On April 21, 1996, in front of God and our friends and family, my best friend and I exchanged marriage vows and committed ourselves to one another for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part. It honestly was the happiest day of my life. Arnie and I were friends long before we realized we were MFEO. (For those of you who haven’t seen Sleepless in Seattle that’s “Made For Each Other”.) I was in college and worked at the mall. Yes, we met at the mall. No, I didn’t have braces or have to wear a uniform or a paper hat. I worked at a home decor store which was ridiculous on my part. Just about the only guys that came in belonged in one of two categories: men who were definitely NOT interested in women, and men who carried their wives purses while they shopped. Not great dating potential. But sometimes the women I worked with had sons or knew guys who would come say hello if they were in the mall. Such was the case with Arnie. I worked with his best friend’s wife. He is a nice guy and would have probably come in to see her anyway, but I think Cathi kept him abreast (pun intended) of the babe potential at her workplace.
That’s how the story goes. Oh, are you under the impression that he came in to check me out? Ha! That’s funny! No, I was not the potpourri peddler that first caught his eye. He was instead drawn to someone we’ll call “Slut”. Sorry, that’s mean. (But she was.) I’ll try to be nice. I’ll call her “Girl with loose morals”. So yeah, there she was. I didn’t see the attraction except that she was the type that chose a major in college that was predominantly male because she liked the attention. She knew how to use guys and they stood in line to be used. Whatever. I really didn’t have an opinion since I barely knew Arnie but the more he came in to see “Girl with loose morals”, the more we talked and the more I liked him… as a friend. He was sweet and thoughtful, always complimentary to everybody and even remembered what I had talked about the time before. Questions like “Hey Eileen, how did that organic chem test go last Thursday?” always floored me because most of the guys I knew wouldn’t even remember that I was TAKING organic chem let alone remember that I was stressed about a test. But that’s who he is. I remember him sending “Girl with loose morals” flowers once because she was having a bad day. I will never forget that I turned to one of my other co-workers and said, “Gee, he’s going to make someone a wonderful husband some day.” I never in a million years thought it would be me.
As much as I liked him and looked forward to his visits, he was different from the type of guy I went for. While he was panting after “Girl with loose morals” I was caught up with “Hot guy who didn’t give two shits about me”. Oh you dated him too? That figures, he got around. I won’t bore you with the details, but a spring break trip to visit him at Cornell University didn’t go as planned and I came home swearing off men for a whole year. At nearly the same time, “Girl with loose morals” showed her true colors and Arnie stopped coming around the store. But he couldn’t stay away for long. He would say later that he came back for me, and it might be true, but I think the fact that, when he showed up, I was on a ladder in a very tight, very short brown skirt kind of sealed the deal. He asked if I wanted to hang out and I accepted but only because I thought it wasn’t a date. I had my whole “No men for a year!” plan in place after all. Besides, he liked Yanni for crying out loud. Yes, Pink Floyd and Radiohead too, but Yanni??? I could not see my Lords of Acid, The Sugarcubes, and Tori Amos CDs fitting in very well next to Yanni. So when we were on the phone making plans and he suggested Olive Garden because he “takes all his first dates there”, I was a bit taken aback. First, I guess it was a date after all and second, I wasn’t sure I liked being lumped into the same category as “all his first dates”. And what’s the rest of that sentence? “I take all my first dates there…” “and then they usually throw a drink in my face and storm out because I’ve made a pass at them.” or “and then I take them back to my place and lock them in the basement.” or “but there’s rarely a second date because, although I love their food, it tears my stomach up and I spend the rest of the evening in the bathroom with explosive diarrhea.”??? I remember laughing and saying, “Okaaaay…” His awkwardness about it was kind of endearing and unlike any side of him I had seen before. It piqued my interest. Who was this guy really?
The first date was good. We ate, we laughed, we called our ex’s assholes. He drove me around in his little hunter green sports car with leather seats and I found the way he drove and shifted gears very sexy. He did take me to his house which he had recently bought himself since he had already graduated from college and had a great job. (Thankfully it didn’t have a basement.) I thought he was showing off (which I also liked a bit) but in actuality his motive for bringing me there was to meet his dog. He was pleased Schaefer and I liked each other. According to him, he didn’t date girls who didn’t like his dog. Gotta love that. You also gotta love that he was named after nasty, cheap beer. Poor college dog!
Because we didn’t want the evening to end, we went to a movie and then he drove me home. Through the course of our first date, I found him to be smart and funny and engaging. He treated me like a lady without being condescending, was a good listener and put me at ease, and all of a sudden I was seeing him in a new light. How had I not noticed him being this tall before? Had he always had this amazing head of curly brown hair? How had I not gotten lost in those beautiful blue eyes until now? And how can he make me feel so safe simply by just standing next to me?
The first date turned into a second (the next night) and then a third (the night after that) and the rest, as they say, is history. Flash forward to April 21, 1996. This was before the time when entire wedding parties danced down the aisle to pop songs. I tried hard to be a graceful bride and contain my excitement as I was escorted by my father toward my future husband, but my eyebrows and smile gave me away. I tried to look at each person as I passed the pews and as I did, I arched my eyebrows high on my forehead and flashed a big grin as if to say “OMG! Can you believe it?” “I’m getting maaaaarrrriiiieeeddd!” “Look at you! You’re here! Now look at me! I’m in a wedding dress!!!” “Have you seen Arnie? Doesn’t he look cute up there?”. “THIS is happening right now!!” But when I reached the altar, nerves took over and I became slightly terrified. Arnie, sensing this, took my hand during the ceremony, leaned over and informed me that he was wearing a silk penis sock and nothing else under his tux. He really wasn’t but there I was sitting on the altar, facing my friends and family and the priest, with Jesus on a cross behind my left shoulder and someone doing a reading on my right and I all could picture was Arnie’s penis wrapped in silk. “Love is patient, love is kind…” and MY love is encased in shiny fabric right now. I bit my lip so hard to stop the giggling welling up inside me. I looked at him, he winked at me and I grinned again from ear to ear. I knew right then that everything was going to be okay. And not just at that moment, but for the rest of our lives together.
At our rehearsal dinner Arnie’s dad gave a wonderfully moving speech. I really, really hate that we never got it on video so I could hear it again and quote it exactly, but such is life. I will never forget, though, how he described Arnie and me. He said it was like putting your hand into a box with millions of puzzle pieces, pulling out a piece and then reaching in again and pulling out the exact match. That we are each our own people, separate and unique, but when joined together, fit perfectly and create something beautiful and good. That doesn’t happen every day, he said. I remember being humbled that someone else got what we understood about “us” so completely. That we were MFEO and better together than we ever had been apart.
Fourteen years have flown by. We’ve moved houses, had children and lost people very dear to us. We’ve celebrated and cried and laughed countless times. I had a wonderful example of marriage in my parents who were happily married for 52 years. Through their respectful arguments and frequent kisses I learned that it’s never easy but it’s always worth it. The green sports car has come and gone, replaced with a truck to haul our camper and a minivan. It’s a sign of the times we’re living right now. And I wouldn’t change a single thing. Except… I kind of do wish you had been wearing that silk penis sock, Ace. And I really wish I had landed that punch when I tried to bitch slap “Girl with loose morals”. Happy Anniversary to my one and only puzzle piece.
PS- Thanks for stopping the car and going back that night so I could kiss my dad good-bye. You’re all kinds of awesome.
Copyright 2010 by Me