Sixteen years ago tonight, I sat down in the passenger seat of Hubs’ car, and he took me on our very first date.
Clearly, I was in kindergarten when this happened, because of how the math works out.
Current Age minus Sixteen Years equals Kindergarten.
Don’t argue with me.
However, in the words of Dolly Parton, may I just say that time marches on, and eventually you come to realize that it has marched right across your face.
Hubs and I met through a broken nose. It was incredibly romantic, and incredibly painful, as it happened to be my broken nose.
You see, I was a softball player. Clearly, Jesus doesn’t like a bragger, but I was good enough to play softball at the Olympic level and hear the National Anthem play, while a gold medal adorned my neck and photographers snapped pictures of me for the cover of Time magazine. I just never had the time to try out for the Olympic team. I could catch any ball that came my way; I could turn a double play faster than a frog can blink; I consistently hit the ball to right field, and I was seldom thrown out at first base, even in co-ed softball.
Today? Let’s not go there. This afternoon, I’d be lucky if I could even find my glove and successfully throw the ball twelve feet. In fact, the only throwing that I do these days involves the little tantrums that I throw whenever I have a bad hair day. Which is daily. In everything there is a season. A season to be young, without crow’s feet near your eyes. A season to rock the softball diamond. A season to be old, with neck skin that you didn’t sign up to own. A season to know that any sport greater than Wii bowling and shuffleboard is just entirely too much for you to handle. But, I had played softball my entire life. I think my parents signed me up for the first time when I was eight years old, and I didn’t miss a single summer until the boy arrived. (And, people, I was no spring chicken when I endured a C-section with very limited anesthetic and screamed out in pain as the boy was ripped from my belly, so that means I played softball for a whole lot of years.)
The summer of 1993 was no different. I was on a summer co-ed team, which was just wrapping up with an end-of-the-season tournament, and I was considering playing for a fall co-ed team, when Hubs approached me on the bleachers at the local softball complex one evening. I knew who Hubs was, as we’d gone to high school together. Everyone tends to know the captain of the wrestling team, as he wanders around the hallowed high school halls in his Letterman’s jacket, even if he is kind of short. It was his hair that drew all the attention. Say the words with me, people: Sweet mullet.
Hubs sat down beside me and said, “Hey. I’m Hubs.” (Well, clearly he said his name, because at this point in time, he just wasn’t Hubs. He was the guy I knew back in high school, whose mullet wasn’t quite as long as it had been then.) Hubs went on to say, “Bobby (a mutual friend of ours) said that you might be interested in playing fall softball, and we need an extra girl on our team. Would you want to play for us?”
I gave him the raised eyebrow and considered asking him who, exactly, would be playing on his fall team, as well as what everyone’s batting averages were, because I was skeptical about getting myself entangled in a team that turned out to be the Bad News Bears. I was, after all, Olympic material. I had no real desires to teach a bunch of college-graduated boys how to play softball.
I casually shrugged my shoulder, and said, “Sure.”
And Hubs (who wasn’t Hubs then) casually shrugged his shoulder and said, “Great. Just sign the roster before next week.”
And he walked off.
And I had no real dreams about how cute he was. Oh, he was cute. Don’t get me wrong. He was frightfully cute. It’s just that I was dating The Boy Who Was Entirely Wrong For Me at that time, regardless of the fact that my parents gave me daily nuggets of wisdom.
“Your dad and I can’t stand that boy you’re dating.”
“Your dad had his hunting rifle out last week…”
“Honey, it’s the fact that he’s downright rude and doesn’t work more than ten hours a week. When you’re in your early twenties and have your parents pay the rent on your apartment so that you can work a ten-hours-a-week job and watch TV all the time, it’s time to quit dating our daughter.”
Oh, I knew this fellow was all wrong for me, and, truly, I wasn’t all that interested in him, but it was quite nice to have a consistent Friday-night-date. And, you know, he never had to work on Friday nights, so…win-win.
