May 15, 2008

First Date

So we're sitting at Cafe 501 the other night on our weekly date, Susie and I. I'm having my usual (Cobb salad and a glass of red wine) and she's having her usual (a small house salad and a glass of white wine). Somehow the conversation turns to our first date, which was on Friday, March 29, 1991 in Bartlesville.

Here's the story, with Susie adding her two cents in italics.

A mutual friend, Carolyn, set the whole thing up. I was home from Virginia on spring break, and Carolyn called to ask me if I would want to go out with Susie Woodard. She also ran it by Susie. (I didn't really know Brandy. All I knew was that he was Christy Dutcher's older brother, and I had the impression that he was a bit stuck-up and maybe a bit mean. But I felt bad saying no to Carolyn, who was very nice.) I then called Susie, whom I knew only tangentially, and said, "So, I understand we're supposed to go out." (My thought at the time: "Oh, this guy is smooth.")

Why did Susie agree to participate in this madness? Good question. She didn't really know me, and the impression she did have wasn't exactly favorable. She thought I was basically this guy. (I knew Brandy lived in Virginia and was just home for the week so I knew it would just be one date. I mean, what could come of it? I lived in Bartlesville. He lived in Virginia.)

Always the big spender, I took her to Ruth's Country Kitchen. We both got chicken fried steak. Inexplicably, for one of my side orders I chose applesauce. Nevertheless, our dinner conversation managed to go well. (I have no idea why I ordered chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes on a first date. Girls on first dates are supposed to get salads or soup or something. Definitely not chicken fried steak. But I really had no choice. I mean, we were at Ruth's Country Kitchen. I did order a Diet Coke though. I remember we talked about Christian education and about my students and how I ended up teaching at a Christian school. We also talked about Brandy's grad school and about homeschooling. I remember it was a good conversation. But the thing I remember most: Brandy said my eyes matched my sweater.)

Then we went to the mall to get yogurt (I know, I know, that is so Nineties). One of Susie's students saw us together and assumed the gray-haired dude was her dad. Hate it when that happens.

From there it's off to the video store. We rented Dragnet. As I was paying the clerk, she asked me if I wanted to pay an extra dollar for "movie guard." Cracking wise, I said to her: "I've never understood what that is. It's like when the dry cleaner says, 'Do you want that Martinized?' I don't even know what that means, but if it costs extra I guess it must be a good idea." The clerk laughed and so did Susie. I fist-pumped inwardly.

That first date must have been successful, because we had another one the next day. We went to lunch at the country club. Guess who walked right by our table? None other than Carolyn. I'm thinking she must have been pleasantly surprised to see how her little plan was working out. (By the way, we saw her at that same country club a few months ago, on our 16th wedding anniversary, and had a very nice chat.)

Then we drove to Wesleyan Christian School so I could see Susie's seventh-grade classroom. (Brandy was genuinely interested in my classroom and in what I was teaching. We spent time looking around and looking at my books. I was beginning to suspect that Brandy wasn't really a stuck-up, humorless, mean guy.)

In short, we had a date on Friday and a date on Saturday. On Sunday I went back to school. On Monday I shipped Susie this gift:

 
(Now I knew for sure he wasn't Alex P. Keaton. I was hooked. Even more so when he flew home two weeks later to take me out again.)

Eight years later, a little boy would be curious as to how his mom and dad met and came to be married. When Susie told little six-year-old Lincoln that I had called and (sorta) asked her to dinner, Lincoln replied: "Oh, so that's how it works. You just call and say, 'let's go on a date' and then you fall in love? ... Who fell in love first -- mommy or daddy?"


UPDATE: My mother e-mailed me with her recollections of the evening. Before the date, I apparently told my mother, "I can't believe I let Carolyn talk me into this. I don't even know Susie Woodard. Besides, I'm not feeling well. I may be getting sick."

"Later in the evening," my mother writes, "I heard the front door open. Brandy came down the hall into the bedroom. He definitely wasn't feeling sick any more. 'Mom,' he said, 'she is perfect, really perfect. There is nothing wrong with her! I may marry her!'"