There was a time in my life when I was terrified of marriage. Almost every couple I’d ever known made it look so hard—learning to compromise, learning to live with the highs and lows of another person. I didn’t think that I would ever be able to find someone that I would want to commit the rest of my life to. Hell, I wasn’t sure I could find someone I could actually put up with for that long, or (perhaps more appropriately) someone who would put up with me.
I didn’t think that I had impossible standards. I wanted a guy who could love me for who I was. I was tired of being told what kind of clothes I should wear, or that girls shouldn’t play drums or be good at sports. I wanted a guy who would make me feel important, the kind of guy who could be interested in me for more than my body, who actually heard what I said and could carry on an intelligent conversation in return. I wanted a guy who would never cheat on me. I’d been cheated on by damn near every boyfriend I’d ever had and was, quite frankly, sick of it. I wanted a guy that I found attractive because, no matter how adamantly some people try to argue that looks don’t matter, they do. There has to be some level of attraction, or there will always be something missing from the relationship.
Above all else, I wanted a guy who could make me laugh. Life was serious enough without some sourpuss with no sense of humor making it even more difficult. I’d dealt with a few of those before—the angry, jealous types—and quickly learned that we couldn’t get along for much more than a week before I was considering joining the Witness Relocation Program just to get away from them.
I had given up finding my perfect match, finally deciding that the whole idea of soulmates was just a bunch of hocus pocus dreamed up once upon a time as some sort of grand psycho-social experiment designed to determine what would happen to us human beings if we grabbed onto some impossible romantic ideal and believed it to be gospel truth. Was it possible that there was one perfect person out there for each of us, amongst the billions of individuals on earth? And was it possible that our paths would cross during our lifetimes, or that we would even recognize each other if they did? Mathematically, the odds were impossible. Yet, I saw so many people around me, clinging to the hope that it would happen, always searching for “The One” who would arrive one day, unannounced, and sweep them off their feet to live happily ever after.
The first time I saw Steven Romano, he was emceeing the Freshman Orientation Entertainment at Concordia College. I was a wide-eyed freshman, leaving my home in Nebraska and arriving in New York, where I was certain I must be feeling like Dorothy when she first blew in to the Land of Oz. I’d been in New York less than 48 hours, and I was already addicted to its intensity. Steven was a senior, and the first glimpse of his lopsided, boyish grin in the bright glow of the spotlight made my heart thump wildly in my chest. I’d never felt anything like it before, so I didn’t quite know what to think.
There is a photo of me in the yearbook (or rather, a photo of the back of my head), as I turned all the way around in my seat to watch Steven harass Josh Reiker, a fellow freshman, who was seated behind me in the crowd. I think that photo accurately sums up the six years I knew Steve before we officially started dating. To put it simply, I was in awe of him.
I can’t pinpoint a specific date when our courtship began, for it ebbed and flowed like the Atlantic tide the first five years we knew one another, until we started dating exclusively. It read like a cheap television sitcom script, the way we just couldn’t seem to get together all those years. We became fast friends, and I fell for Steven immediately. My mom likes to remind me of the phone conversation just before Christmas break my freshman year, when I told her that I’d met the nicest guy, Steven Romano, and how if he asked me to marry him tomorrow, I’d say yes. Funny how I was so certain then, and when it really happened six years later, all I could do was spit and sputter, “Oh my God! What are you doing? Are you serious? Are you kidding?”
The only things that Steven and I have ever really disagreed on are the details of our bizarre courtship, arguing adamantly about who liked who first, who make the first real move, who made the whole situation more frustrating and difficult. Whenever Steven was single, I was dating someone. When I was single, Steven was in a relationship. We just couldn’t seem to get the timing right. But, in the meantime, we liked to stroll around campus together, discussing everything from movies and music to philosophy and religion. We often had dinner together with a group of our friends, and spent time together at parties and campus events on weekends. For years, many of our friends jokingly called us “Mulder and Scully,” partly because we were both big X-Files fans, and partly because our attraction to each other (and the way we tried to deny it) reminded them of the characters in the show.