The following evening, I was back at the softball complex, after having had a severe argument with my sister’s boyfriend over what time our first tournament game started. I was convinced that we had the 6:30 game. Sister’s Boyfriend insisted that we played the 8:45 game. Neither of us would give an inch, until, finally, Sister’s Boyfriend yelled out, “Fine! I’ll bet you an all-you-can-eat-dinner at Taco Bell that our game starts at 8:45 tonight!” He was soooo on with that bet! Handshake. Spit shake. Sealed deal.
It should be noted that Sister’s Boyfriend was our next door neighbor. Ohmylands, yes he was. Sister’s Boyfriend and his two brothers grew up right smack close to us. In the winter months, they combined forces with the other neighbor boys and threw snowballs at me and Sister. In the summer months, they shot pop bottle rockets off of their deck at us. We also caught them hanging off the deck with binoculars once, when Sister and I were sprawled out on our back patio in bikinis, trying to get a decent tan. These boys tormented us on a continual basis — they made it the top mission in each of their lives.
And, one day, Sister turned traitor and dated one of them. And she ended up marrying him. And I think they’re in their own version of Happily-Ever-After, but that story is hers alone to tell. I was just shocked that she’d eventually give in and date one of the pop-bottle-rocket shooters.
After consulting the softball schedule, I hung my head in shame and conceded defeat to Sister’s Boyfriend. He had been right. He made no small show of strutting around and whooping and hollering and informing me that he could literally eat the entire left-half of the menu screen at Taco Bell in one sitting, and was I fully cognizant of the fact that I would be paying for that enormous order?
At our game that night (which, did I mention, started at 8:45 PM?), I played first base. Sister’s Boyfriend played short stop. A fellow with a long, ugly ponytail came up to bat and hit a ground ball to Sister’s Boyfriend. He scooped it up and threw it to me like a bullet, but the throw was slightly off, which was rare. Sister’s Boyfriend was usually quite good at getting a ball delivered at a speed of more than 3,000 miles per hour right on target. I stepped off the base, and I caught the the throw. I lunged at the runner, trying to tag him before he made it to first base. The runner jumped, threw his arms up to get out of my way, and blam! He threw an elbow right into my nose.
Or so people say. I woke up about two minutes later, sitting in the baseline of the softball field, with blood pouring out of my nose like a fireman’s hose had been turned on. Someone had already been to the concession stand for a bag of ice, which I was holding. I have no memories of the elbow in my face. I have no memories of dropping to the ground. I have no memories of someone leaving to get ice. I have no memories of my parents running down to the field.
All I knew was that my nose was gushing blood like it had never done before, and I was ruining my very favorite pair of shorts.
As if from a distance, I heard Lee (our team pitcher, who was also a medic) tell my parents, “Her nose is broken; she needs to go to the ER.”
Lee made this diagnosis on sight alone. Anyone could have diagnosed the immediate problem that night.
And then there was a towel being shoved in my face, and in a matter of minutes, that towel (a towel, people — a bath towel!!) was so filled with blood, we had to get a second towel. Can you say the phrase, About to bleed out??!!
It ended up that my nose was broken. I think it was the fact that my nose was sitting completely under my left eye that made the ER doctor suspect that. Noses that aren’t broken don’t tend to linger beneath the left eye. The tend to be situated between the eyes, and my poor nose was no longer between my eyes at all.
The ER doctor did a tiny amount of manipulation, and brought the nose a little more towards the center, but then he told my parents, “She needs to go to Bigger Town, USA for surgery on that.”
My dad heard his insurance deductible go cha-ching. He was used to hearing cha-ching, because he had two daughters.
After everyone had finished playing the game (which, understandably, went on without me), most of my team ended up at the hospital to check on me. They had won the game, but lost the original game ball, and they had their suspicions. The glove that I had never taken off of my left hand was in the ER with me, and there, right in the palm of it, was the game ball. I had clutched that thing through a black-out, people! Do you see why I was an Olympic hopeful, had I actually had the time to try out? Sister’s Boyfriend told me in the ER, “You just did this so that you could get out of taking me to Taco Bell!” Um, nope. Not at all.
