It didn’t take long for my brain to catch onto whatever my heart thought it sensed in that first split second that I spotted the man who would someday become my ex-fiancé, confidently crossing April’s hardwood kitchen floor and holding out his square, strong hands to meet me. My brain held out for oh, maybe a day, tops. And then, after that? It hopped onto the Fairy Tale Train, threw all caution to the wind and gleefully declared him my Absolute Soul Mate Everything I’ve Always Been Waiting for Forever Ever and Ever The End.
In all caps, and underlined for emphasis.
With the exception of the French accent and closet-full of cashmere, my ex-fiancé did embody the traits and characteristics that comprised my much younger self’s Ideal Prince Charming. I even had a list, ordered by importance, the top of which included:
- Good Taste
- Sarcastic/Capable of Witty Banter
- Slightly Unavailable
The ingredients for the perfect marriage partner, to be sure. Recalling this list ten years later, I can’t help but wince—these are the main qualities I thought would assist in the creation of a strong, lasting partnership? But, that’s the thing—being not-quite-twenty, that wasn’t my thought process. There was no thought process because I wasn’t thinking. It never occurred to me to question my unwavering faith that I would find a Perfect Prince Charming. I never, for one moment, doubted he was out there. It was just a matter of when he would arrive.
I, like many girls of my generation, had been raised on a steady diet of Barbie and Disney. And if I knew anything, it was this: when it came to “my person” it wasn’t a matter of if—it was simply a matter of when. Just like my princess and blonde plastic sisters before me, I would find my dream boat and we would live happily ever after in a castle or Barbie dream house with pulley elevator (which is crazy because a castle would be far too drafty and an elevator in your townhouse feels really dated, right?).
I deeply, truly believed this—I assumed that because everyone had their soul mate/pre-destined other half, as long as you felt that pull and you loved them, the rest would take care of itself. Because “you’d just know” and “it’s different” when you meet your person. That’s what everyone always said. And by everyone I am referring mostly to the vague collective “everyone” that is created over the years and informed largely by ‘80s movies starring Tom Hanks—specifically ‘80s movies starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah about mermaids—but I am not ready to fully unpack how deeply impacted my childhood psyche was by this film, because it deserves its own blog post and I’m just not ready to go down that watery, fin-filled rabbit hole, you guys.
So: when my ex-fiancé, he-of-the-witty-banter-and-aloofness shook my hand that evening and my brain sort of snapped and sizzled (which sounds an awful lot like an aneurysm, no?) I assumed it knew something I did not. I thought perhaps there was a cosmic microchip in each of us, that buzzed and twittered with glee when it came in contact with its other half, its soul mate. It never occurred to me that handsome, slightly withholding dark-haired men in fine knit merino wool pullovers who had traveled internationally were just my current definition of dashing. Nor had it occurred to me that because I was still a few months shy of my twentieth birthday, I hadn’t exactly wracked up the level of life experience helpful in determining a compatible life partner.
And so, approximately six days after meeting, we were sure we had found The One.
The moment we “knew” was a complete, crystalized piece of time. We were facing each other—sitting on opposite arms of the soft green armchair that matched his sofa, knees pressed together. The tall window beside us was open to the windless winter night. It hadn’t yet snowed, but there was still plenty of water in the air, creating pools of dew for the curved, old- fashioned street lamps to reflect upon. Every now and again a car would drive by and interrupt the silent soundtrack of the sleeping city, but mostly: it was just the beat of my heart in my ears, the flick of the lighter as he held the flame to light my cigarette, and the clink of our wineglasses on the deep, eggshell-hued windowsill where they rested between sips. Our knees would brush against one another, and then press, insistently, deep in their own conversation. I can’t explain my behavior—which is exactly what my ten year old self had been worried about. I can’t explain it in any other way than this: I looked at him, sitting across from me on the chair and thought: Oh, it’s you. There you are. I’ve been waiting for you. And his knees said the same. And then a few moments later, so too did his mouth.
After expressing our mutual belief that we had found our One and Only, Forever and Ever Amen that evening, we set about fulfilling our fairy tale: I moved in just one week after the declaration of love on the armchair. Six months later, he proposed.