Gullible Galore. You might remember her as the Bond Girl with two squirt guns, a few tears and a great story.



Chapter 9: Hiking

Not a bad place to take a break

We went on a long, overnight hike this weekend in the Superstitions. As we were marching along, in hour 3 or 4, I was thinking of the various times I’d gone into nature to find solace. Once, when trying to decide whether I wanted to stay in a relationship or not, I hiked several hours to a meadow nestled in the Rocky Mountain foothills between Golden and Evergreen. It was a special place I’d found the summer before, and I knew the exertion, thin air and silence would give me plenty of time to sort out my heart.

I’d been dating J for nearly a year. We’d met online and unexpectedly hit it off in person. He wasn’t who I typically date. He was more than ten years older, heavy set, atheist and had a young child. He was also kind, funny, smart and enjoyed taking me to sushi on the weekends. It worked, until it didn’t.

We were sitting in a crowded pizza restaurant at the bar for lunch one Sunday afternoon. I’d just ordered a glass of champagne. The restaurant was new and so full of people, there was a cacophony of forks and knives hitting plates, layered behind laughter and clinking glasses. We were likely discussing his ex-wife when he looked at me and said, perhaps without thinking, “There is no way I am going to get married again, or have more children.”

I let out a gasp, and tears sprung from my eyes. I too was so surprised by my reaction, I cried harder. I remember wiping furiously at my face with the cloth napkin and trying to drink my bubbly before storming out. The restaurant’s soundtrack had stopped, or perhaps that is just how the memory sits. Everyone was staring at the woman at the bar.

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. 

In truth, I didn’t want to marry J. We weren’t in love and I couldn’t for the life of me get him to exercise. We couldn’t hike together or do any of the fun outdoorsy things I love. It wasn’t going to work, for this and many, many other reasons.. But to hear that the opportunity was closed made me angry, irrationally.

I did finish the champagne and storm out. The next day I hiked to my meadow and sat thinking of what to do. Breakups are the worst, even when they should happen. Watching Nelson galavant through the tall grass, chasing woodland creatures, I prayed for a sign.

God, just tell me what to do. He is sweet to me…

After a few minutes of silence, I decided it was time to hike back. I stood up, and having shifted on the rock where I’d been sitting, I rammed my head into a large pine tree branch above me that I hadn’t seen. I hit my head so hard, I bled.

We broke up, and he was not happy.  He later called and suggested we should get married. He’d “be okay with it.” When his telephonic half-assed proposal wasn’t successful, he was even less happy.

Today, we remain friends and he is still a sweet, kind man. There is another chapter I could write on my poor timing in dating men; soon after our breakup, J went on to sell his tech company for gazillions. He didn’t have two extra pennies to rub together when we dated. (Sushi on credit is a thing.) He now sends the occasional text saying hello from Tokyo, London and Amsterdam.

Sometimes when you ask for a sign, you get one.



Chapter 8: Ranked

Fly fishing clear creek

When living in Colorado, I met a man through mutual friends. He was a bit younger, good looking, and from a great family. We would run into each other socially for a few months before he asked me out. We went for a dinner at a fancy spot downtown, got ice cream afterward and walked around, enjoying the last warmth of an Indian summer.

He was painfully shy.

We saw each other off and on for the next two years. What I’d soon learn was he had a long-time off-and-on girlfriend. She wanted to get married and he felt too pressured. They’d break up, he’d ask me out, and I’d foolishly get my hopes up again not yet knowing about the girlfriend. Then he would soon fall back into the shadows, incommunicado.

Our best date was fly fishing. Ridiculously early one summer morning before the sun was up, we met downtown to drive north of Fort Collins to a national park. I’d borrowed my brother’s fishing gear, including waders that were enormously too big. We spent the day walking the ice cold river and fishing. The wind through the trees, the sunlight bouncing off the water, the walls of the canyon — it was a picturesque day.

Of course, those waders and my utter lack of coordination would get me in trouble. I fell more times than I could count, the icy water rushing in the top of the bib. Eventually, with my shins and knees throbbing, I found a large rock in the center of the river and rested, watching the clouds come and go.

After I’d moved home to Arizona, he reached out. He wanted to know if he could share something with me, and if I wouldn’t judge him. Curiosity won, and I agreed too quickly. Soon, a spreadsheet arrived via email. It was a list of women along one axis and categories along the other. Categories such as “job, family, good in bed.”

