Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In which Calvin proposes by burying a ring in a tin of Snickers

We had been dating for three years when Calvin proposed. We had been talking about marriage for a while, but it was time to be formal. We were so smug: all those people who were still uncoupled! They would die alone! But not us. We had even named our children.

Oh, karma can be nasty. After I broke off our engagement, I was uncoupled for many many years. Calvin married a few years later, but it took me much longer, which gave me ample opportunity to contemplate and regret my smugness.

I had already quit grad school in English at the University of Texas at Austin, not that I don't think knowing how to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in middle English wouldn't have made me even more employable.

Calvin was in his fifth year of college, not because he was slow but because he was majoring in electrical engineering and in physics. Apparently, there is not a lot of overlap between those fields.

It was Christmas 1985. I didn't have any vacation, but this was old-time employment where we got the Monday before Christmas Eve, which was Tuesday, off. We also got Veterans' day, Columbus Day, and Washington's birthday. Plus a turkey at Thanksgiving. And the coffee and donuts cart came around at 10. And everyone left work at 4:30. The good old days. Except I don't miss the smoking in the office. At all.

Calvin was in Austin with his family. We drove up to Waco for the state 3A football championship. Our friend Randy was from Daingerfield and his high school team was playing. Daingerfield is a small mill town in northeast Texas. Randy's parents didn't go past 8th grade, I don't think, and his dad worked in the steel mill. Randy, however, got his PhD in chemistry at Harvard, which makes you wonder what his parents could have done with the same opportunity.

If you watch Friday Night Lights, you know a little bit about how important high school football is in Texas, especially in small towns. Dillon might be a 3A school. Who knows? My high school, Converse Judson, was a 5A school, but my senior year was a big fat waste of time. I only went there my that year and it was not, as my friend Leigh coaches me to say, my favorite. I didn't care at all about their stupid football team.

But I did care about Randy's school's team and a statewide championship is a big deal no matter what, which was why we were driving 100 miles to sit in the cold and watch a football game.

But this story is not about football (although Daingerfield won, which is cool). It is about a marriage proposal.

On the drive back from Waco to Austin, Calvin casually asked me to hand him the tin of Snickers in the back seat.

Calvin did not usually carry large supplies of candy bars with him, so I was suspicious.

He had in the past threatened to give me an engagement candy bar rather than a ring because he teased that the chocolate would last longer. Which, in the end, was prophetically correct.

He asked me to give him a candy bar, but I refused. "Get it yourself," I said. I was really suspicious.

He kept insisting - he wanted me to dig around in the tin.

This was not how I wanted to be proposed to. I was not very gracious.

But I did as he asked. And found a box. That contained a ring.

"Stop the car!" I demanded.

"What?"

"Stop the car!"

He stopped. "What's going on?"

"Get out."

He didn't want to, but I insisted. I got out with him.

"Now get down on one knee and propose properly!" I said.

Are you thinking this is when he should have put the ring in his pocket and said, "Forget it?" Because you would be right. Really. Who gets bitchy about how she is proposed to? I could have been a lot nicer. But I was young and full of visions of moonlight and roses and romance novels and it didn't seem right.

Instead of telling me to take a hike, he did as I asked, kneeling on the graveled shoulder and asking me to marry him, which was more than I deserved.

I smiled and told him yes, then admired the ring, a diamond solitaire, which I had never thought I wanted, all the way back and then on my drive from San Antonio back to work in Houston, where the VP saw it and groaned that they had been so excited to hire a bright young woman and that they wanted me to be a VP someday, not married, which confused me because I did not see the two as mutually exclusive.

A month later, after reserving the church and buying a dress, I broke up with him.

Monday, October 11, 2010

In which I get a crush on one of Calvin's friends and break up with Calvin in hopes that the friend will ask me out but he doesn't

Don't hate me. I was young. And easily distracted. But yes, I had the hots for one of Calvin's friends. And I even broke up with Calvin over it for a little while. How I wish I had kept a diary back then because now I cannot remember if I broke up with him before or after we - you know - for the first time, which was (of course I remember the date - don't you remember yours?) Oct 18, 1983. I am coming up on my 27 year virgin anniversary.

Disclaimer: It is easy to remember my virginersary because it is the day before my birthday. But I think I would still remember it had it happened on another date.

Our junior year of college started. Calvin and I had been writing letters all summer and were hot to see each other again. He had been working for his uncle out of state all summer, so we had not been able to see each other. School started late August, which is just when everyone wants to be in Houston. It's the best time of the year.