My surgery in Bigger Town, USA was scheduled for two days later, so the day after I broke my nose, I took Sister’s Boyfriend to Taco Bell. Both of my eyes were as black as coal. The left one was swollen completely shut, and was about the size of a regulation baseball. It was sealed tighter than an Egyptian tomb laced with curses. The other eye was swollen, but still open. I had some stares from other Taco Bell patrons. Yes, I did. When I handed over the money to pay for the left-hand side of the Taco Bell menu (which Sister’s Boyfriend had, indeed, ordered) the cashier gave us our cups. I handed one to Sister’s Boyfriend. He handed it back to me and said, “Go fill it up with Mt. Dew.” I handed the cup back to Sister’s Boyfriend and said, “Go fill it up yourself.” In a booming voice, Sister’s Boyfriend shouted out (shouted, people — the boy shouted it out for the entire restaurant to hear), “Woman, fill my cup up with Mt. Dew now, or I’ll bash you in the face again!”
The sad part is simply this: I was so stinking embarrassed, I filled his cup up. I think someone may have pressed a business card for a battered women’s clinic into my hand. At any rate, they all glared at Sister’s Boyfriend.
Yes, this fellow is still in our family!
Two days later, I had the surgery on my nose, and I was informed that all sports were out for three months. Hubs (who wasn’t Hubs at all back then, if you’re keeping up) called me the next evening, to see how my nose was. He had actually seen the entire event unfold from the bleachers, and was proud of me that I’d truly managed to tag the runner out before I crumbled to the ground and passed out.
Yes, this fellow is also still in our family!
I told Hubs (who was just Guy I Knew From High School Who Had a Great Mullet) that I couldn’t play on his fall softball team, and that was that. Fall softball went on without me.
And, thankfully, I eventually came to my senses and dumped the Fellow Who Was All Wrong For Me. I think my parents secretly popped open a bottle of expensive champagne and threw confetti, as they rejoiced over that announcement.
…in March of 1994, Hubs called me. It was an unexpected phone call, and completely out of the blue. We had had not seen one another since the summer before, and our only conversations had been limited to him asking me if I wanted to play softball and then calling to see how my nose was. That was it.
We had talked exactly twice.
He got right to the point of this phone call, as he asked me, “I was wondering if you’d be interested in playing on my fall softball team this coming summer?”
Apparently Hubs took his softball seriously, too, because no one in Small Town, USA recruits fall players in March. No one. In March, we’re still trying to deal with the cold weather and the snow here, and the snow machines and the skis are still out, and no thoughts have been turned to summer sports. I was shocked and surprised at the prematurity of this, but I told him, “Sure.” And we hung up.
And the next night?
Well, the persistent little fellow called back.
And in one breathless gasp, he asked, “I-was-wondering-if-you’d-see-a-movie-with-me?” There were no pauses between the words. It was one slurred-together set of syllables. It took me a while to decipher the Nervous Boy Language, but I did, and this is exactly what I said:
“Sure. But not tonight, because I am WAY too busy tonight.”
And I was. I had a million things going on. Hubs replied, “Oh. It doesn’t have to be tonight. Just any night. But only if you want to.”
I told him, “Great. I’ll call you.” And I hung up the phone.
And Sister, who was at my apartment and heard this entire phone conversation, shouted out, “I can’t believe you just said that! Go out with him!“
But me? Well, after the Fellow Who Was All Wrong For Me, I had completely sworn off boys. I was done dating. I wanted nothing to do with any boy. Sister was looking out for me.
I called Hubs back the next night. He wasn’t home. I had to talk to Brother, because Hubs and his youngest brother lived together. Brother sounded like I had just woken him up with my phone call, and I knew, deep down, that he’d never get the message to Hubs, because I was quite certain that Brother was going to fall right back asleep.
