Fifteen years ago today, I styled my hair for my last first date.
This was back in the day before I covered my real sandy blonde color with the fake kind to conceal the whites that multiple deployments in my 20s had gifted me. Before my legs required weedwackers for post-deployment preparation and my right buttock bared the love marks of babies who apparently nestled into one side during pregnancy. (Real friends tell husbandless friends when one cheek explodes during pregnancy and deployment. Where were you on that one, FRG girls? Stretch marks don’t lie.)
I was an 18-year-old high school senior saving up for college by waiting tables at a fast food establishment and making telemarketing calls for a local gym. My crush was an incredibly good-looking 22-year-old former Army Ranger who had earned the Green to Gold scholarship and was working his way through ROTC and college as a trainer at the same gym.
He stood up for me to a fellow coworker who was harassing me for my faith and my choice to save sex for marriage.
I naturally planned our wedding in my head.
And then I proceeded to invite my knight in gym clothes armor to three different “staff hangouts” at Applebee’s over the coming months … while somehow “forgetting” to invite any other member of the staff.
After the third solo Friday night restaurant showing, my sweet man kind of got the hint. But it took an AOL instant message (oh yes I did) written in the third person for me to officially admit that “Bobby told Susie and Susie told Joey and Joey told me that that Michelle girl at the gym has a huge crush on you.”
It must have been my suaveness and sophisticated charm that sealed the deal, because that incredibly gracious, absolutely adorable man (who had been OUT of high school for four years and was surely over the games stupid teenage girls can play) sweetly wrote back, “Really? Because Bobby told Susie and Susie told Joey and Joey told me that he really likes her, too.”
And thus was born our first date.
One steakhouse dinner and one movie later, I returned home head over heels for the man who I’d discovered through hours of conversation that night was so much more than just a brilliant, respectful, considerate, hard-working, God-loving college student. Within minutes of shutting the front door that night, I wrote in my “To My Future Husband Journal” (because all normal people keep one of these) three words: “I found you.”
It was and still is one of the greatest finds of my life.
Together, Supersoldier (who returned to active duty status after our wedding) and I have savored 12 years of marriage, lived under eight mailing addresses, survived seven deployments, executed five full DITY moves (yes, FULL – as in the kind with the full Penske and the missing mind) and cherished three superheroes. And I love that soldier more today than I did the day he convinced me that military life was one big free vacation with a side of adult prom. We’ve laughed through cattle drives that stopped our vehicle in the middle of the Alaska Highway, cried through miscarriages we processed on separate continents, heatedly discussed (because we like euphemisms) our future military plans and held on to each other tightly as we have fought for the unity and joy of the family we call Team Cuthrell.
Nearly every day, I thank God for making the most patient man I know blind to the creepiness of an 18-year-old gym stalker.
Today, Supersoldier is again traveling for this momentous occasion that his Type A wife put on the calendar weeks ago (because what man doesn’t care about the 15th anniversary of his first date with his spouse?!). But after 15 years of long-distance dating life, I’ve come to realize that it’s the occasion, not the date, that matters most. It’s about remembering the beauty of what God did in a steakhouse and a movie theater that night, not about the fact that we can recreate it on the exact date, 15 years later. It all started here. Which is why this blog starts here, too.
So if we have to honor this event with a Skype pizza date or a five-minute phone call between business needs, or if we have to take a rain check dinner for the 15-years-three-weeks-and-five-days marker, we’re still going to rejoice. Because without what we remember today, we wouldn’t have the honor and privilege of being in two separate locations on ONE page in love.
That's something to celebrate.