Shortly after I graduated in May 2003, Steven finally asked what I thought about us officially dating.
“You want to know what I really think?” I asked.
Steven leaned in closer and threaded his fingers through mine. “Of course I do,” he said.
I smiled at him. “Well, to be perfectly honest, I think it’s about damn time.”
My answer must have shocked him, because he sat up straight for a moment, eyes wide, as if he’d been slapped.
“Really?” he asked, laughing and squeezing my hand.
“Yeah, really,” I replied.
“You know, I was going to wait awhile to do this, but…oh, what the hell?” Steven said, then leaned in and kissed me. My heart was thumping as wildly as it had the first time I saw him. I knew from the moment our lips touched, that we would be together for the rest of our lives.
Though it took nine years for us, from the time we met to the time we said our vows, the transition was the most natural thing in the world. It sounds cliche to say that I have found my perfect match, but there are not many other ways to describe the way Steven and I complement one another. We both love movies and interesting TV shows—anything from stupid, brainless comedies like Napoleon Dynamite and How I Met Your Mother to things that demand in-depth thought and analysis like Twin Peaks and Lost. We are both drummers and love music, and even though I wasn’t quite sure how his heavy metal and hard rock would fit with my country-heavy collection, we are content most days to set the I-pod to “Shuffle All” and see pops up next.
While I tend to be a little too easygoing at times, Steven is a bit on the anal side, especially when it comes to finances, our CD/DVD collection, and his desk in the office. My idea of balancing the checkbook is having rough idea of how much is in account and cutting off spending when I think the balance is hovering right around $100. Steven checks the account religiously every morning online, and keeps a second record of the account on Microsoft Money, where he can track all of our purchases and project our cashflow for months in advance.
Our CD and DVD collections are alphabetized on the shelves, and our video games are grouped according to the game systems they are played on. Steven is overzealous about discs being left out of cases or, God forbid, being put in a case where they don’t belong. Should Steven ever do anything to seriously irritate me, I’m quite certain that the ideal revenge would be to take every single disc out of its case and replace it with something else. Since this is likely to end in divorce, Steven’s initial crime would have to be something unforgivable.
While I am far from the stereotypical crazy writer whose lair is littered with half-drunk mugs of stale coffee and dusty piles of paperwork that threaten to topple at the slightest breeze, I will admit that my desk can quite accurately be described as organized chaos. To the untrained eye, it might appear untidy. There are usually several piles of papers and files, a couple books and/or magazines, three or four pens and pencils, a few photographs, and a handful of paper scraps that have ideas, random thoughts, or quotes jotted on them. To work most effectively, all of these things are essential. When I’m in the writing groove and really churning out the pages, I simply don’t have time to stop and go digging through the file cabinet or the bookshelves to try and find a file or article or book that I need as a reference.
Because Steven’s and my desks are pushed up against each other, my piles have a way to migrating over into his space. On a bad day, he might have a few piles of his own, mostly receipts to be entered in Microsoft Money, or the books and notebooks from one of his computer classes. He can usually stand the overflow for a week, before he starts asking when I’m going to go through things. Because he works a 9-80 work schedule and has every other Friday off, I’m usually only awarded a two-week grace period before he snaps and starts cleaning himself. The problem is, he doesn’t just move the piles back onto my side. Instead, he tries to tidy it all, putting things away where he thinks they go, and I am doomed to spend several hours trying to undo the damage. One of these days, I’m certain he’s going to pull a Dwight Shrute, and fortify his workspace with a fence made from sharpened pencils as Dwight did in an episode of The Office.
There are not many things I’m certain of in my life. I know that things can change in an instant, and I’ve always been easygoing enough to be able to roll with just about anything the Universe throws my way. But if there is one thing that I am certain, it’s that there is no one I would rather share my life with than Steven Romano. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember a time when Steven wasn’t in my life, as if he has always been there, and while I once had doubts about soulmates and ever finding a man I could (or would even want to) spend my life with, I have to admit, I’ve become a believer.