that’s what i told holly may 2, 2001, the day before our first date. i also told her i had pink hair (which i did: streaks, manic panic i applied with rubber gloves each week in my tiny takoma park bathroom, very late 90s i know but sue me i’m a jersey girl who graduated high school in ’96), and she thought (she told me, years later) “how drunk WAS i when we met?!” (for the record: not that drunk. but it was dark and i guess she couldn’t quite see the full majesty that was my hair in ’01?)
well i told you last month how we met. now, in honor of our second eight year anniversary (insert holly’s eyeroll right here; yes, i am a girl and demand that we recognize multiple anniversaries throughout the year–no gifts required, just acknowledgment), i’m going to tell you about our first date. (warning: longest blog entry in the history of lunch at 11:30…)
our first date was nearly one month to the day after we met: may 3, 2001. we talked on the phone and/or emailed nearly every day after we met. i was so happy. i never experienced anything so exciting and romantic (the ppl i was, we’ll say, “involved with” were mainly in college and were mainly…yeah, i won’t go there. let’s just say…not romantic…but what can you expect from a bunch of 18/19/20/21-year-olds?). we had only seen each other one time before that date, and it was late–and dark, apparently.
i decided i’d wear something easily recognizable. i settled on a tight black t-shirt that had a hott rocker cartoon girl on it playing guitar. i paired this with tight-ass black jeans and these huge black moon boots (nine west i think? i found them at t.j. maxx. hmmm wonder why….) and of course some kind of black belt with metal on it and all these spiked bracelets. i was definitely…a sight. but i was cute in my way, if slightly a tad too punk rock for the (now defunct) silver spring bureau of the gazette newspapers, where i had my first reporting gig out of college. as for what holly was going to wear…she may have said something about khaki pants? i don’t know. i think i must have repressed it and thought instead of the black button-down she was wearing when we met, which, late at night, looked somewhat rock n roll.
oh but wait. let’s backtrack a little. i didn’t tell you how we decided where we’d go/what we’d do on our first date. holly called me at the aforementioned office to plan our upcoming evening, and very sweetly asked me what i was interested in doing. i was flattered but also my usual difficult self. actually, i was even more difficult back then. which i know is hard to believe but, sadly, quite true.
“would you like to go to a ball game?” she asked.
“a what? oh no. i don’t do sports.” [i have since morphed into a steelers-crazed, (kosher) hot dog chompin, nacho-throwin (ok i don’t throw them but it sounded funny) football fan/baseball-game goer.]
“what about a fun park?”
“a fun park, you know, with rides and stuff.”
“oh, an amusement park. that’s what we call them in jersey. yeah, no. i don’t do those either. don’t do rides.”
there was a third thing, which i also promptly turned down whatever it was. [i just called holly to see if she remembered. she said she didn’t know but made a guess that if it was something like the zoo i probably said it was too hot out (it was unseasonably warm in late april/early may 2001, i must say in my defense) and my hair would get puffy.]
“well, what would you like to do?” she said, still sweetly, but now i realize probably trying to hide her growing exasperation.
“let’s go out to eat,” i suggested (as if there was any other choice).
it was settled. we would go out to dinner in dc. a thursday night.
so i get to the restaurant (also now-defunct; what IS this?? it wasn’t that long ago! geez), a place called peppers on 17th st. in dupont circle (just a block away or so from where we met a month earlier) and sit at the bar and start flipping thru a free newspaper (the wash. city paper, probably) as i wait for her. and then in walks this girl with short spiky hair and perfect posture, wearing chinos, brown sandals and a (gulp) yellow long-sleeved shirt. pastel yellow. (yes, you can laugh now.) i was like, huh? is this the same girl? haha.
