After my date with Jackson, I woke up in a foul mood. Not only had I been told I was going to hell, but I had also experienced what was decidedly the worst kiss of my entire life. I needed to blow off some steam so I put on my bright green sweat pants, a thin white tank top, my red sports bra, my pink sneakers and drove to the gym. I looked hot. My workouts always start and end with cardio so I headed straight for the elliptical and climbed on the machine at the end of a long row. Since it was pretty early in the morning on a Saturday, I was practically the only one at the gym. There was some meathead lifting weights, a couple going through all the machines and some teenager walking the track talking on his cell phone.
Now, only two things really bother me at the gym: gym divas and people who work out while on their cell phone. Gym divas are those girls who do their hair and makeup and then put on the skimpiest outfit they can find in the hopes of attracting men. Girls, you're at the gym. Work out. People who talk on their phone at the gym are just as bad as those who talk on their phone at movie theatres. Seriously? You can't turn off your phone for two hours? Don't half-ass your work out by catching up with friends. Commit to something, people!
Normally I let my irrational irritation with these types slide off my back but today I was angry and I found this kid walking the track to be the rudest person in the entire world. That was until some crazy bitch got on the elliptical next to me. There were 19 other elliptical machines open, each one in working order, and this woman had to get on the one right next to me? What was her problem? I turned my iPod up loud enough so she could hear it, hoping that she wouldn't try to strike up a conversation.
Ten minutes into my workout and the woman was still there and my blood was boiling. What was wrong with these people? Didn't anyone teach them manners? That's when I saw the kid from the track approaching my machine. He was staring at me with a somewhat apprehensive look on his face and when he was within an arm's reach of me, he spoke. My iPod was still turned up so I could only see his lips moving. What the fuck did he want? Had I dropped something? I took the ear phones off and glared at him.
"What?" I snapped.
"Hi. Um, Miss, I was wondering if you would like to go out to dinner with me...sometime." His southern accent was really thick and I still hadn't gotten used to people calling me Miss. Also, he looked even younger close up. Judging from his baby face, his t-shirt and shorts, I would have placed him around 16 years old. All right, so I know Ashton Kutcher kind of paved the way for guys dating older women, but this kid was no Ashton and I really didn't think I looked young enough to still be in high school. Who did he think he was?
I blinked and then glanced at the woman next to me. She had this goofy grin on her face but was trying to look as if she wasn't listening in on our conversation. You aren't fooling anyone, honey!
My first reaction was to tell this kid to get lost and go find someone his own age but I had someone listening to my conversation and I didn't want her to think I was rude. I know she was least favorite person at the moment, but still, I didn't want to be the bitchy one. Also, if this kid went to my gym I would most likely run into him again. Creating an awkward situation now would only lead to uncomfortable glances and glares later on in my gym life so I decided that being rude was just out of the question.
I smiled as sweetly as I could manage and looked down at him. "I don't want to commit to a dinner, seeing as I don't know you, but I'll give you my phone number and we can go from there."
This seemed to please him so he brought out his phone which was obviously already in his pocket and took down my digits.
"Great," he said. "I'm Joe by the way."
"I'll call you later then?"
"Okay, bye." And with that I put my ear phones back on and turned up my elliptical to full speed.
Now I thought this situation would be easy to diffuse. I would talk to Joe whenever he called, casually mention that I was 22 years old and it would be considered illegal if we actually went out on a date, we would laugh about it and then I could give him tips on how to pick up girls in the cafeteria at school. No big deal.
He called and left a message one day when I was at work and I think I spoke to him for the first time the next day.
"Hey, Lydia. It's Joe."
"Hi, Joe. How's it going?"
"Fine. How are you?" What I really wanted to ask was 'how was school today?'. But I didn't.
"Great. You said you wanted to talk before committing to a dinner so I'm calling to talk."
"Right. About that, how old are you?" I didn't feel the need to waste time with small talk.
"I'm 24. What about you?"
24? You've gotta be fucking kidding me. My plan had just been shot to hell and now I was going to have to come up with another way to get rid of this guy.
"I'm 22. Are you sure about your age? Because you don't look 24."
Joe laughed and I smiled. His laugh was so genuine. "I get that all the time, actually."
"I bet you do."
