A recent near miss with a speeding ticket (apparently we were in one of those states that doesn't assume that the REAL speed limit is whatever the sign says, plus 7) reminded me of a date I went on with my then boyfriend.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"I'm not telling; you'll see when we get there," he said with that mischievous eye twinkle that people who like to plan surprises often get. "I want to show you some of the things I love about Southern California."
I had lived in the state for nearly 3 years at that point — during the school year, anyway. I hadn't experienced much outside of the immediate area surrounding the school. Los Angeles freeways were intimidating to me, especially since I had to navigate them in my broken beast of a car.
My boyfriend and I had been dating for several months. We had already experienced some major ups and downs (at least they felt major at the time), and had established a good relationship in the process. I was already wondering if he were the one by that point. Or, rather, I wondered if he were someone who could make me happy long-term, and vice versa. I don't think there necessarily is just one "the one." I think that a lot of different personality combinations could work. And I could tell from early on that this particular guy worked really, really well with my personality. The similarity in the way we analyzed the world was eerie. We didn't always agree, in fact we had adamant differences of opinion on many things, but we had an honest respect for each other and could see the logic in the opposing argument.
And I thought he was cute. That helped.
He came to pick me up in his boxy Volvo, a slight improvement over my boxy Buick Skylark.
His car had heated seats. And a radio that WORKED. And his car wasn't usually high-centered over a ledge on the college campus. So maybe it was more than a slight improvement over my car.
The first place he took me was to one of his favorite areas to hike, Vasquez Rocks. We checked out the rock formations for a bit then got back in the car. Our next stop was the high desert. If you've never seen the high desert in Southern California in the springtime, you're missing out. There is a poppy preserve up there that is amazing.
We checked out the fields covered with orange and purple flowers, took pictures, and got thoroughly sunburnt. At least I did, thanks to my skin that is so white it's translucent. If I had to describe the color of my skin, I'd say it's the color of the blood vessels underneath with a smattering of freckles floating on top. I am not exactly thick skinned, by any definition of the phrase!
Anyway. Next on the trip was a drive through the hills. The preceding weeks and months had brought a ton of rainfall. The ground was saturated. Beyond saturated. So much so, that it appeared to bulge up like the top of a cake, with what looked like stress fissures running through the fields. Vibrant green fissures, at that.
On our way through the hills, my boyfriend got pulled over for speeding. There was no getting off with just a warning for that ticket! He completely deserved it.
When we finally reached the coast, he took me to watch the sun set at Pismo Beach. The coastal air was moist and cold, in stark contrast to the searing dry heat of the high desert. It was a welcome relief. But soon it became a little too cold and a little too windy.
Along the coast a ledge of sand had formed that stood about four feet taller than the rest of the beach. The sand comprising the ledge was well compacted, but not firm enough that we couldn't carve out a notch a couple of feet deep into it. After digging for a few minutes, we snuggled into the space and the crumbling walls provided some protection against the wind blowing parallel to the coast. We watched the sunset, chatted, and listened to the tide coming in.
When it became dark we found somewhere warm and non-sandy to eat. That was the best Sizzler I've ever eaten at. It was a great day, and I loved that my boyfriend put so much thought into showing me what he loved about the area. Even if it meant bringing an insane amount of sand home in my pockets and cuffs.
As we drove back that night, he held my hand in the car like he always did. But there was something more this time. There was something significant about the trip that day. As we laughed about how uncomfortable our gritty shelter was, the conversation paused for a few moments.
"That may have been our first home," I sheepishly said, implying that there would be future homes together.
I was fairly certain he felt the same way, but... you just never know. He had to take on the nervousness of doing the actual proposing, but the way I look at it, me bringing up the marriage topic for the first time was way riskier. That awkward conversation could have turned out to be much, much more embarrassing than it began. And who knows how long it would have taken him to get around to bringing it up if I didn't mention it first!? He does the easy part and gets all the credit? Psh. I don't think so!
We looked at each other and he squeezed my hand. Well, he looked at me as I avoided his eyes and hoped that I hadn't just made a fool of myself. I was probably beet red. Thankfully, it was dark in the car. And thankfully, that evening he had been thinking along the same lines as me. It was that night that we knew we would most likely end up getting married.
We spent the rest of the moonlit drive home, in his blissfully heated car seats, discussing what would need to happen if our relationship were to turn serious. You know, little things like finish college, have somewhere to live, and get stable jobs. I think we both knew that the "if" part of the conversation was really a "when."
We were married a little less than a year later.
How did you bring up the possibility of being permanently together with your significant other? I'm fascinated by how such a clumsy discussion begins.
Awkward conversations - yet another reason why I never, ever want to date again!
(Although, honestly, awkward conversations still keep happening to this day — 12 years later. There is no escape! Unless you're a hermit. Or maybe Angelina Jolie. I just can't picture her ever feeling awkward. But for the rest of us, yeah, I think we're doomed.)
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