she was so polite and sweet and…so ironed. i was…not ironed. (tho my bangs were flat-ironed. does that count? ha.) and i told you already what i was wearing. i moved past my book-by-its-cover shallowness and we sat down and ordered food. apparently, i told her i was a vegetarian (i don’t remember this but holly does and i believe her), which isn’t at all true. it’s what i tell ppl sometimes (like the mostly italian-speaking lunch ladies in high school, for example) when i don’t feel like explaining the whole kosher thing. apparently, this made holly thing woah boy. big red flag in her western pee-ay book.
i ordered something, i don’t remember what. something with mushrooms that holly recalls i complained about being too cheesy (thanks, babe, for remembering all the important details). i don’t remember what she ordered, but i do remember she paid, which, swoon. a girl paying for me? niiice. (if you haven’t caught the hint, i’m not that hard to impress)
we left and walked around the neighborhood and i was having a great time tho holly told me months later that she thought the date was kind of a disaster by that point, “i kept saying things that pissed you off,” she recalls. ha. funny, i don’t recall being pissed off. a first for me. anyway, we wound up sitting on a bench on the outside perimeter of dupont circle park, close to the starbucks on the corner (for all you washingtonians or ex-washingtonians out there that are into details like me). there were, as per usual, a couple, um, vocal folks there (i call them “crazies,” which i know isn’t nice, but yelling like a banshee in public does make one seem a little off).
holly was still new to the city back then. she had only moved to baltimore (yes, we had “long distance” relationship for the first couple years) from pee-ay, let’s see, only about three months before our date, so yeah.
i told her not to look at them. esp. the ones close by. and what did she do? she looked. oh, hunny, i love ya… 😉
so it was getting late and in my impish mind, i thought: i have my very own apt. tho it was crappy and i decorated the place with old furniture and cinder blocks that i spray painted silver, it was the very first place i could call my own. in other words: it wasn’t a dorm. and it was private. before the date even started i decided that i would bring her back to my place no matter what. i mean, c’mon, i already knew she wasn’t psycho. we talked on the phone for a month, ppl, cut me some slack. i was 22 and _____. (fill in the blank. this is a family blog. wait, no it’s not but i’m not going to say it here.)
“could you drive me back to my car?” i asked sweetly. if i had longer hair back then i’m sure i would have been twirling it. “it’s parked at the takoma park metro station. it’s not that far.”
of course she said yes, and of course she was clueless to my mischievous plans. she pretty much thought the date was a wash by this point, so what was an extra 20 mins in the car?
so she drives me to my parked car, and i’m like, “would you like to come to my apartment?” and clueless her was like, “ok,” thinking, what? we’d have tea? (ha. no but srsly. if she wanted tea i would most def made her tea. i always have no less than like 10 kinds of tea wherever i’m living.)
she follows me in her silver two-door chevy cavalier coupe (i thought it was hella sporty; like i said, not that hard to impress). i’m driving my super-dorky two-door ford focus hatchback (which i mistakenly thought was cool back then). we go up garland and turn up prospect and park in the little driveway. i cross my fingers that the roaches don’t scatter, at least in the kitchen where they usually hang out, when i turn on the lights. the place was clean but it was old. old like ten million coats of paint around the windows and water-warped kitchen counters old. it had this wall-to-wall crappy thin red carpet w/black specks. i had an ikea futon with an off-white cushion against the window with a cheap black ikea coffee table in front of it and a boom box sitting on top of yes, silver cinder blocks along the other wall. i kept a rabbit-eared tv on a chair, (hey i made $600 every two weeks, i did what i could, ok?) and my used electric bass was against the other wall.
i don’t remember all the details of that night. but it seemed to get very late very quickly. (late is my equivalent of drunk, as i’m not much of a drinker. i have a tendancy to make trouble when it’s late) she showed me some pictures of her family that she brought along, and i ooh’ed and ahh’ed at her cool cell phone, which had a computerized panda walking on the screen. i had never seen anything like it.
