THTM and I met when we were both 24. After a number of tumultuous years relationship-wise, I, tired of all of the bullshit, had decided about a year earlier to declare a moratorium on relationships. After a lot of therapy and self-reflection, I realized I was truly happy and fulfilled being single. I could make my own decisions, set my own goals, and do anything from a dinner out to planning a trip without having to consult someone else. I did not have to be one-half of a couple to be “special” or “successful” or as proof that I was loveable. I had decided, emphatically decided, not to look. “Being loved by someone,” in my former-Dwanollah-speak circa my 14-year-old self’s diary, was not the priority. Loving myself was.
For the first time in my adult life, I was on my own, and committed to my own growth and development. I’d done some very casual friendly-dating/hanging out type of stuff... getting to know people on a non-threatening (for me) level that certainly wasn’t about to lead to anything more: coffee with this acquaintance from class, visiting after work with a co-worker, a local event with a guy friend, a study group, that sort of thing. But I didn’t sit around hemming and hawing about “When will I find The One?!” or feeling like something wasn’t worth doing if I wasn’t one-half of a couple. Frankly, most guys, most PEOPLE, kinda sucked. There was no need to waste energy trying to find a square peg to force into a round hole, so to speak, by desperate dating or hook-ups. Instead, I focused on who I was, who I wanted to be, and made plans for myself: I had applied to a real university program and was finally ending my wishy-washy Community College/Goddess of Retail career. I had specific goals, and the journey was going to be a big chunk of the point of those goals. I had my own hobbies, a great group of friends, and was branching out in ways I never believed possible.
And in the midst of that, I met THTM.
Yes, y’all, as totally dorky as it is, we did indeed meet through a Duran Duran fanclub. Both he and I were members of a Durannie mailing list online, although we had never corresponded (Indeed, THTM was a lurker). One of THTM’s friends decided to have a Durannie Meet-Up for SoCal folks. And I, needing to drive up to the Los Angeles area to check out my colleges of choice, decided to do something atypical, and participate in the Gathering. My mom made all sorts of fussy noises: it was SUCH a long drive, Los Angeles was SO scary, was I SURE it was safe, maybe I shouldn’t do something like THIS (this was 1995, after all, when “meeting people from the Internet!” was totally weird and scary), and truth be told, after an hour driving, lost, around Melrose and Santa Monica Blvd (then totally scary, alien territory), I almost chucked it all and drove back home. But I finally found The Hard Rock Café, and met up with a group of seven other Durannies. Most were not just a little scary, and full-on Duranlier-than-Thou. But I ended up seated across from a very tall, very reserved geeky boy. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and soon were discussing nuances of Duran song lyrics... and then other bands and music... and foods... and our jobs... and so on. We ended up mooshed together in the back seat of another Durannie’s car on the way to the Duran star on the Walk of Fame, making irreverent jokes. For a seemingly quiet, shy boy, he sure had a wickedly sharp sense of humor (and “wicked” didn’t mean “constantly putting other people down”)! And after the whole afternoon, the very tall, very geeky boy gave me a hug goodbye, and then asked me for my phone number. (I found out later how uncharacteristic of him it was.)
I, uncharacteristically, gave it to him.
Despite that, I certainly wasn’t expecting more than another Durannie email pen pal or someone to say hi to at a concert if he went to a San Diego show or I went to a Los Angeles one. I went to my appointment at college the next day, then drove home. And that night, he called me for the first time to find out how it went and to say it was nice meeting me. Me being me, I was very cautious and hesitant at first. After all, I’d met my share of seemingly “nice guys” who turned out to be total dickwads. But I enjoyed talking with him, and, as we discussed books, music and food, we appeared to have more interests in common than Duran Duran. He was also a bookworm, and asked me lots of questions about my classes. He’d had his own business buying and selling rare records for a while, too, and we had spirited discussions about what was really the best Duran B-side. After a couple weeks and a couple conversations, he said he was going to be in San Diego the next weekend to do some work for a fellow computer-nerd friend, and maybe we could get together...? “Great!” I said brightly. “I’ll invite Number One [another fellow Durannie Group Member, and my closest friend and trusted confidante] too!” I saw which way the wind was blowing, and I was interested, but I was still skittish enough to want another opinion... and a little protection. So Number One gamely hung out with us the next weekend, checked out the future HTM for me, gave him an emphatic seal of approval, and we had a great time watching videos and gabbing and all that. By the end of the evening, I felt secure enough to accept an invitation for a trip to a local coffee house, he and I, de deux.
Several more dates, a couple Duran shows, a toe-curling ear-tingling first kiss, and... wait? What happened?!