Before your imagination jumps, I was not on the list. But there they were — a dozen women (who I didn’t know), ranked.

He wanted to know what I thought of the list and whether this made him a bad person. What I’d come to learn was he was debating proposing to the girlfriend. What I’d guess he was contemplating was if he’d sown all of his wild seeds. He said he confided in me because he knew I went to church. (As if church prepared me for this bullshit?)

I told him it didn’t make him a bad person, mental lists are likely common — although to write it down and attach a numeric value was gauche. Rankings. It struck me as immature and unkind. (I was also wondering how he had enough time to juggle a dozen women and a live-in.)

He’d be married sooner than later, which he informed me of the day after via text. Remind me to include in my vows one day, “Thou shall not text other women tomorrow.”

While I’ve never caught anything fly fishing, some fish you throw back.


Chapter 7: Pigeon Poop

One of my favorite landmarks -- the Hayden Mill

(I’ve previously told this story here. It is worth re-telling.)

Once, when running late for a date, and literally running, a bird took a dump on my head and chest.

It was 2008. I was competing in triathlons and sat next to Harry at a cycling seminar. He asked me to join him for a bike ride, which turned into drinks on Mill Avenue after work. (I’d later see him again in Mozambique.) We agreed to meet at an Irish pub. I was running late from traffic and barely had enough time to head home, throw on a cute outfit, find parking and get to the date.

I remember feeling good about myself. I was wearing my 10-year-reunion red top that fit just right, and a great pair of jeans. As I was racing toward the bar, I felt a plop.

The sky was clear, but I looked upward anyway. Any Phoenician can tell you — tree-lined Mill Avenue is infamous for the birds. We are talking clouds of black birds that make Alfred Hitchcock smile in his grave. Of course, I looked up expecting it to be rain when I felt yet another plop. This time it was on my chest, and the greasy, gray of guano.

Just as the bird poop hit, I turned to see a plate glass window with a series of full bar stools. A group of people were eating their dinner, looking out at the street and they’d all stopped eating as though frozen in time. When I looked down and then up, I knew what had happened. I’d been pooped on. To make matters worse, I’d been pooped on and I was late for a date and there was an entire group of strangers watching.

What else is there to do? I moved away from the trees, tilted my head back and laughed, which set off the group in the restaurant. I went inside to everyone laughing, found the restroom, and cleaned myself up before scurrying across the street for the date.

Harry is a nice guy, and I’d later have fun with him in Africa. But the prospects of any relationship could have been forecast that day.

I’ve heard there is some belief that having a bird poop on you is good luck. To that, I say: poppycock.



Chapter 6: Dear God

pray before lunch

One of my online dates was with a tall, attractive Asian man. We met for a cup of coffee and hit it off. He was adopted from Korea into a caucasian American family. His parents did work with orphanages all over the world, and were coincidentally starting to work in Mozambique. We talked for more than an hour about the east African country, where I had an on-going health project and a vested interest in an orphanage. I loved Mozambique and few people in my life knew where the country was, much less understood my passion.

He told me he was a conservative Christian and I nodded. Being an “all-loving liberal Christian,” I figured we’d be fine. Fast forward to the next date when he invited me to his house for dinner. It was in a beautiful custom neighborhood in a suburb of Phoenix — the kind where there are fake waterfalls so nice at the entry, you wonder foolishly if there is any chance they could be the real deal. I was nervous to go to his house, but there were several friends who knew where I was.

Upon arriving, he gave me the tour. The house was huge and he’d just moved in. There was floral wallpaper from the previous owner on many walls and a seriously ugly pattern happening in the kitchen. We sat down for a basic meal and as I was lifting the fork to my mouth, he bowed his head. My fork clattered to my plate, making us both jump, and I squeezed my eyes shut.

The next five minutes were to be spent in deep, thoughtful, mind-blowingly uncomfortable prayer. Of course I remained silent. Inside I was screaming, “GET OUT OF HERE!”

This is an appropriate place to bring up timing. I’m a firm believer successful relationships are 30% physical, 25% intellectual, and I can’t do the math on the rest. Just kidding. You’ve got to have spark and timing too. Timing is a critical component to a good relationship. And this man walked into my life when I was not ready for anything serious. I was young, traveling the world for work, and looking for someone to maybe play on my ultimate frisbee team. I was not looking for the suburbs and quiet, meditative prayer before every plate of tacos.

