I started dating at sixteen – Miller, the best-looking guy in my small, overwhelmingly Baptist school – blonde hair, blue eyes, football player. And nice. He played King David in one of our high school dramas when he was a freshman and I was in eighth grade and I fell in love with him in the “man after God’s own heart” role. That year I asked him to be my escort for homecoming, not the dance (actually, we never had any dancing, because the school was Baptist) but the ceremony inbetween the basketball games (our homecoming was in January) where all the class representatives walked out in front of the auditorium, for some reason in this case with very big straw hats and long skirts carrying fake flowers. I got the biggest zit I’ve ever gotten right on the top of my nose and he walked with me across the gym floor and I didn’t know what to say to him. Two years later we were dating. We went out for pizza with friends. I couldn’t eat. We went back to Kim’s house and watched ice skating and then the guys took me home. We went to the junior-senior banquet together (preaching instead of dancing) and I remember his father being there taking pictures before we went in, riding in a limo, rushing into my house so he wouldn’t kiss me. I remember that he wanted make a lot of money and that turned me off, like how could someone actually base their life decisions on that? And that he gave me such sickly sweet gifts – a necklace that said “Someone Special” (that I still have), a big white teddy bear carrying a red heart – that I had to call it off. My heart wasn’t touched.
Ten years later, after several college near misses, after dating the wonderful preacher’s boy from our church I had nothing in common with and flirting with one or two Christian “bad boys,” I dated Brian, whom, from time to time, I thought I would marry. We dated a year and then he broke my heart, and then continued to flirt with me for a year at work. Devastated me would get my hopes up and have them crushed, get my hopes up and have them crushed again, over and over. Finally he moved to North Carolina. We sat outside at Anita’s, the cheap Mexican place right by route 50, before he left. He cried and held my hands as we talked about saying goodbye. And then he left. And finally I moved on.
And then after a years-long drought I went to England, and… well, I’m not sure I’m ready to tell that story yet. (But keep reading. Soon.) Suffice it to say, my heart was fully engaged. And this time the risks seemed much higher.
I think, like Austen, I’m interested in marriage only if I can have a great marriage, if I can marry someone I truly love. And in my early-close-to-mid-thirties, looking for a relatively normal, unmarried, evangelical Christian guy, I’ve done the math and determined that that’s nearly impossible.