After we got our picture taken together, Ben and I started to chat each other up. He knew words that had even more than two syllables and could put coherent sentences together. Ones that utilized a subject and a verb with clauses thrown in for good measure. He looked like a guy who wore his shirts with sleeves. This was an improvement from the last two people that I had dated. We had loads of things in common. He told me that he once asked my sister (who never once mentioned him to me, by the way!) if she had a sister. She said she did, but that I was married to a prick.
My brand new brother-in-law and his buddies, Ben included, had a strange tradition of dancing in their boxer shorts at each other's weddings. While this might sound kind of stupid, in my family the tradition was to dance the "Polka Slam". The rules are: polka around the dance floor as fast as you can, gaining enough centrifugal force to knock other dancers (your cousins) down. At my own wedding I ripped my dress during the Polka Slam. So who was I to judge? I knew about the boxer shorts dance in advance because under my bridesmaid's dress, I was wearing my own pair of boxer shorts over my garter belt and stockings. My sister wanted the girls to beat the guys to it by going out on the dance floor and pulling up our dresses for the big --yes, it's true-- Packer boxer shorts reveal. *sigh* Do I have to tell the rest?
Ben caught a flash of the garter belt and wanted it when it was the guys' turn to do the boxer shorts dance. He came up to me and asked me for my underwear. Being a demure, well-bred midwestern girl raised by an imaginary television mother, I said "sure!"
We found the coat room and locked ourselves in for the underwear exchange. Having given him my underwear, and he having put it on, there was nothing else to do but kiss. and kiss. and kiss.
The next day we were at my folks house for the gift opening. I offered to take him to the airport so he could catch his flight home to Richmond, Virginia. I waited with him for his plane in the airport coffee shop. Sitting there, I knew I was in love. But still, there had to be a hang up. Secretly gay? Not a chance. Violent streak? Psycho killer? Those are the charming ones.
After a week of long phone calls and hours of instant messaging I hadn't discovered anything seriously wrong. I told him that my plans were to move somewhere after Thanksgiving. I was seriously considering: Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; or London, England. In fact, I had a plane ticket and hotel room all set for a trip to London set for the third week in September. The first thing that Ben said to this was that Richmond was much nicer than Charlotte (he later admitted this lie, sorry Richmond) and suggested that I come there for a visit. If I liked it, I could move in with him after Thanksgiving. Remember my demure, conservative side? So you know my answer: I immediately said "sure!" and cancelled my trip to London, choosing instead to drive to Richmond with the vacation time I had already requested.
I had known him a week.
I thought I should call my brand new brother-in-law and get the goods on him before I drove down there and got myself killed and thrown in a landfill or down a mountain. "What," I asked my b-i-l, "is this guy's problem? He seems perfect - so why isn't he married already?"
"He doesn't want to commit," said b-i-l.
Odd. He had already asked me to move in with him, in less than a week. That did not sound like commitment issues.
I made the trip to Virginia. The trip meter in my car showed that in the fourteen hour drive I had stopped for only thirty minutes total to buy gas. If your guess was that I did this feat on an incredible amount of Tab and cigarettes you would be correct. I must have stunk like an exhaust pipe by the time I got to his house. Eeewww.
During that week I made up my mind to move there. Ben took me to an Oktoberfest celebration at Fort Belvoir. We sat at long tables with guys from the German Luftwaffe. They barely spoke english and we spoke no German but we all had a great time. We hoisted those big dimpled glass beer steins and sang 'ein prosit'. I taught the Germans the polka slam. They needed to know.
Ben, laughing at me for being such a dork, said "will you marry me?" I answered (say it with me:) "sure!"
So much for commitment issues.
I moved in with Ben in November. We bought a house and got married in April at a friend's place in Jamaica. We flew to Jamaica as two and came home three. The following October Ben was transferred back to Wisconsin and we moved home, me seven months pregnant.
I should tell you a little about my alcohol issues, as a kind of a post-script. Obviously, I drove around under the influence. After I met Ben I did tone down my drinking. I didn't need to pass out every night just to shut up ugly thoughts in my head anymore. But in the time between meeting Ben and going to Virginia, I went to a bar where our mutual friend was bartending. I didn't have that much to drink (for me, I thought) and drove home. I got my second DUI that night. Ah, irony.
A second DUI means either house arrest with a Lindsey Lohan anklet or a week's jail time. Since I was already moving out of the state and had no home to be house arrested in, I chose the week in jail.
Can you imagine Ben's choosing me with all of that? Do you find it ironic that me, Ms. Flaming Flaws, would be so quick to dig for his imperfections? To this day I don't quite get how he managed that. In fact, while I was in Wisconsin doing a week in lock up, my dad was busily trying to contact me in Richmond, where he thought I was. Ben was so obtruse that my dad had figured Ben had killed me and dumped me in a landfill or threw me down a mountain and was about to go to Virginia to find out what was going on. Dad would call Ben and demand that he put me on the phone or else! My dad was saved the trip to Richmond to find me when one of the county deputies at jail, who happened to be his friend, told dad he saw me in the jail. Small world. Uggh.
Anyway, a week in jail in January followed a few months later by a pregnancy, went a long way toward fixing the cigarettes and alcohol situation. It's not a method I'd write a how-to book about, but it did work for me. Just this summer something reminded me that I used to be a person who smoked. The thought was a little like a friend telling you something about someone that you can't really believe. I did it for nearly twenty years, by the way. I can't drink and drive. If I did, I would get six months in jail. I don't think my babies would go for that. I know this sounds stupid, but I do actually like the smell of cigarette smoke (outdoors, like at a baseball game or festival) and have no problem with smoking - all smokers know how stupid it is, they don't need to be told by me. So while I am fine with smoking, I am zealous on the topic of drinking and driving. I am horrified by the fact that I did it in the past, and can't truck with people I know doing it now.
So it is eight years on. Two kids, two dogs, two fish. Most days I would say are 'happily ever after'. The other ones I'll just blog about.
Oh, and we still like to sneak into the cloakroom at weddings and make out, which is how we commemorate September 11th, 1999.