When I emailed a girlfriend the next day, the response was as to be expected.

Her:  “So, you don’t like him because he prays? What am I missing? YOU PRAY.”

Me:  “Yes, but. It was weird.”

Her: “Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think that is weird. But you are the only one I know who still goes to church. If you think that’s weird, we are all doomed.”

Me: “Well…”

Her: “Isn’t this the guy whose parents are starting an orphanage in Mozambique?

Me: “Yes.”

Her: “Still nothing?”

Me:  “And there was the wallpaper.”

Her: “Really. Wallpaper? Kell. I don’t know how to say this to you nicely. Maybe you shouldn’t date for a bit. Maybe you aren’t ready?”


Her: “No, you are right. You are obviously in a healthy place. Carry on.”

And so it went for a few years. There were a lot of dates where I was justing waiting for the shoe to drop — the blatant flaw in the guy’s life. (I have patient friends, and also, I’m an idiot. If only I had invested all that online dating money instead…)

I would run into the tall Asian Christian at a happy hour a few months later and it would be as uncomfortable as you’d imagine. That is, if you imagined me running back to the table and whisper screaming at a friend to “Hold my hand and hold my hand now! Just BE MY FAKE BOYFRIEND FOR FIVE MINUTES.”

Yep. Totally a healthy place.





Chapter 5: Jackass

Nothing says Sea World like the random donkey


I think it is easier to laugh at myself, and find the humor in any situation, having dated for 15 years. I like retelling the horror stories and pointing fingers at the dumb men I’ve gone out with. My friends have their own lists of my foibles.

But this is a brief chapter about how I’ve been dumb. I could write a novel on the topic, as I am certainly my own worse critic. Let’s keep this brief.

  1. I once broke up with a man via email. It was years ago, and I was a total chicken shit. I regret not having the guts to look him in the eye to say goodbye. I do not regret breaking up with him, but I was not kind in how it ended.
  2. I once dated a man who I knew was in love with me; I was rebounding from major heartache. I hurt him, and while I had the guts to break up with him in person, the timing and the ache I caused remains my biggest life regret.

Now, have I ever told you about the time a boy I worked with in high school grabbed my butt, but instead got a handful of maxi pad? He looked at me with scared eyes and said, “It moved.” It was horrifying. What made matters worse was that I had a big, stupid high school crush on him, and was wearing my restaurant uniform, complete with smelling like fried tortilla chips. We always, always smelled like fried food working that job. So there we stood, him having immediately recoiled and me covering my mouth knowing precisely what happened.

“It moved,” remains code among my high school girlfriends for being in the most awkward, uncomfortable, agonizing social situation imaginable.

See? Isn’t this side of the story more fun?

Back to the goofballs.



Chapter 4: The 24 Hour Wow

The Cottage

My first big girl job was working for a trade publishing company in downtown Phoenix. I wrote a ton of copy on a ton of topics that no one, not even “industry insiders” ever read. But they paid me to write and I had health insurance. My mother was thrilled I hadn’t found a job on a cruise ship, which was my plan after returning from the Peace Corps.

Living in my parents’ guest room (my childhood bedroom now converted into a sewing room), and driving the family mini van, I worked for that publishing company for more than three years. There were all kinds of cliché life lessons learned; there were also life-long friendships gained from a workplace that was unnecessarily intense, vulgar and sexualized.

(Ask me some time about the woman who had a breast augmentation and came into work afterward wearing a tube top because “they looked so good!” Or the woman who was notorious for flaunting her drug problem in the restroom.)

The best part of this job was the travel. Our childhood travels were repeat, and beloved, trips to the southern California coast. We went to New Mexico and Colorado once, but otherwise, there were thousands of miles on that Toyota Previa between Phoenix and San Diego.

The publishing gig had conferences nationally that needed an underpaid and overly trusted early 20-something to attend. I became skilled at the art of the trade show booth set up, schmooze and tear down (basically setting up different items, such as promotional products and advertising campaigns such as a trade show banner and more, then having to take it down a couple of hours after.) This is how I saw Boston, Seattle and Washington D.C. for the first time.

It was at a conference in Seattle where I met AJ. He was working for a medical device manufacturer in southern California. Our booths weren’t far apart. My boss eventually noticed that the lean, blond, surfer guy kept circling. She joked he was trying to speak to me. I was oblivious, and my feet hurt.