i played the bass for her. (that was during my bass stage. i used to sit on that crummy carpet and try to replicate basslines from garbage and the go-gos at night and on the weekends) who plays the electric friggin bass for their dates?? good grief. then i started to get nervous. so i started giving her these tiny bottles of spring water i kept in the fridge. by 3am i probably gave her like three or four. i turned on some music…it was all very…collegiate, thinking back to it. i think it was duran’s duran’s greatest hits. (again: good grief.) all the while she thought she had messed up this date. and she totally didn’t.
in the interest of, well, oh who the hell knows maybe my parents are going to read this one day? i am going to self-censor the rest and just say that we “hung out” for a while longer and she left in the morning. [HEY. before you judge me: she slept on the futon (hey, i may have had pink hair but i was still old-fashioned)] i had to leave for work, but i made us coffee in the perculator my late grandma (who passed just under a year ago at that point) gave me before i graduated college.
we sat there, swirling coffee with milk or non-dairy powdered cream, who the hell knows what i put in my coffee back then, clinking spoons against my second-hand diner style mugs (oh man those were great mugs) at a table a couple girls down the street had given me. it was in pretty bad shape so i covered it with a vinyl zebra print tablecloth (hell know where i found that! ha.). [all of you who didn’t know me in college and/or have never visited my kitsch-filled office (where i keep all my snow globes and madonna album covers and ramones posters and pink flamingo lamp) but have visited our “urban chic” home may gasp but yes. i do love me some kitsch.] i was all nerves, but i was also all smiles.
we left the apartment at the same time. i remember standing on the crumbly asphalt saying goodbye near our cars. it all felt so…adult. but not. like i said, i was all nerves, tingling right down to my fingertips. she wanted to kiss goodbye, but i hugged her instead. (such a pain in the ass i was, ha) holly says to this day it was the coffee that saved the morning. i guess i let my goofy 22-year-old fake-ass guard down by then. hell it only took about 24 hours. thank goodness for grandma’s peculator, right?
i, of course, was terrible about giving her directions to get back on the highway back to baltimore. i told her to follow me and she did but somehow we got our signals crossed and she missed the exit onto the beltway.
i got to work and emailed her:
(yes, i saved the emails. yes i save my old hotmail account specifically for our near-ancient emails. i know i know…)
>>From: “jessica” >>To: “holly”>>Subject: Re: >>Date: Thu, 03 May 2001 09:50:52 -0400 >> >
holly…i’m running off to cover something right now in d.c. but i just wanted to drop you a line before i go off…i want to tell you that i had a really nice time with you last night and…and and and…i don’t know. that’s just it. i think you had fun too. just wanted to tell you.
>well i hope you eventually made it onto the beltway east…you probably did…i looked behind me and you were there i was like holly!! what are you *doing*! funny.
>have a good weekend. and i will too. i’ll say hi to nyc for you b/c >i think i’ll be there saturday night.
>take it easy, you. >jessica.
and she wrote back from baltimore:
From: “Holly” To: “Jessica”
Fri 5/04/01 4:44 AM
Yes I did get on the Beltway, can you believe I did that………funny. I found a great way that puts you out right by my house so when you do come to visit me, it should be easy for you…………………….that is if you do want a next time because I do! I also had a great time and will look forward to our next encounter. I like how we have stuff in common but at the same time we are different but we can still blend and probably learn from one another.
You can teach me some slang so I don’t act my age. You have a safe trip and have fun in NY. I am going to try to call you before your meeting to make sure your and, and, and, and are answered.
so cute, right?? (i swear, i read these old emails and it’s all i can do to keep from crying, they’re so sweet, esp. hers…)
back then we were both just along for the ride. and look at us, all these years later, all married and whatnot. so not what we expected or even wanted. at least we didn’t think so back then. a few months into things, holly told me on that same futon that i was everything she never knew she wanted.
so for all you ppl out there who thought a first date wasn’t so good. or that someone “looks” too different from you for a relationship to work, think again. we are living proof that sometimes you need someone unexpected in your life, even someone who seems totally different than you, to give you everything you never knew you wanted and every single thing you’ll ever need…