An Old Timey Pre-Internet Love Story

My husband and I have known each other for over seventeen years.

When we first met, we were both in our mid-twenties and living a lifestyle that could pretty well best be described as "late night" and "fabulous", as well as "hanging-on financially by our dining out-concert going-next round's on me-shop at Urban Outfitters fingernails".

He was a bartender at an Old City Philadelphia watering hole for the eccentric and well-off (though mostly eccentric), and I was shuffling papers as a clerk at a large pharmaceutical company by day, following my acting dreams by night. We had some money coming in, but it routinely went out later that evening.

Each evening after my play rehearsals or comedy improv shows ended, I'd hang out at the bar where my sorta-now-boyfriend worked - me hovering over glass of wine while he worked his magic with a beer tap until last call - and then we'd stay out even longer and later at one of the many after-hours clubs frequented by a cattle call of Philadelphia’s glitterati: everyone from Main Line male models and sexy waitresses to statuesque transvestite divas to hip, happening young club owners who were in possession of more dough than any guys wearing vintage bowling shirts would be expected to possess. And every night, we’d see 3 AM lighten to reverse-twilight, brighten to a hard dawn, and forty ounces of coffee into rush hour, I'd be on my way to work again, lather, rinse, repeat.

Sleep was for the weekends, although mostly sleep seemed to be optional when you were 25 years old.

During the first four years of my relationship with my then-boyfriend-almost-fiance, our affinity for each other was based firmly in our mutual ability to suss out a good time, dress ironically excellent and - of course - crack wise with the wise cracks.

Sometimes, we met at a diner for a late lunch.

Once in a while, we went to the movies.

Otherwise, being too exhausted by our fabulous and whirlwind schedules to hold much of a conversation, we spent a lot of time playing backgammon at the bar as a way to get to know each other. (He's all strategy; I'm all roll of the dice.)

How we got from there to here is - I won't lie - a mystery. A fabulous mystery...but still a bit of a head-scratcher.

My last clear memory of having ever made some decisive step toward the long haul was while sitting bleary-eyed at an airport terminal and my not-yet-husband mumbling something endearingly mushy like, "My roommate's moving out. You want to move in when you get back from Seattle?" and me answering with a breathy "Yup!" and next thing you know, you're living outside of Harrisburg with three kids, staying up late at night to squeeze in a few child-free hours at your blog, and barely hanging-on financially by your mortgage-car insurance-braces-commute costs-dance classes-sewer bill-shop at Good Will fingernails.

In that way, I suppose it was a slow-glide toward much of the same.

Although I sure do miss the transvestites.

Now, in most ways, our courtship was very much...erem..."non-traditional" when you factor in the co-habitating and the lack of daylight and our insufferable coolness. More like vampires, actually, than anything Dr. Phil would approve of as textbook match-making.

But compared to the relationships of today where two young could-be-lovers might first read each other's blogs or Facebook page or exchange emails and so be privy to the most intimate personal details ("My First Grade teacher never loved me") to lists of idiosyncratic daily minutiae ("I had a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich for lunch...again!") to indiscriminate divvyings of Way Too Much Information ("I sleep with a Luke Skywalker puppet"), my now-spouse and I had only the vaguest notions of what we were getting into when we finally said "I do."

And frankly, I'm kind of glad.

Call me old school romantic - or maybe just squeamish - but I'm just not sure I'd want to know right away the exact breadth and depth to which he idolizes Bill James, or the extent of his crazy whatever that compels him to actually seek out and ingest stinky, stanky olives, or - heaven forfend! - I couldn’t imagine any circumstance for which a full and detailed reckoning of his toenail clipping habits would immediately transcribe as love note. Even to a podiatrist. It's one thing to walk through your house one day and happen upon a person clipping his toenails while balanced over the bathroom sink like a large white, slightly-squidgy flamingo and think "hmm...peculiar...but sexy!" It's another thing all together to comprehend fully that while hacking away at his or her feet, this person was at the same time expending serious intellectual energy into the meta-cognition of their own toenail clipping habits whereupon they then felt some urgency born of exhibitionism-tarted-up-as-existentialism that pressed them into not only writing about their pedicure-larities, but an urgency which also commanded the self-publication of that writing to bear witness to the world at large.

In other words, I don't know that I'd want to be partnered with anyone whose self-awareness and exhibitionism competed with my own ego.

I mean, blogging.

I mean...uh....

Well, that took an oddly confessional turn.

The short of it is that - for me, not speaking for anyone else - most times, knowledge is power.

Other times, sticking my fingers in my ears and going "LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA" is what, I find, works best in keeping the love alive.

It’s not that I don’t want to know it all, eventually.

I just don't want to know it all, all at once.