There are two memories from standing at a trade show booth for 8 hours at a time: I am great at pointless small talk, and my feet always, always hurt in dress shoes.

Eventually AJ came in for the kill, and started a conversation that would continue via email for months. He was a surfer and mountain climber and really nice guy. He lived in a small apartment in southern California and worked in medical device sales to fuel his otherwise down-to-earth adventures. He spoke Spanish and we regularly sent emails in a second language, hoping the other would actually understand the emotion the sender was attempting to convey.

Eventually, he asked if I would come to LA to spend a weekend. It seemed like a bold first date, and while I had moved out of my parents’ guest room into a house shared with a handful of girlfriends, my father was not going to be happy about an overnight in southern California with a dude no one knew.

(Or a dude everyone knew.)

The bargaining continued for a few weeks until it was decided I would come for a day-long date. The (pre 9-11) Southwest flight left from Phoenix at 6 am and returned at 10 pm. It was late summer, and we planned on going to the beach. This is how I ended up in LA for a 12-hour date with only a bikini packed in my purse.

The night before, I slept over at a girlfriend’s house with another friend. Kristi and Meghann asked a thousand questions I couldn’t answer about AJ. I think they were both intrigued and a little scared I was going to spend the day with someone in another state who no one knew.

I did have a cell phone, but keep in mind it was an early 2001 Nokia freebie with no texting or Internet. My mother was looking for a good photo for the impending milk carton. Mini, who had a toddler at home and was painting the walls of her first adult house, said bluntly, “Please don’t get stabbed.”

It was Kristi and Meg who coined this date the “24-hour Wow,” even though it was roughly half. (“12 hour Meh” doesn’t sound as catchy.)

It was a fun day. We went to one of those fancy beachside brunch places, ate plates of $18 toast and eggs, and worked through our nerves. Soon enough, I was hiding behind a huge boulder on the beach, slipping on that bikini and we were in the surf for several hours. There were fish burritos and a long walk that followed. In a blink, I was back on the flight with sand in my hair and on my toes and a smile across my face. I was ridiculously proud of myself for taking such a leap at love, even though it wasn’t.

The emails continued for months after, but with less frequency. I think we both knew the distance wasn’t going to work. I was eying graduate school and he had family ties to southern California. He was handsome, smart and interested – but the spark wasn’t there.

I saw him a few years later at yet another trade show. We’d both signed up for the conference 10K and ended up running next to each other for a few miles. It was friendly; I’m certain we both walked away happy with our decisions.

Meghann would prove to be the matchmaker of my life.

But that, friends, is a story yet to be told.


Chapter 3: eHarmony

margarita before

I tried eHarmony. In truth, by time I’d met Jason, I’d dated men from Match, OK Cupid and eHarmony. I drew the line at Tinder, which was silly considering several of my friends are now dating nice, normal people they met on the notorious hook up site. Some of them also had success on a BBW Dating Site so I should have tried that site too.

eHarmony was a weird, off-putting experience that provided two strange stories worth sharing. Most men I met were as advertised: marriage focused. Unfortunately, this rang true on the first date when we barely knew each others’ names; the idea of anything more than a second date was terrifying. One brought printed photos of his nephews and asked how many children I wanted. Another suggested I wouldn’t need a career after marriage. Several recounted the numerous ways their ex-wives were awful.

This is where Captain Obvious would say, “You did not have great online dating selection skills.”

The problem with these eHarmony dudes was this: they were great online. Most were exceptionally smart, had good jobs and yet could not make eye contact. They were patient enough to complete the lengthy questionnaire required for participation in this site, but not enough to wait for a second (or 100th) date to ask if I would be keeping my maiden name.

The first fail was simple, and scary. We met twice — once for dinner and once for lunch. He was attractive, charming and in graduate school. Our dates happened to be in early February. When I went to the restroom on our second date, he found my wallet, wrote down my address, and used it to hand-deliver a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day the following week.

I came home to a bunch of flowers on my doorstep with a note from a man who I’d never invited to my home.

And that was the end of that.