I kid, I kid.

July is better.

I need to back up a little. All of our sophomore year, Calvin and his friends had been talking about their friend, Laurence, who had gone to Rice our freshman year and then spent his sophomore year elsewhere at Big State U where there would be more and prettier girls. The male-female ratio at Rice those days was almost 2:1, which was great for the girls but not so great for the guys.

And I will go out on a limb here and venture that the smart girls who end up at an engineering school are not necessarily the same girls who have a clue about hair, makeup and clothes. As in, if you made a Venn diagram of Rice girls and pretty, flirtatious, cutely dressed and accessorized girls, there would be very little overlap. Sure, there were some extraordinary young women on campus who were both smart and really put together, but the rest of us were either clueless or didn't care.

There was a certain reverse snobbery at Rice. In the same way that suddenly, the athletes were at the bottom of the social scale (not the least because it was uncommon for Rice to ever win a Southwest Conference football game - oh, how I miss the SWC), the girls who (obviously) tried were also scorned.

It was an inverse of the high school universe, where many of us (or maybe just me and I am projecting my NOT BITTER AT NEVER HAVING BEEN ASKED TO A SINGLE HIGH SCHOOL DANCE on others) had been on the sidelines looking in at the cool, popular kids. Nerds are not valued in high school, but at Rice, almost everyone was a nerd. But everyone was weird in his own way. Nerd was the necessary but not the sufficient.

Laurence was one of those rarities: smart, athletic, good looking and seemingly unaware of his looks. He could have had just about any Rice girl but maybe he thought he could do better. Or maybe he just needed to be closer to home for a year.

[Primo is also smart and athletic and good looking, but he was not athletic in college, unless you count drinking beer as a sport. Since he and I started tennis lessons last summer, he has become a pretty good player and will only get better, but his parents didn't put him in any sports. Any. I was a total klutz and my parents forced me to play soccer in 7th grade when Lubbock started the first girls soccer league. Primo's parents, however, are intellectuals and didn't think sports were a good idea for Primo. They were so wrong.

Primo was also not as cute in college as he is now. He was a skinny little 16 year old runt when he started, but he grew and put on some weight and his skin cleared up and he figured out what to do about his hair and now he is a hubba hubba hottie.]

Laurence returned for our junior year.

I had never met Laurence.

The first time I saw him, he was stripped to the waist doing I don't even remember what. Painting the dorm room? That doesn't seem likely. Why would a student waste his own money on paint? My freshman year, my suitemates and I painted the bathroom bright yellow, but that was just because Laurie's dad paid for the paint.

Whatever he was doing, he was half naked.

You've seen the abs on the sculpture "David?"

Laurence's were better.

I kid you not.

And you know all that stuff about how women aren't as visual, blah blah blah?

In Laurence's case, I made an exception.

He was gorgeous.

And NICE! He was also nice!

I fell in lust.

I looked at Calvin, for whom I had also felt lust, but this was stronger. It was lust unadulterated with You were late to pick me up or You forgot my birthday or We had a fight. It was pure fantasy you never fart lust.

After a few days, I broke up with Calvin. So many men! So little time! I was sure that Laurence, who before the breakup and indeed, ever since, including the time we met up in France for a day when I was on vacation and he was working there, has never shown one squidge of interest in me, would ask me out.

But even if he didn't, surely other guys would. Two to one, people! Two to one!

They didn't.

Not one single guy.

What was going on? Was I hideous?

No. At least, I don't think so.

I had been dating Calvin for several months.

I was branded.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I waited a few weeks just to give it time, but no luck. There was not one single other guy on that campus who wanted to ask me out. Or who would ask me out, better said.

So I went back to Calvin.

Nice, huh?

This has to have all happened before The Event or I would not have broken up so easily. I hope.

Calvin was skittish. We went out to eat at this Italian restaurant in Montrose where we got adventurous and ordered snails, which was not my best food moment, as I have decided I do not wish to eat anything that I want to keep out of my garden, but if you put enough butter on anything, it will taste good.

He told me that when I broke up with him (the Laurence breakup - I haven't gotten to the big breakup), he was waiting for his parents to jump on the bandwagon and tell him that they didn't want him to be their son any more.

I should have stuck with the breakup, given that's where the relationship was going to end up anyhow, but. Well. I have no excuses. I was barely 20 - not even. What did I know? Thrashing around and bruising hearts in the process.