I’ve told this story many times through the years. It comes up at parties and family gatherings from time to time and talking about it always brings a smile to my face. While I sometimes have a hard time remembering what I had for dinner last night, I never forget the details or the moments that made up that summer day nearly 9 years ago. On this day, I believe the story deserves repeating.
It was early afternoon and I had just arrived home from the morning shift at work. I was 20 years old, making serious money and living the dream. Of course by “serious money”, I mean $.37 above the poverty line, and by living “the dream”, I mean living “in my parents house” on the same bunk beds I had been sleeping on since elementary school. I had just completed my 3rd year of college, switched to my 2nd major, and had zero girlfriends. If I was a major league baseball player with those stats, I would’ve been sent down to the minors months ago. Instead, I was just a lonely college kid following the same routine day after day.
Having been up since 6am that morning, my plan was to come home and slip into a coma-like state on the couch for several hours. Just minutes before setting this plan in motion however, my phone rang. It was my best friend and co-worker Seth, requesting my presence at the local mini-golf for a proverbial “beat down”. Knowing that I wield the flat stick with the precision and skill of a Jedi warrior with a light saber, I accepted the challenge and began mentally preparing to dominate as I drove to the course.
I was already in the zone as I pulled into the parking spot next to him and got out of the car. Expecting a one on one matchup, I was surprised when three of his car’s four doors opened revealing Seth, his girlfriend Lauren and another girl, who was introduced to me as Lauren’s best friend Jenny. Now depending on who tells the story, you might hear that I paid no attention to Jenny and that I was too focused on mini-golf to even be cordial. I will admit that my propensity for competition sometimes draws my attention and that I tend to get carried away in it. I will tell you though, that it was impossible for me not to notice this girl.
It was obvious that a blind date was occurring at that very moment. Whether Jenny had been in on the plot the whole time, I did not know. What I did know was that I had been set up…in a good way. Her fiery red hair caught my attention right away, drawing my eyes in to hers, an intriguing grayish, bluish color. She smiled and we exchanged introductions as we walked onto the course. I had been on blind dates before, none of which turned out very well, so I wasn’t expecting much here but I put on a happy face and got right to the putt-putt domination.
If the date had ended immediately following our round, there’s a good chance Jenny would have never wanted to see me again. I’m fairly certain I was curt and rather unapproachable during the match. She did her best to engage me in conversation, asking questions about where I went to school and what I was studying, but it was like pulling teeth to get more than one-word answers out of me. What can I say? I was putting on a putting clinic and couldn’t be distracted by small talk with a pretty girl. Why Seth didn’t pull me aside, slap me silly, and explain to me that I was blowing it, I’ll never know.
My performance during this portion of the date was nothing short of pathetic, despite my runaway victory on the links. Unfortunately, ridiculous mini-golf skills usually don’t rank among the top 10 things a girl is looking for in a guy. Having thoroughly bombed this initial audition, I was shocked when it was agreed upon that the four of us would have dinner together at the Turf Inn, a restaurant just down the street. I can only assume that Jenny’s extreme hunger at the very moment must have clouded her judgment; otherwise there is no way she would have accepted having to spend any more time with me.
In an effort to make amends for my behavior and possibly win back some “gentleman” points, I offered to drive her to the restaurant in my car and promptly opened the door for her to get in.
“Well played, Jim.”
Thank you loyal reader.
We had about 5 minutes of one on one time as we made our way to dinner and I think it helped my chances now that I was out of “competition” mode and able to show off my “I’m actually a good guy” mode. After arriving at the restaurant, we made our way to our table and were seated. As Danny Kaye would say, “Isn’t this cozy…Boy girl, girl, boy.” Jenny and I sat together and small talk ensued among the four of us. Now despite the level of sensitivity a guy displays to his significant other, I think every guy can remember at least a moment or two in their relationship when he got goosebumps. For me, this was probably the first time. As we sat, enjoying conversation as well as our meals, I felt Jenny’s hand touch mine under the table. It was a feeling of nervous excitement like a combination of the first day of school and Christmas morning. I’ll never forget that feeling.
We spent the rest of dinner holding hands and enjoying each other’s company. My earlier missteps at mini-golf had apparently been forgiven and things were definitely starting to click. The date certainly could have ended at this point and perhaps we would have exchanged numbers and that would have been that. But we weren’t done spending time together just yet and I think Seth and Lauren could see that. They invited us back to Lauren’s parent’s house to wind down the evening.
We spent a few more hours together talking and laughing in the basement of Lauren’s house. Seth and I tried to show off our billiards and ping pong skills on the table games that resided down there, but I was too busy watching Jenny out of the corner of my eye to focus on the games. I should have known at that point that she was special as I rarely let anything distract me from competition. The night was coming to a close and I offered to drive her back to her house. It was only 3 or 4 miles away but I spent the entire drive trying to figure out what to do next.
Having crashed and burned on more occasions than I care to recall, I knew that this closing moment, the “goodnight maneuver”, was critical to ending things on a good note. I really don’t remember if we talked at all as we slowly made the walk across the lawn to her parent’s front porch. This was it, the moment of truth. Perhaps she would prefer I not tell this part and perhaps I should feel like less of a man, but it was Jenny that initiated the goodnight kiss. Once again, a moment I will never forget.
We said goodnight and I drove away, having just finished the best first date of my life. You know that feeling when you’re in the car, the windows are down, and that song you love comes on the radio. You just turn it up and sing it loud! That was how I felt driving home that night.
When I started this story, I said that on this day, it deserved repeating. That is because today, Jen and I celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary. It’s been almost 9 years since our blind date encounter and a lot has happened since then. But I’ll never forget the first time I saw her, the first time we held hands and that first kiss on her parent’s front porch. I love you baby, Happy Anniversary!