This experience made me write down a few rules for online dating:

  1. No alcohol. As must as I wanted a glass of wine on those exceptionally awkward first few dates, I couldn’t let my guard down. I did not know these men, or if what they’d shared online was true.
  2. No specific contact information would be provided unless necessary. They did not need my address or workplace unless we were well down the dating path. (Come to find out, my response to love letters mailed to the office is being repulsed. Embarrass me professionally and you’re fired.)
  3. If he spends any time discussing previous relationships with violent language, make up a reason to leave. Also, if he is rude to the service staff, it is only a matter of time until that’s you.
  4. Let someone know where you are going and a bit about who you are meeting. My friends Mini and Adam received countless texts that read something like, “Pita Jungle, Bob, Match, blond, 7 pm, 1st date. Wish me luck!”
  5. Don’t ever leave your purse at the table.

The second guy made it to a fourth date. He was handsome, polite and while shy — seemed to have great social skills. Oh, how little I knew. We met for lunch and again for dinner. I was really enjoying getting to know him. Finally, I offered to cook him dinner and he came over for Mexican food and margaritas. I’d soon regret that tequila. As I cleaned up the dishes, he went to his car for something he brought me. The gift was actually a sex questionnaire (sextionnaire?) — and a lengthy one at that. Unemotional, as though he were and anthropologist interviewing a member of some newly discovered Amazonian tribe, he patiently and methodically started down his list that included inviting devices and other individuals into a bedroom he would never, ever see.

It is a little more difficult to escape a date when he is sitting on your couch. It took a bit of effort, but I got him out of my house, locked the doors and thanked God. This nut job would contact me months after finding my blog — convinced I was sending him secret messages through my posts.

The knitting posts had nothing to do with how much “I wanted to be tied up,” you weirdo. Sometimes a baby sweater is just a baby sweater.




Chapter 2: The Smitten Nerd

best coffee in Flag

When I was 17, I wanted to be the prom queen. Instead, I was the girl who beat the football player in a spirit week Twinkies eating contest.

I haven’t eaten one since, nor gained more feminine grace. I’m not an ogre, but I have literally tripped over my own feet, more than once.

In college, a press release came across my desk at the newspaper for a statewide scholarship contest that was actually a beauty pageant. The Miss Fiesta Bowl pageant required essays, interviews and some sort of talent. My essay, to everyone’s surprise, was selected for the interview process. (I was going to college on pennies and fumes; there was no room for feminist discourse on the competition until I was unjustly overlooked for a (far) prettier, more accomplished and better spoken candidate. And then! Well, beauty pageants are sexist drivel!)

The best part of this experience was finding my childhood best friend that night for dinner. I’d driven down from Flagstaff, as she had driven up from Tucson. After a movie and catching up on her parents’ couch, I said, “Can I tell you a secret?”

Her eyes grew wide. Was there anything better than a shared secret between friends who hadn’t caught up in a few months?

She nodded.

“I came to Phoenix this weekend to be interviewed for the Miss Fiesta Bowl pageant.” I said it so softly, and embarrassed, she leaned in with even wider eyes.

Without missing a beat, in the same tone she whispered back. “Me too.”

We both howled with laughter and then compared notes of the Scandinavian supermodels in the interview pool who without a doubt had us beat.

We both secretly wanted to be the prettiest girl in town, with the dumb crown on her head and the scholarship money in her pocket. We were none on these things yet unsurprisingly, still love to remind each other of this story when egos get a bit too big.

Rebecca, as long as I can remember, had a steady stream of boyfriends. There were always boys interested in her. Boys at church. Boys at high school. And definitely boys in college. She had her pick of the pack for school dances and had a certain way about her to know how to manage all the attention. She was one of those girls in high school with the basket of dried roses. She’d been given so many roses, she need a BASKET to hold them in.

Sometimes she even had the nerve to turn them down!

I avoided this kind of attention at all costs. I would have much rather walked across a mosquito-rich football field wearing a bikini than have any sort of emotional conversation with a boy in high school. Or college.

(Come to think of it, walking across that football field in a bikini may have started a conversation or two.)

Where Rebecca had practice in speaking “boy,” I had an obnoxious younger brother who loved to miss the toilet, leave his stinky clothing across our shared bathroom and eat all the food as quickly as possible. I wanted the boyfriends Rebecca had because the dances involved pretty dresses and getting flowers and feeling special. But I didn’t want to have anything to do with boys more than I had to. (Cody can still be pretty gross, and at 33 revels in making his patient girlfriend squeal with his antics.)