That’s how it started back in the spring of 1995. There were all of the usual stereotypical and dorky things: long emails and phone calls, mix tapes, silly gifts (on our first date, he brought me not flowers or candy or anything dumb like that, but... Floam), hand-holding, cuddling, makin’ out, dinners and breakfasts alone or with friends, and a whole bunch of Duran shows. But there was a lot more, too: increasing mutual respect, forthright honesty, excitement tempered with a sense that things were too special, too important, to rush. We went to Disneyland together when the new Indiana Jones ride opened, and spent the long wait in line talking about favorite classes we’d taken, mythology, Middle Earth, the bible, creative writing, classical music, New Wave, architecture, people.... We watched movies, videos, concerts together. We went out for ice cream. He introduced me to Douglas Adams and The Life of Brian, and I introduced him to Joseph Campbell and Billie Holiday. He drove to San Diego to spend time with me; I drove or took the train to Los Angeles to spend time with him. We cooked for each other, and cooked together. We talked about urban sprawl, fears and phobias, feminism, ghosts, poetry, our own expectations of relationships, and the best ice cream flavors or pizza toppings. We listened to and debated the merits of cover versions of songs. We argued Mandarin v. Szechwan v. Cantonese Chinese food. We thumb-wrestled. We didn’t always agree on stuff; I was never going to like Stone Roses and 90s BritPop as much as he did, he was never going to like disco as much as I did, but there was no even “just a joke, geez!” putting down of the things we differed on. There was no competition, no even subtle power-struggle. Rather, everything was exciting, an adventure.
Especially, THTM was the first grown-up man I’d ever dated, the first adult relationship I ever developed. He’d been living on his own (sharing a condo with his old friend, Ben), and, unlike most of the guys I knew, actually did all of his own laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, budgeting, bill-paying, clothes shopping and cleaning. Even more, he was the first who actually went through the effort of wooing me, who treated me as though I was a priority, not an option or convenience. And even after the first heady rush of initial dating was over, he continued – continues to this day – to treat me like that. As love grew between us, he loved me as much as I loved him, wholly and genuinely. Things that I’d always thought, always been told, were my liabilities in a relationship – my personality, my moodiness, my interests, my physical affections, my temperament –were either non-issues altogether to THTM, or things to enjoy, delight in, things he loved because it made me me.
He was more than just a typical “nice guy” or “good catch” or anything. He was an amazing individual. I could tell, too, how valued he was by those around him. I saw how he was treated by his co-workers. When I met his parents, I noticed that they spoke to him as an equal, a respected adult, not their darling little boy. And one of my favorite stories is when THTM first introduced me to Ben, one of his oldest friends. Ben, handsome and charming, smiled and shook my hand. THTM left the room to get something from upstairs, and Ben, still maintaining the smile, said to me, pointedly, “You know, [THTM] is one of the nicest, kindest, and most generous people I know.” With a very loud-and-clear unsaid “... and if you hurt him or fuck him up, you’ll be sorry” on the end of it. Not a chortling, “Yeah, my man here can drink me under the table!” or “What’re you doin’ with a loser like him, huh?” or “Uh... uh...um...” but a subtly protective “Don’t even think about messing with my friend, understand?”
Ben was right, of course. THTM is one of the kindest, nicest, and most generous people ever. He’s brilliant, honest, curious, responsible, dorky, innovative, dedicated, shy, centered, confident without cockiness, introspective, funny, and patient. He’s tender, ambitious, thoughtful, loving, pervy, weird, trustworthy, methodical, unique-
He’s everything I thought was impossible in a partner. Everything I thought was “too much” to ask for. “Unrealistic,” if you will.
To explain The Husband-Type Man and our relationship, to try to explain it all, requires a long series of nevers and nots and didn’ts. Unlike any previous romantic interest, unlike any friend or companion or even family member, THTM never made me feel like I had to change in order to be acceptable to him. He didn’t put me down or belittle me in the name of “teasing” or “just joking!” He was not so insecure that he had to (consciously or unconsciously) manipulate or lie to me to make himself feel better. He was never anything but 100% forthright and honest with me, same as I was with him. He didn’t pressure me for sex, pressure me to “be more fun” by drinking or partying or going places I wasn’t interested, pressure me, however subtly, to be anything but who and what I was. He’s never given me that oogey, embarrassed, sinking feeling of “I can’t believe he just said/did THAT!” which I then had to rush to rationalize. He never ignored troubles or issues, never acted like his perspective was the only/right perspective, never twisted or undermined my words and feelings. He never lied, cheated, abandoned, ignored, attacked, pretended, forgot. He didn’t nitpick, needle, “suggest” or hint about all the ways I could maybe be better. He never criticized – never even implied he had the RIGHT to criticize – my hair, my makeup, my clothes, my weight, my career goals, my hobbies, my interests, my idiosyncrasies, my moodiness, my panic attacks, my past, my self.... He is never, ever one-sided.
I never had to be anyone or anything other than my whole, real, self for him to love me, any more than he had to be anyone or anything else for me to love him.