Jeff and I first met during our Sophomore year of college, in the place where all life-changing romances do, the cafeteria. I was dating someone else at the time, and eating dinner by myself that night (while not my preference, I didn’t mind eating by myself when the situation called for it). After grabbing my tray of what was most likely a cheeseburger and fries, a safe bet between my picky palate and the general quality of college food (and oh, to be 19 and able to eat a cheeseburger every single night for dinner again), I walked around looking for a table to sit at. I noticed a friend of mine from the college choir and theater programs, Tim, who was eating with his roommate. I pretty much invited myself to join them, and introduced myself to Jeff.
One of the first things most people notice about Jeff are his sideburns. At this point, they’ve become secondary to me, but I’m sure I remarked on them at the time. As this first meeting took place over a decade ago, I don’t remember much of it. It wasn’t a remarkable day at the time. I had a boyfriend. I wasn’t looking for one. And I had a lot of guy friends, so nothing about that day made me take special note to commit a detail to memory at the time. But I do remember that Jeff joined in on a joke I made at Tim’s expense (I’m a great friend, everyone) and I liked him and his sense of humor.
Throughout the rest of the school year, we ate dinner more frequently, and eventually, adding on friends here and there, it became our nightly ritual.
Jeff intrigued me as a friend, and by the end of the year, I considered him my closest guy friend. (Oddly enough, he never met my boyfriend at the time. Jeff went home most weekends, and wasn’t around on the few weekends when my boyfriend came to visit me.) I even interviewed Jeff for a journalism class I was taking. I was fascinated by how he fancied himself a rock and roll star but also had considered becoming a priest. We started the conversation at the nearby diner, and as strongly as if it happened yesterday, I remember that Jeff made sure to hand the tip directly to the waiter when we left the diner, shaking his hand and thanking him for his service. He wanted to make sure that no one else swiped the tip off the unattended table.
While our friendship was developing, my ex and I broke up … and then got back together … twice. It was a pretty devastating thing to happen to a 19-year-old. I remember Jeff being there to support me. But nothing ever happened between us this whole time.
Over the summer, we keep in touch a bit over instant message, and maybe Facebook, but didn’t see each other. Jeff started interning at his dad’s company and worked during the week, while I worked a catering job that kept my weekends booked.
August rolls around, and I’m waiting to run into Jeff at move-in day, as he was going to be one of the few people living in the same dorm as me. And I kept waiting. Eventually, a mutual friend told me that Jeff wasn’t coming back to school this semester. Over the summer, he decided to change his major from Government to Business, and was going to stay at home to take some core classes.
I was devastated. I was heartbroken to be missing one of my best friends. By this point, my previous relationship was over and I had very little contact with my ex. And I decided not to really concern myself with jumping into a new relationship. I wanted to meet people and enjoy the activities that took up most of my time. But I really missed Jeff. So we continued to talk as often as we could, and our conversations got a little flirty at times, but I hadn’t acknowledged my feelings to myself at this point. I remember during one conversation, we joked that if we weren’t married by 35, we would marry each other and have kids.
I invited him to come back to school to visit and see the shows I was in. During his first visit, he came to see my show the same night my mom did. As per tradition, my mom and I went out to dinner after the show, and of all the people I had invited, only Jeff was able to come. Over dinner, I told my mom about our 35th birthday pact.
Flash forward to Thanksgiving break, and while my mom is driving me home from school, Jeff came up in conversation. She looked at me and said, “yeah, I think you’ll be married before 35.”
Dear reader, this freaked me out. My mom has that mom sixth sense that had previously predicted a few things (including her marriage to my dad), and again, I had not yet admit my feelings for Jeff to myself.
In December, I went out to see King Kong with a friend, a sort of kind of date, but we didn’t actually call it a date, date. At one point when we were waiting for dinner, I looked up at him and thought to myself “this could work, but it would need to be over before I’m 35.”
So my mom knew I was in love with Jeff, and my subconscious knew, and then I did. (Oh, and the friend I saw the movie with? Never made a move on me, and then a few years ago, he came out. So no harm there!)
I didn’t get to see Jeff again until winter break. I took the train up to spend a few days at his parent’s house. The first day there, after dinner with his family, we went to a friend’s house, where with the larger group, we watched … King Kong. It’s a 3 hour movie, and I was watching it twice within three weeks.
That night, Jeff and I spent our time watching the movie cuddling, and held hands walking back into his parent’s house.
We went inside and he put the TV on. We awkwardly tried to pretend like we actually cared about what was on, and I said to him at one point “why can we talk about everything else except for what’s important?” I think that was the point that he turned the TV off and after a few tense minutes of silence I said, “we should be dating, shouldn’t we?” He agreed and that’s when we had our first kiss. And it was a good one.
For the next few years we primarily saw each other on the weekends, while I was still going to school, and then when I moved out after college.
It was difficult to have a semi-long distance relationship throughout this time, but our pre-existing friendship really helped. I remember three-hour long conversations, half of which taking place sitting on the floor outside of my room to avoid waking my roommate. Vacations and breaks where we could spend more than 3 days together were an absolute gift.
I think the distance also allowed us to grow independently during that time. Of course, when I was 25, I wanted to be engaged or living together, and it was difficult not to be, but I had my own issues to work out, and in hindsight, I’m really glad I had the space to do so, without the additional pressure being put on our relationship.
We had a great wedding day in November 2013, and I became pregnant in December 2014. We welcomed Anthony on September 15, 2015, on my 30th birthday (which is a story for another time).