STONE PHILLIPS (VO):
November 21, 1987. The Reagan presidency still reeled from the sting of Iran-Contra. The stock market still reeled from the Black Monday drop in October. And the first reels of The Simpsons appeared on the Tracy Ullman Show.
On this day, in a tiny suburb north of Chicago, a young man—his hair Dep'ped, his Bugle Boy pants tightly cuffed, his jean jacket washed in acid—went on a date with a beautiful young woman. She had won him over with her winning smile, her sharp wit, and her beautiful eyes. No, really, he was looking at her eyes. Though she had made fun of him the first night they met—quickly seeing through his brass-plated Southern California veneer to determine that he was, in fact, a Hoosier—that sauciness would charm the pants off him. Or so his seventeen-year-old glands hoped. He sort of asked her out. She sort of said yes. And history was made. And it was good.
Today is the 20th anniversary of my first date with The Lovely Becky.
I met TLB when I was dating her best friend at the time. We went to different high schools but lived in the same suburban area. I worked at the local grocery store with her friend, and our first conversation occurred when I gave both of them a ride after work. TLB proceeded to make fun of my enjoyment of Rush, my arrogance about having moved from San Diego, and especially my state of origin, Indiana, which made my arrogance about being "from" California even more ridiculous to her.
I would like to report that my inner monologue said, Someday I'm going to marry that girl, but in reality it was more like Who are you and when can I drop you off?
However, our next encounters were much more enjoyable. In addition to being quite fetching, TLB shared many of the same characteristics I did. Her humor was clever and also blue, giving her the bawdy, cerebral appeal of a Shakespearean character. She had a dorky side to her without being too dorky, with an interest in fantasy and science fiction that tickled this D&D player's heart, even if she made fun of me for playing D&D. While my love of heavy metal did not appeal to a girl who grew up on the border of Mullet and Mini Truck Counties, my love of new wave and alternative music gave us a soundtrack to share.
Over the next few weeks, I saw her at the store, on double dates with her best friend, and at the local library where TLB worked. As my relationship with her friend eventually changed from dating to friendship, I found myself thinking about TLB more and more. One afternoon, I stopped by the library. It was TLB's last day, and she was trying to make the reshelving of books go by more quickly.
I helped by talking to her for hours. Three, I think. It was one of those everything and anything talks, enough material for Richard Linklater to make two films. I didn't want the conversation to end, and that's when the first thoughts of i really appeared. After all, she was pretty, funny, and sassy—why wouldn't I go out with her?
We did a short time later, on the birthday of her friend. It wasn't a date-date necessarily. I, being a chicken, didn't really ask TLB out. We instead had one of those negotiated romantic understandings, brokered by her friend. He's interested in you, she's interested in you, how about a bilateral exchange? A bunch of us jumped into a couple cars and headed to Ed Debevic's, a retro burger joint where the staff knowingly insulted the customers.
I sat in the booth next to TLB, with another guy flanking my right. I was nervous. I wanted to make some expression of affection, but was afraid of embarrassing her in front of her friends.
TLB managed to break the ice in her patented delicate style. She decided to play a prank on the guy on my right by extending her skirted, nylonned leg across my lap and plopping her foot playfully into his lap.
Someday I'm going to marry this girl!
By the end of the evening, after a screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we were officially a romantic couple. Even the troubling smoke on the horizon of my love life—my serious girlfriend back in California—cleared when said girlfriend called to dump me the next day.
And really, that's the story of our relationship. Things have always worked out for us. Long-distance separation, dating other people, economic woes, career challenges, location changes, reproductive issues—even when things have seemed bleak, we've managed to get through them. I think it's because, in the end, we're still those two kids talking for hours in the library, neither one of us wanting the conversation to end.