I found my place at college when I applied for Writing Fellows. I’d settled on English as a major after trying out everything from pre-med to American Studies, and the idea of telling people what was wrong with their writing, for money, was too appealing to pass up. I adored the other Fellows: the smart, quirky girls who studied chemistry and art and the cute, goofy guys who could discuss early American literature with straight faces, even if they did lapse into sports analogies whenever possible. They were all very cool in a way that only other earnest idealists would appreciate.
One day I saw a thread on our listserv from one of the Fellows who’d matriculated into the group a semester before I did. So he was extra cool, being one of the “big” kids. And he was using a Walt Whitman quote as a stirring call to action about how we would help the poor beleaguered masses find their writing voices. I thought he sounded pretty condescending (and was kind of hijacking Whitman), so I responded with “What the hell are you talking about?”
Being the big nerd he was, he didn’t get mad, he was delighted that someone was stirred enough to issue a challenge. And that was when a few of my bad habits began. I started stumbling to the computer first thing in the morning to see if he’d replied to my latest salvo. I snuck into the Writing Fellows office and stole his literary biography, a writing memoir that was the first assignment a new Writing Fellow always completed. It usually turned into a Declaration of Writer-ness. I read his, about coming to school intending to study physics, about spending two years in Venezuela, about realizing that literature and writing were what he really loved.
I went home and told my mom I’d fallen in love, not that his essay was so great. It probably stunk almost as much as mine did, but I was in love with the person who’d produced it. Then I realized that I had no idea what he looked like, and a sudden fear struck me. Fear that he would be that one guy with thick glasses, awful shirts, and a fanny pack. The one who was always taking pictures and had floppy hair, not in a good-floppy sort of way.
Dear Lord, I prayed that night, anyone but him. I LOVE him, but, please, anyone but that guy.
My bad habits continued. I snuck into the Writing Fellows office again and found a picture of my Fellow. He was not the guy with thick glasses, awful shirt, and fanny pack.
There is a God.
He suggested, over email, that we meet, go out, further our acquaintance. I said yes, of course, because I was already in love with him. We joked about carrying roses in books or wearing yellow, but in the end his roommate picked me up on the way back from taking his girlfriend caving.
We were married four months later, and this weekend I realized that one of the things I am most grateful for in my whole entire life is that I fell in love before knowing what he looked like. Before seeing his face and wanting his strong body. Before his pheromones promised mine that there would be babies, sweet, chubby babies in our future.
Because I fell in love with him.