In defense of the awkward ‘How We Met’ story

I used to rush through the story of how we met. The truth was, for all my feminism and feelings about the fairy tale romance, I wished we’d met cute – or at least cuter. At least in a nice way. At least kind of classy. I’d listen to friends’ adorable and appropriate “how we met” tales: “High school biology class.” Sweet. “My friends introduced me, and I couldn’t stop looking at her.” Swoon. “We talked online, then went to the same book signing by accident, but left together.” Adorable.

When the question was turned around I blew through it, glossing over details and changing the topic before anyone could ask for specifics. I wanted a celluloid-perfect story. Something that made people say “Awww!”.

So how did we meet?

I met my boyfriend at a party when I was 20. It was an anniversary party for a local comic book shop (NERD ALERT).  We talked for approximately 10 minutes. I may have been tipsy. I thought he was really cute, but was more focused on free beer and awkwardly chatting up Chris Ware. Also, I had a boyfriend. I think he had a girlfriend. I was into him, but if I’m being honest I remember more about my red H&M dress. Seriously, it looked amazing. I still look for it on eBay. Sorry, getting off track.

Years passed. We dated other people.  Sometimes we’d run into each other at events – we had mutual friends and liked some of the same things (you don’t think people meet at Chicago Comics 15th Anniversary Jam by chance, do you?). Every time I saw him, I felt a spark, a little flare of something that wouldn’t quit. He’s nice and cute and draws really well, I thought. But I had a boyfriend, or he had a girlfriend. Oh well.

Fast-forward to my 24th birthday. My recent mostly-ex wasn’t at the bar where I had my birthday, but someone else was. He wasn’t invited – he was just hanging out with a friend. How serendipitous – meet cute, right? Wait for it.  “I always liked him,” I whispered to my friend between glances across the dark room, “What do you think?” Ever the instigator, she told me I should go for it. I went for it, and then we lived happily ever after.

Not really. We Netflix and chilled for three months, then broke up on New Year’s Eve. Adorable.

It sucked about as much as you think it would. I was that girl at the party my friend dragged me to, trying not to cry while clutching a bottle of champagne to my chest like a green glass child. Precious.

A few days later, he called me. We talked. He said a lot of good things. I told everyone we were just friends, that we were still figuring it out. This was a lie. Then we lived happily ever.

Not really. We’re still together, years later. We’ve had ups and downs – those lows where you wonder what you’re doing and envision alternate lives where you live in an Apartment Therapy-level studio, and highs where you think This is pretty wonderful, I could do this forever. In the years we’ve been together, he published a book. I started a live lit series. We love and support each other. Making out is still awesome. We have an amazing cat. We talk about The Future. It’s not always easy, but it’s always good.

I’m not sure why I was so hung up on the perfect beginning. I knew there wasn’t a happily ever after — no set point where you’re done and everything is perfect. My “We’re just pals!” claim when we got back together wasn’t completely untrue. We are still figuring it out. People grow and change and continue, if they’re lucky.

I think my romance with meet cute was rooted in another deep love – movies. From Sleepless in Seattle to Edward Scissorhands to even more progressive pop culture like Bridesmaids, movies fed me a steady diet that real, forever-ever love must start in a way that’s both accidental and adorable. Love at first sight, with spilled coffee and a long, soul-searching gaze to seal the deal. If it’s confusing, messy, or intentional, it must not be true. Add in a healthy dollop of insecurity, and how we got together became a source of stutters and segues.

Fictional meet-ups still make my heart flutter, but lately I’ve taken a different approach. Recently, a friend asked how we got together and I told her the whole thing – the messy, unvarnished truth. She laughed and said, “Well, it’s not a wedding toast, but it worked out in the end.” It made me think of Master of None, where Aziz and his girlfriend attend their friends’ ceremony. The bride talks about her intended being like a prism, where the light just passes through him, and I laughed a little too hard because it was a little too real.

It made think about how we define appropriate, and how inappropriate that really is: we are more than precious gem metaphors and high points, as lovely as those can be. We are dumb choices that turned out well and long, comfortable stretches, conversations that make your voice shake and arguments about which decade had the best toys where he really needs to stop trashing the 90s, because uh, Super Soakers were amazing and I don’t care that the 70s had better aesthetics and sturdier construction. Humans are gross and weird and pretty and smart, not a series of checkboxes that guarantee eternal happiness. Likewise, how you met doesn’t need to win the Twee Olympics, nor is it an indicator of what happens next. So yes, I do think how we met is appropriate for galas, weddings, and other events of note with table arrangements and fancy dresses. If I had to toast our relationship, it would sound something like this:

Our love is not a prism. We didn’t meet in a crystal factory. We met at a party, then again at a bar. We had a rough start. We didn’t come to each other shiny and brand new, but that’s okay – in fact, it’s more than okay. It’s really good. I like how we started, because it got us here.

(Image via Netflix)

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