The following entry was submitted to the Favorite Date Contest on Tales from the Laundry Room, where participants share their most memorable date for a chance to win a book entitled, “$10 Great Dates: Connecting, Love, Marriage, and Fun on a Budget.” What a fantastic idea – to talk about your favorite dating memories in order to discover ways to get out there and make more of them!
Of all the dates I’ve been on with my wife of six years, my absolute first was our first “official” date together. We had been friends for five years during college and saw each other almost every day. Janelle would wait at my office so we could walk to chapel together, would sit in my piano practice room in the evenings because the music helped her study, and tried to show me up in the gym. But while we discussed our romantic interests from time to time, during those college years I never did ask her out.
For you to truly understand what made this moment so special for us, however, I’ll have to start at the beginning…
Prelude: The “Not-a-Date” Catastrophe
During college I did attempt to take Janelle out once. We were such good friends, that I asked her to go with me to Homecoming. But, just like most guys, I was completely clueless when it came to romance and said something like, “Hey, would you like to go with me to Homecoming? You know, just as friends… it wouldn’t have to be a serious date or anything.” Oh, how I regretted those words!
She agreed to go with me, but it was a disaster. I wanted to buy a fancy vest for the evening, and ended up wearing a vest with bright red rings on it that looked like lips! One good friend just gaped at me and said, “John Mark, did you realize you have lips on your vest?” And it just went downhill from there…
We sat with Janelle’s friends on the tennis team. Every one of them was super muscular, super athletic, and super annoyed to have me at their table. There I was – the quiet, scrawny musician who just didn’t fit in. Her friends hardly talked to me the entire night.
But then for the real punch in the gut. I had been nominated as a Junior Duke for Homecoming Court, and even though I didn’t win, at the end of the evening I was required to go and take a picture with the rest of the nominees. While I stood on a sweeping staircase having my picture made, I watched as Janelle’s tennis buddies talked her into ditching me and going out with them for dessert. She tried to holler at me that she was leaving, and by the time the camera flashed she was gone.
I watched my classmates head to their cars with their respective dates, while I drove home completely alone. When I got home I ripped off that ridiculous vest and threw it in a closet, never to be worn again. It really hurt to think that Janelle didn’t think twice about simply walking away, and I began to realize how much I really did care for her.
Favorite Date: Official At Last
My pride had been injured and I stopped talking to Janelle after that terrible Homecoming night. I didn’t go to her graduation, and the next time she saw me I was walking hand in hand with a new girlfriend. The Lord didn’t allow her to keep me off her mind, however, and about a year later (just as I was graduating from college myself), I got a phone call from her. We had a great time catching up, and since neither of us had New Year’s plans, we decided to call a couple of our friends and all hang out together. After that we started calling each other on the phone on a regular basis, and we both began to realize that there was more to this than wanting to be “just friends.”
Just before Spring Break, Janelle told me how sad she felt that all of her friends were going on big trips for Spring Break while she was stuck at home. I asked her, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?”
“Italy,” she said, without hesitation.
“You want to hang out with me?” I asked. “It may not be Italy, but it could be fun. And it could be, you know, like a date.”
BAM. There it was. I had said it, and we were both excited and relieved. For our first official date, I took Janelle on an imaginary trip to Italy. After I picked her up, we bought soccer t-shirts that were emblazoned with the “ITALIA” logo, ate dinner at Johnny Carino’s Country Italian Restaurant, had dessert at a gelato place where an actual Italian family made fresh gelato each day, and ended up at the place I shared with my cousin, where the three of us watched The Italian Job. As we were headed back to our car, one man saw our t-shirts and said, “Hey, are you two from Italy?” We laughed all the way back to the car! It had been an amazing time, and was the sign of many more adventurous moments to come.
After six years of marriage, that date still stands out as my favorite because it was the first time we called it a “date,” and the first time I was able to stop thinking of Janelle as “a girl” and begin thinking of her as “my girl.”
I suppose I’ve really shared two dates here, the terrible date I wish I could forget and the date of my dreams. But you know, if we hadn’t suffered through the terrible moment, we may never had found our way to the beautiful one.
If I had it to do over, I don’t think I would change a thing.