At the end of April, when Dan and I were still waiting to hear about his job prospects, I was telling my coworkers that waiting for those phone calls reminded me of the nightmares of dating. Fellow saleslady J (soon to be wed to a very nice gentleman) groaned, as if to say, "I know exactly what you mean." But my boss P said, "I have no idea what that's like." He married his high school sweetheart. Lucky him. He never knew that spirit-sapping uncertainty.
I can still remember all those times I waited and wondered if some dude would call me back. Even worse were the times when I was dating someone for weeks or even months, and just wasn't sure if he liked me as much as I liked him. If I could go back to my younger self, I would say, "Just give up on that guy." Now I know that's the best advice anyone could have given me. Instead, I got the usual terrible dating advice, like, "Just wait and see what happens," or "You know when you'll find the right person? When you stop looking." Yeah, I get the idea that you shouldn't try too hard, but who actually stops looking?
I think this is better advice - you'll know it's right when it isn't weird. That's how I knew Dan was the man for me.
On our third "date" (kind of silly to call it that, as we had spent the better part of four days together, but whatever), Dan and I were rolling down I-94, on our way to see Mavis Staples at the Detroit Tastefest. He was flipping through his CD book, looking for some new tunes, and then popped in Bob Dylan's New Morning.
"You're a Dylan fan, Dan? I never really 'got' Dylan. I know that's bound to change. I used to not care about Neil Young, but I love him now." I was pleasantly surprised when I figured out the opening track was "If Not For You". "I love this song. George Harrison sang it on All Things Must Pass. It's my favorite song from that album."
"Yeah, that was my song from last winter. I didn't know it was a Dylan song, but I guess it makes sense. And they were buddies, right? I mean, they were both Wilburys."
Dan responded in his best Butthead voice, "Uhh... you mean The Traveling Dingleberries?"
I cracked up laughing. "Oh, god I completely forgot about that. 'Dingleberries.' Ha ha!" I kept giggling and Dan steered with his left hand as he held my fingers in his right hand.
I think I was staring out the window at the giant Uniroyal tire in Allen Park when he skipped ahead of several tracks to get to "The Man in Me".
"And of course, you know this one from The Big Lebowski."
"Oh, yeah! I forget this is his song. Love this one, too."
And that was the unforgettable moment. I was still giggling from the dingleberry joke, and loving those backup lady vocalists, when I realized that I felt perfectly content. I looked at the dashboard and then the hazy July sky and thought, "This is who I'm going to marry." In those initial days of love's rush - from the nervous, appetite-crushing hours before our initial date to the moment we first kissed at the park by my apartment and even after we had enjoyed several hearty meals, a Ray Davies concert and a 3D screening of "House of Wax" together - the thought simply hadn't occurred to me. I had been having too much fun to analyze the situation. I hadn't even thought much of the fact that I felt happier than I ever had before, because I was too busy being happy.
I squeezed his hand and then the thought went away. We met up with some friends and had even more fun that day and well into the night. At about three in the morning, we stepped out to the fire escape behind his Corktown apartment and smoked a cigarette. We were staring at the stark, towering elevator shifts of the still-under-construction Motor City Casino. Without any obvious prompting, Dan said, "I think I just want to get married."
"How do you feel about kids?"
"I want 'em. How do you feel about kids?"
He paused before responding, "One, or two. Not more than two."
"That sounds perfect."
I don't blame our friends for wondering if we had both gone a little insane. I moved in with Dan about two months later, but we didn't get married right away. We waited a couple years, like normal people do. But I sometimes wonder if the "normal" path of courtship makes any sense at all. The mystery of it, the "Is he going to propose?" or "When am I going to get that ring?" doesn't strike me as romantic. It sounds more like torture. Or when people ask themselves, "Is s/he 'the one'?" I can't help but feel that if you don't know, then the answer is "no".
Knowing when you are in love with someone who loves you isn't complicated. In my experience, "complicated" only indicates that it just isn't going to work. When you can honestly and fearlessly express your feelings to that other person (about them, or marriage, or kids, or Bob Dylan), then you're probably on the right track.