Even while my Dearly Beloved and I are wearing each other down with mutual understanding until that day when our connubial adoration for each other renders us cozy and comfortable as a sixty-year-old pair of Woolworth’s flannel slippers, I'd still like to maintain some mystery.

Am I right! Or am I right?

See, I'm kinda glad that seventeen years ago, I didn't read a "50 Things About Me" meme on his blog in which he revealed that he despises peanut butter. I'd have missed out on that spark of excitement twelve years into our marriage when - during a rest stop on a five mile Saturday afternoon hike with three ornery children and one ferociously hungry mate - we all sat down to the lunch I had packed of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and peanut smoothies.

I honestly don’t want to know all the “friends” any of my boyfriends were “poking” on Facebook before I met them. I reserve the right to slap and/or throw a drink in the face of any chick who acts too chummy and too familiar too quickly and without first paying me some props and getting my go-ahead to address my dude as anything other than "Sir". I may talk all feminista and progressive when I’m sober, but get one beer in me - even an expensive foreign beer - and I turn into Dolly Parton mid-chorus with a shotgun. Seven years into our marriage, finding out that I had a Dolly Parton side (if not a front) was a itch-scratcher that couldn't be beat.

And then there was my secret ticklish spot he just discovered three years ago, and that was good for a double line a few months later.


And although I had some inkling that he and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on all things music related…Boy! What a surprise!

Both of us had brought a combined 500+ compact discs (Google it, kids) into our marriage, and yet of those 500+ titles, only two CDs were duplicates. So, as you can imagine, it took almost fifteen years before my husband discovered that I had only the slimmest sliver of toleration for The Velvet Underground.

And when he did find that out, he almost divorced me on the spot.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I get intellectually why I should get down on my knees each morning and say a prayer of thanksgiving to John Cale or Andy Warhol or whoever for the genius and musical salvation that is The Velvet Underground, but frankly, deep down in my gut where the bass should be pumping in rhythm to my own true heart, I just don’t get it.

Lou Reed’s out-of-tune, self-important whinging just makes me want to kick an art student. Or a poet. And that’s just not right.

So, you can see, if I had had a Facebook page in the early nineties, surely at some point it’s much more likely that - out of sheer boredom or during a run of writer’s block - I would have answered a “Rock Singers That Sound Like Nails On The Blackboard Of Your Soul” meme, and I would have lost all my friends in seven keystrokes.

Instead, this information hasn’t come up as a topic of conversation for almost 40 years.

Just think…if the Internet had been around “back then", sure, my husband may have linked up with a partner with whom he had more in common: someone who spent inordinate amounts of time thinking and talking about baseball; someone who could listen to the entire 10:40 minutes of Television’s Marquee Moon and not have their bleeding eardrums jump out of their head in an act of suicidal desperation; someone who thought that a brunch date was a lousy waste of a perfectly good Sunday morning.

And that someone would have been my ex-boyfriend, Steve.

(Hi Steve!)

As it is, my husband got me: his Velvet Underground-dissing love of his life.

And all the fabulous mysteries that are me!

And They Lived Happily - and Mysteriously - Ever After.

The End.

You can stop reading my blog now, Dear.

One Velvet Underground performance
that we both do enjoy.
Thanks, Teh Internets!


Anonymous said...

This is Steve,

And it still crumples up a bit of my heart and soul whenever you start coming down on Lou. Actually, through the Internet, I have been listening to a 70's classic rock station, but I really don't want to get into it…except I will say, that while I admittedly like a couple of Eagles songs, they were one of the most repulsive products ever spewed out by the United States, perhaps the world.

Written while listening (very loudly) to that superb 'alt take' of "Marquee Moon"…in its glorious ten minute entirety of course.

Blog Antagonist said...

Heh. I see some definite parallels in our respective relationships. Weird how people used to actually meet each other BEFORE the relationship developed, innit?

You're right though, the internet definitely enables us to reject prospects out of hand for even the smallest incompatability or flaw.

I wonder how many people have unwittingly passed up their soul mate because of something like....
peanut butter or toenails. I wonder how many starcrossed lovers have been wrenched apart by love of Lou Reed.

Sad. Very sad.

- said...

At least Steve went with me to see Wire at the 9:30 Club in DC. said...

"At least Steve went with me to see Wire at the 9:30 Club in DC."

Seriously...if Steve weren't living half a world away right now, I'd have to spend most of my time trying to figure how to keep you two apart.

Unknown said...

This was a great post! I spend time thinking of my own relationship with Joe in a very similar way. I mean, we spent tons of time together, but it still feels like we barely knew each other when we got married at the (shockingly) young and naive age of 22. Eek! And few things thrill me more than finding out something about him that I don't already know.

Anonymous said...

"Acting dreams"? "Comedy improv rehearsals"?
I knew that BHJ video wasn't a flukey stroke of random genius. You are a trained professional.

Maria Melee said...