Hubs called twenty minutes later.
And the next night was March 10th, 1994. Hubs came to pick me up in his car, and we saw the movie Blue Chips at the theater together. We had popcorn. Hubs had a Coke that was roughly the size of a fifty gallon drum. It was when I first realized that Hubs might have had a Coke problem.
And suddenly my choice to swear off all boys seemed foolish. That mullet and those blue eyes won me over, people.
The day after our first date, I went to work, and was immediately accosted by my friend, Amy. It should be noted that this is Amy M., and not Amy H. There are really too many Amys in my life, but I adore them all. Amy H. swats moths in movie theaters, sends weird pictures to my cell phone, and has been known to scrub the grout in my bathroom tiles before. Amy M. sobs uncontrollably in sappy movies right along with me, occasionally gives me incredible coupons worth incredible savings, and shares her personal library of books with me. I adore both of these Amys.
Amy wanted the full scoop on my date the night before. At one point, I remember that she asked me, “What kind of car does he drive?”
I replied, “I don’t know. It’s older. I think it’s an old Mustang.”
People, it was a 1968 Camaro — Hubs’ pride and joy. Years later, after That Guy I Knew in High School met me at the end of the aisle and became Hubs, I told him that I’d mistaken his Camaro for a Mustang. He was shocked and said, “It’s an absolute miracle I took you out a second time.” Hubs is rather passionate about that car.
For the record, I did learn to differentiate between Camaros and Corvettes. Back in 1994, Hubs lived with his youngest brother. The first time that I was at their house, Brother came down the stairs in his boxers. And nothing else. And his hand was scratching, people. Scratching. I was horrified and mortified, as Brother stopped right in front of me. Hubs introduced us, and Brother extended the scratching hand to shake mine. I should have known he was trouble from Day One! The following day, I was at their house again, and Brother, thankfully, was fully dressed. Jeans. T-shirt. Socks. Hubs and Brother had a remote control Camaro and Corvette on their living room floor, and they were chasing their cat around with them. The poor kitty! I mistakenly referred to the Camaro as the Corvette, and Brother picked up both cars. He held one out to me, and shouted out, “Camaro! Short! Squatty!” He extended the second remote controlled car. “Corvette. Longer. Sleek!” Then he went back and forth between the two toy cars. “Camaro! Corvette! Camaro! Corvette! Camaro! Corvette!” I know the differences now.
And yes, Brother is still that ornery, but we sort of like him anyway.
So there it is. Hubs and I had our first date sixteen years ago tonight. And I wasn’t really in kindergarten, so it must surely mean that I’m practically old enough to have babysat Noah before he grew up and built that ark of his.
Weren’t we just a frightfully cute little couple back in 1994?
And let’s not even talk about that sweater I’m wearing! Although completely trendy in ’94, it is now considered one of those fashion trends that should never have happened, for so many reasons. The first of which is that it looks like a quilted bedspread. Oh, Stacy and Clinton would have a field day with that sweater on their show now!
And the hair? People, that was no permanent! That was the get-up-four-hours-before-you-had-to-appear-in-public-so-that-you-could-curl-every-single-last-strand-with-a-tiny-curling-iron hairstyle.
Goodness, I’m glad that hairstyle died out. Right now, sixteen years later, I’m sporting the Mom ‘Do. You know, mostly flat, lucky if it gets curled, but happy that it usually gets washed, sort of hairstyle. And, sadly, I still have the sweater. It’s in a box somewhere. I have no idea WHY.
It’s been a great sixteen years. I am happy that you cut the mullet off. I am happy that I don’t have to get up at 4 AM to curl my hair these days. I am happy that we have the boy, and that I can now differentiate between Camaros and Mustangs, thanks to Brother’s impromptu training class which I unexpectedly found myself enrolled in. You have made me deliriously happy. Thank you for calling me one March evening to invite me to play softball, even though softball didn’t start until September. You know how I like to accomplish things early!