Fifteen years ago today, my life was forever changed because of … wait for it … the internet.
Ya gotta love the internet.
The year was 2000. The world was still turning after the Y2K hysteria died down. I was working a gazillion hours per week at a very high-pressure job, including most Saturdays. It was a relatively low-paying position since it was salaried, but there were occasional bonuses, other fringe (read: free food) benefits, and I loved the owner (still do), so I soldiered on.
Indeed, it was this cruh-hazy work schedule and the fact that I hadn’t been in town long that led me down a path I probably wouldn’t have trod otherwise: internet dating. My girlfriend reported meeting many “cool” guys on one particular site, and encouraged me to sign up. Since I wasn’t interested in any guys from college, and was tired of trying to keep up with the singles scene with what little free time I had, I thought, why not? An internet dating site (especially during the free introductory period) was extraordinarily cheaper and seemingly more strategic than bars, clubs, and concerts, and wouldn’t take nearly as much time.
The one stipulation I had in signing up was that I join a Catholic singles site, once I found out there was such a thing (there were several, actually). This stroke of genius was based on something my dear mother pounded into my head that actually stuck – “Whatever you do, marry a Catholic.” At the time, my faith life was less than lukewarm, at best, but it somehow made me feel safer to wade into the virtual dating waters with the word “Catholic” prominently displayed in the URL.
To spare you the boring details of my relatively brief foray into the wilds of Catholic dating sites, I met up with a couple of heretics, a future priest (still a beloved friend of my family – he baptized our first son), someone my sister was friends with, a couple of guys from California, and a very nice – but bland – suitor who wound up marrying my parents’ friends’ daughter. All this internet dating led me to an epiphany: just because a dude self-identified as quote-unquote Catholic didn’t mean he actually was a) practicing his faith or b) the right guy for me in other ways. I know what you’re thinking: “Duh, Heather.” Hey – have mercy, people! I’m a bit special!
Let’s go back to the “couple of guys from California.” I ended up having a notable crush on one and married the other.
The first guy – we’ll call him G – was pretty darn attractive (I’m pretty sure he knew he was a G, too), and owned his own business. And, he said he was “Catholic.” Well, there were some red flags, but that didn’t stop me from meeting up with him. It was the weirdest thing. G was divorced (okay, red flag) and several years older than I (perhaps another red flag), and yet I had the hardest time picturing him as a married man. He just acted like a bachelor (BIG red flag). He also ended up being one of those who liked to play head games. By that time, even I could recognize that there were too many flags on the field, so I ended it.
Not too long after, a guy we’ll call D started e-mailing me. He was funny, and interesting. I have always thought I have an, let’s say, unusual sense of humor, but I didn’t find myself having to explain what I was saying to him – D thought it was funny, too. Or, maybe he was just being nice. Whatever the case, we had many lengthy conversations on the phone (at long-distance rates, which they still had in those days – so much for internet dating being cheaper!), and more e-mails. Gosh, I wish I would have had the presence of mind to save those letters!
And, so, 15 years ago today, I met my future husband for the very first time in the local international airport. I was a few minutes early, and distinctly remember rushing to the ladies’ room and saying countless “Hail Mary’s” to calm myself down, as for some reason, I was intensely and uncharacteristically nervous.. I don’t remember EVER being so nervous as those minutes before meeting D. Out from the gate walked the tallest guy I’d seen in quite a while. He looked nice (<- what does that even mean??). And, as soon as he saw me, he was smiling at me. Gosh, I was so nervous, I hardly said a word the whole walk through the airport, while he was talking a mile a minute. D didn’t really seem, from outward appearances, anyway, to be my “type,” but I was pretty sure I didn’t like my “type” anymore anyway. I mean, where had my “type” led me in the past but to hurt, pain, and regret? D was definitely a bachelor, and had never been married, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he just seemed like a stable, solid, steady, marriage-material-type guy. Why wasn’t he married yet?!
The cutest thing happened on our drive from the airport; I stopped to get gas, and D dutifully hopped out, attempting to pump my gas; however, since we were in Oregon, he couldn’t lawfully do so. He thought it was stupid. I agreed. It was a sweet gesture. I dropped him off (still had to go back to work for the rest of the day) and couldn’t stop thinking about him. It turned out to be one of the most amazing weekends of my life.
That first night, he took me to the swank Atwaters restaurant high up in the US Bank building in downtown Portland and tried to pull a “you have something on your lips” thing before he kissed me for the first time after dessert (which, as I recall, was identified as “Looking over the edge of the chocolate abyss). Think what you like – I let him kiss me on our first date, and I kissed him back. It turns out, we were very good at kissing each other.
The next night, I cooked him dinner, which he didn’t eat much of (later I found out it was because he was too excited to eat – not that he disliked my cooking). He got some red sauce on his shirt, so we went and bought him a XLT sweater on sale at Eddie Bauer. I still love that sweater, man.
We went to meet up with friends at Paddy’s, and while he was in the other room, I (admittedly a bit tipsy from a couple of cocktails) told my friend I thought I was going to marry this guy, as crazy as that sounded.
After D left to return to California, I called my mom, crying, because I hadn’t wanted him to leave. Wouldn’t you know it? My Mom called it: “You’re in love!” She further explained that she knew I had thought I had been in love before, but that this seemed much, much different from other relationships – and she hadn’t even met the guy yet! D and I kept talking, flying to meet each other, etc., and on January 25, 2001, he proposed to me in a candlelit room strewn with red rose petals and Stevie Wonder playing in the background.
Given everything we’d been through individually until that point in our lives, and what we’ve been through together since then, it seems nothing short of unthinkable, but I can definitely say that God knew EXACTLY what He was doing when He brought the two of us together.
So, fifteen years, many more jobs, several moves (including twice cross-country), five children, three mortgages and several cars and a minivan with more miles on it than I care to mention later, I’m still thinking about him, loving him, forgiving him, and learning how to be a better Christian, Catholic, wife, and Mom because (and sometimes in spite) of him. And I feel so very, very VERY blessed that, at least for us, despite my expectations to the contrary, this internet dating thing did, indeed, catch on.
Oh! And, if you’d like to hear something about our love story in audio format, as well as how Bonnie and Rebecca met their husbands, check out Episode 8 of The Visitation Project. Until tomorrow, God bless y’all!