I loved this story! My husband and I met 10 years ago almost to this very day in our very first college class.

But he approached me over AOL Instant Messenger because he was too nervous to speak to me in class.

I'm super glad that at the time neither of us had entirely been sucked into the Internet, so we weren't crippled by memes and blogs and too much email. (Although we did have a few late night fights over AIM while our dorm roommates were sleeping.)

It's strange to me to think how many love stories from now on start in such a different way. (And a way that I'm not sure would have been successful for me.)

We had to introduce our Weird to each other in nice, small, digestible doses.

unmitigated me said...

I like how the bride is carrying a big ol' beer cup. And you seem to share an attraction to Steve. There's something to build a relationship on. And I can kinda tolerate "Lou Reed's out-of-tune, self-important whinging." Isn't that where the Dursleys live?

Fairly Odd Mother said...

What a lovely little tribute to marriage and all its mysteries. I agree that too much information is not necessarily a good thing. Had I seen my husband's myspace page (the page that doesn't really exist, I might add), I would've seen his dislike for tomatoes and mushrooms, his obsession with hockey and his less-than-stellar music taste (which has improved 1000% since we've met), and I may have concluded that he and I were not meant to be.

My blog-reader loser will be Neil Young. Good God, I cannot stand that voice. Oh, ditto to Bob Dylan. Lou Reed's voice, though, I kind of dig.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on all that. There's a lot to be said for the discovery that goes on along the way. That and the stuff you write when you're young is oft times downright silly to put out there for all to see.

You should never feel bad about kicking a poet though. It gives them something to go on about and it pays them back for public readings.

MommyTime said...

You are, as always, a witty genius with words. This post does a great job of capturing the idiosyncrasies that make marriage work. Or, I suppose, that could crumple it up like so much used tissue -- but it's that they somehow don't that makes the marriage so wonderful. My husband and I played enough Scrabble early in our relationship for the word to become a verb (as in "I'm going to Scrabble you good this time" -- and no, that wasn't dirty; it actually involved little tiles with letters on them and fierce competition over points). I'm glad we didn't have the Internet back then. I don't think online Scrabble would have been nearly as eye-opening about each other and the real tournaments on uneven picnic tables lakeside.

Julie Pippert said...

I have known my husband, hmm, 20 years. Known him well 17. I still don't know him *all* and I suspect wouldn't even if he blogged, which he never, ever would do (probably). LOL

But I am so on board with your point (I'm pretty sure). And loved the post.

I generally thank God and any other potential intelligent forces out there that my life pre-dated easy documentation, especially the high school and college years. I always thought I was 100% grateful there were no blogs or cameraphones.

And yet, at this point, that's all so vague and far away, the youth, and I'm not sure at all about who I was or what happened so I am ridiculously grateful and eager when I run across any documented piece of that time.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I suspect there may be a "Bill James Discuss-A-Thon Soundtrack" in your very very near future. In fact, maybe there will be a Bill James Imitation Contest on Saturday.

MereCat said...

That was awesome!

I met my husband in 2003, late in life and second marriage for both of us. And we did find each other on Even that venue in that day was so much simpler than the complex and soul bearing media that is prevalent today. So fortunately for us, there has still been quite a bit of mystery and surprise.

Anonymous said...

Oh how I love the way you write!

This post actually made this content-to-be-single mama think things I haven't thought for a loooong time. Like how nice it might be to be part of a couple. And that maybe I COULD actually do it. Wow.

And here's something you're gonna LOVE. Even before you mentioned The Velvet Underground, when you were writing about your young rock star lives, all I could hear in my head was Lou Reed singing "take a walk on the wild side..." And those colored girls singing do, da, do, da, do, do, do, do ... For reals.

Unknown said...

The best thing about Lou Reed was the comedian I used to listen to who did a Sesame Street version of Walk on the Wild Side. To die for.

My husband being the quiet, non-confessional type would have a) probably not had a Facebook/MySpace page and b) if he did, it would have been facetious to the extreme and in no way a reflection of who he really was. Internet or not, I would have had a lot of surprises in store for me!

And I agree with you. Steve and Michael need to be kept apart. I can tell they're a couple of troublemakers.

Jon said...

Gonzo. Lou Reed. I can't.

Anonymous said...

"And you seem to share an attraction to Steve."

And what woman hasn't?

Yes, many, many a year ago, when druid did play, our dear blogger looked my way occasionally, but my incessant obsession with androgynous-phase Bowie prompted her epiphanic decision to seek a real man to father her children; a wise move being that I have yet to replicate.

"At least Steve went with me to see Wire at the 9:30 Club in DC."

And a fine show that was. Last week, went to my first show in six years; the Sex Pistols nevertheless. I have had ideological pangs about their regrouping, which started off in 1996, but they actually put on a good set. We're all too old to care. Besides, being constantly knocked about by young pogo dancing Japanese was worth the price of admission.