So, it was further confusing when I got to college and met a boy who wasn’t these things. He was tall and athletic and pretty much always smelled good. His apartment was clean. He was a great cook, made me laugh and was artistic. He had a nice mom who would come to visit and would take me shopping. He had big gorgeous eyes and enjoyed my company.

That was it. I was hooked.

I’d spend the next two years at the school newspaper, working beside him, smitten. Looking back on it, I am so embarrassed by just how smitten. He had to have known, but we never, ever talked about it.

By day, I was being my normal over-achieving completely obnoxious self in the classroom, acing whatever came my way through sheer determination. By night, I was failing at basic human communication. I had no nerve. The idea of not having him in my life as a friend sounded like a horrible (and probable) alternative.

Instead, he had girlfriends who I’d examine like a biology project. What made them different? Special? Desirable? (For starters, most were able to understand their feelings and speak to them. Also, they all pretty much had great hair.)

When he met his last college girlfriend, I got it. She was gorgeous. And nice. And smart. But most importantly — I saw the spark. There was magic between the two of them that I’d certainly never felt and couldn’t easily be explained. They just worked. (They still do today, two children later.)

Biology. Chemistry. Social Science. If there is one thing I hated more than anything, it was failure. 



I’m Not Good at This: Chapter 1

How to heart cupcakes

I am horrible at love. I mean, really, really bad at relationships, dating and appropriate levels of emotion. No, this isn’t the predictable post about a woman who had a bad childhood or an abusive father.

My parents are lovely people, still happily married. They were high school sweethearts and have been married approximately forever. If who they are ever worked against me, it was only in that they couldn’t relate to their loud, vociferous single daughter who was regularly nursing a broken heart, and tweeting about it with abandon.

To confuse matters more for dear Rex and Karel, sometimes I was crying and histrionic over the heart I managed to break.

Let’s skip to the happy ending before getting down to the nitty gritty: as of today, November 1, 2015, I am a very, very happily in love woman. It has all worked out better than expected, and certainly better than deserved. Jason came into my life by fate, chance, or prayer – as my mother’s church in Texas would tell you. Jason, by contrast, would say we met the old fashioned way: in a bar, under false pretense.

(His exact words: “We met lying, in a bar.” But that doesn’t sound right, does it?)

Let’s get back to the train wreck that is my decision making in love: a public apology.

To John H., who in high school asked me to homecoming by throwing a kickboard at my head during swim practice – I am sorry. I’m sorry that I actually liked you and was so delighted you asked me in such an odd way. I know you were trying to ask sweetly, but because I was nervous (omen!), I wouldn’t stop swimming laps. In frustration, you did what any high school boy would do: you found the nearest thing and chucked it at my head to get my attention. Once the foam smacked me in the noggin, there was no ignoring your sweet face at the end of my lane – holding a single red rose.

John H., I’m sorry I wasn’t more mature. I didn’t know how to talk to boys and while I hastily agreed to go with you to homecoming, what you didn’t know was that the dance happened on my 16th birthday. I awoke that morning to a car! (Let’s get real: it was a 1977 AMC Hornet worth approximately $0. But it was mine. And I was way more excited to go home and drive that car than I was to make small talk with you at Chili’s.) Also, I had taken the SATs that morning and was fairly certain I’d bombed because that morning I HAD BEEN GIVEN A CAR. Who gives their kid a car the day of the SATs? Not Rex and Karel. Let’s just say at 36, I’m still spoiled by my grandparents.

Thanks Len and Sheila!

Anyway, back to poor John. Oh, John. This was sincerely one of those times that it wasn’t you. It was entirely me and not knowing what to do. Kissing you sounded great but the mechanics were foreign and sincerely did not know what to do. When I stopped talking at dinner and we barely danced, it was not you. I did not know what to say or to do. I did not know how to date. You were the first of, oh, let’s say 1000 dates. And John, take this to heart: it is only by luck that date 1001 went well. It had nothing to do with me and everything to do with Jason.

You made me nervous. You were an adorable boy who showed up in your giant Bronco smelling of way too much aftershave. This in itself was confusing because I am pretty sure you didn’t shave. It only went downhill from here.


I’d guess today you are married with 3 adorable children and a golden retriever and occasionally get to the local gym to swim a few laps. I’d also guess you never think of me when you see kickboards, and you too improved your romance skills before proposing.

To John H., all the best.