I can't find my blog said...

Love and marriage rocks. You did an awesome job of reminding us old folk of just HOW we fell in love in the first place. Oh, and I never would have met Headless Dad on the internet. He hardly knows how to check his work email.

- said...

Hey Steve, I'm going to see Wire again in about 6 weeks. Madame Halushki once again declined the invitation.

Anonymous said...

this is one of your better posts, Joz.

And I'm a tough crowd.

This is all I can say about Lou Reed and TVU: meh. I can take or leave it.

What's your read on the Allman Brothers?

Be very careful here.

Andy - Instafather said...

I miss the transvestites too.

Nice meeting you as well, Gonzo hater. I'll put my shirt on next time if you promise not to pass out sexual favors to strangers like booze outside an AA meeting.

Julie Marsh said...

Too much information too soon would've killed my marriage. Or at least rendered it unconscious.

Love this post.

Anonymous said...

also? what's with the gay porn on the wall?

not that there's anything wrong with it.

Anonymous said...

As someone who met her husband online...then found out years later that all the chatting was a combined effort from him and his 3 roommates, which leaves me to believe I very well could be a rich private pilot's wife RIGHT NOW, I so respect your slide into love and marriage and the afterlife.

We moved at such the speed of light that, although I know I picked the right one, I often mourn the loss of the courtship.

All the happiness the world can produce to you and Steve.

jerseymike said...

No, seriously?!

That may well be the greatest fucking blog post I've ever, ever, ever read.

And I'll say the same thing in the morning.

After I wake up from being out at a Tweetup drinkin' beers for seven hours...completely unaware of your almost superhuman powers when writing about human relations...I'll say the same thing.

You rock.

Lookin forward to seein you at the next Tweetup. said...

Anissa? Are you wishing my husband and Steve all the happiness in the world? Because, seriously, they don't need any encouragement. ;-)

And cog, that's not gay porn. That's me and my husband! I just look very masculine in the photo. Masculine and pregnant. mean the painting on the wall. Yes, that's gay porn. It keeps the kids guessing.

Krista said...

josette and michael...sittin' in a a tree..K-I-S-S-I-N-G...
well, we know the rest of that song (and you proved it true)!

What a sweet husband could only wish I would take the time to say such nice and mushy things about him.

I love in most of your photos, you both have a "beverage" in hand...his beer is probably out of camera range in the pix with his Red Sox shirt on...

Very entertaining ~ and relatable! :)

Anonymous said...

Okay. Now in "sober":

Absolutely fantastic post.

The imagery you created with the combination of words is simply stunning.

As Jesus once said "You really nailed it"


Anonymous said...

My husband and I've known each other for 17 years, too, although we weren't bnearly as groovy as you.

We have a box of CASSETTE tapes that we both brought to the marriage. They're all mixed up after years of shuffling back and forth (God knows why we've even kept them this long, we haven't even had a cassette player in easily ten years). But you can pick any cassette out of the box and know immediately which of us was the original owner.

The Sundays? The Cure? Echo and the Bunnymen? Mine, mine, mine. Basically, everything good in that box is mine.

His are all Ratt or Queensryche or some shit.

But every time I tell him his old musical tastes sucked, he pulls out that ONE Debbie Gibson tape I bought in a weak moment when I was 15. I WILL NEVER LIVE IT DOWN.

(P.S. I'm still trying to get over the fact that my first grade teacher never loved me, and really don't understand what your point is.)

anne said...

Hint on how to enjoy Lou Reed: First: drink a case of Old Milwaukee.
Second: Who cares?

Great post.

Lost In Splendor said...

This is so sweet. I love reading stories about how people met.

Anonymous said...

So long love story. Like a novel.

Anonymous said...

So was Dolly Parton one of the CDs you had in common?

BabyonBored said...

My husband has an unnatural affinity for VU too. I don't get it. But he doesn't get my jones for singer/songwritery vagina music that I claim is beautiful and he claims has "no hook."

Anonymous said...

You feel about your guy the way I feel about mine. I think we're both lucky.

Anonymous said...

Hi - Mommytime suggested I give you a read... you had me here at "Harrisburg"! - I grew up north of you in a county people mock, went to Dickinson, then left for DC, where I met and married a nice boy (who brought Velvet Underground into the marriage) from the greater metropolitan area of Williamsport PA. (heh.) My mom lived in Hershey for years, recently remarried and now lives off of Progress Avenue. SO, I can talk your talk.

Loved this post and you're in my reader. Hop on over and check me out sometime... admission's free for a short while longer, so don't delay.

Angela said...

Glad you have had so many great years together.

And that was a great story.
I do agree that is the way to go with romance
I wouldn't have married my husband if we met on line.
He can't spell worth anything

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