Joe and I chatted for a little bit and then I told him I had to hang up because I was driving home. We hadn't agreed to go out but he had said he would call me later in the week. Well, good. I had all week to think up some reason why I couldn't date him. But as the days passed, I couldn't think of any reason and had been avoiding his calls - something which I hate doing but couldn't think of another option. I was still dating Malik, Kevin had kind of faded into North Atlanta and I wasn't seeing him as often, and was seriously considering having 'the talk' with the one guy I had left. That's when Joe cornered me at the gym. I had just walked in one afternoon and he found me on my way to the stationary bikes.
"Did you just get here?" He asked. He still looked like he was 16.
"Um, yeah." He looked like he was waiting for me to continue the conversation but I really wasn't in the mood.
"I'm going to the bikes, if you want to join me." Cardio machines are usually populated by women so I assumed Joe would decline my offer.
"Sure. I'll just finish up some weights and I'll come find you."
Damn-it. "Great. See you then."
I headed over and turned on my iPod. It looked like I was actually going to have to talk this guy. As I sat there, peddling in one place, I started to question why I had such an objection to this sweet southern boy. Besides the fact I thought he was 16, there really wasn't any other reason I shouldn't give him a chance. He was attractive, in a juvenile sort of way, had a wonderfully delightful southern accent, and seemed pretty eager to get to know me. So as I saw Joe wondering over to the stationary bikes, I made up my mind to give him a chance.
We ended up talking for hours that night. After I was done with the bikes, we walked around the track for miles and miles and miles. Turns out that Joe played the guitar and sings. Um, hi. Sexy much? We talked about music, we talked about our jobs, we talked about almost everything and by the end of the night, he had asked me to come to his softball game that weekend. I went, dragging my friend Michelle along with me, and we all went out for dinner after the game. Joe and I were dating.
Not long after our first official date (he took me out to dinner - no friends to buffer the conversation), my parents announced they were flying to Atlanta to see me. Now, as you could probably already tell from my past stories, I'm really close with my mom. She's my best friend and means the world to me. My dad is no different and whenever they don't like someone I'm dating, I know that things aren't going to work out. I introduce everyone to my parents because their opinion matters and I like to test the guys I'm dating. If they are dating me, they have to like my family because they are most likely going to be spending a lot of time with them.
I had these two guys who I had been casually seeing, and couldn't make up my mind to date one of them or keep seeing both. Malik was talking about commitment and Joe was just too sweet for words. I had to make a decision. So I asked Malik if he wanted to go to lunch and meet my parents.
"Yeah, girl, I don't do the parents thing. It's not my style."
"Fair enough," I responded and quickly called Joe.
Joe was more excited about the idea of meeting my parents. He couldn't do lunch because he was working but he agreed to meet us for dinner and we set the date.
That night I showed up at the restaurant and Joe was already there. He was sitting out on the patio and wearing his sun glasses when my parents and I joined him. He stood up and shook my dad's hand and then greeted my mom before giving me a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"I have a little problem," he whispered as we were sitting down.
"What's wrong?" I asked, trying to hide whatever it was from my parents.
"I wasn't wearing my safety glasses today and a piece of metal cut my eye." Joe did electrical maintenance on traffic intersections and was in unbelievably good shape. The fact that he worked with his hands made him even more attractive.
"Are you okay?"
"Well, it hurts."
"Did you go to the doctor?" I asked, a little worried for him and his vision.
"I will tomorrow."
"Why didn't you go today?"
Even from behind his glasses I could see that he was giving me a strange look. "Because I was meeting your parents and didn't want to cancel."
"That's really sweet but how's your eye?"
"It's been better," he admitted and then took off his glasses. His eye was disgusting. It was swollen and red, a gross substance oozing from it.
"Okay," I had to look away. "Maybe you should just leave your glasses on all night."
And he did.
Malik's refusal to meet my parents pretty much sealed the deal for Joe. I ended things with Malik and Joe started introducing me as his girlfriend. He came out to Portland for my 23rd birthday and met all my friends and family, impressing everyone with how comfortable he was with himself and with all the fuss surrounding our new relationship. After Charlie, my friends and family had been worried about me and were pleasantly surprised when they found out I had started dating such a great guy.
Joe was unbelievably kind, and not only to me, but to everyone. He had southern charm just radiating from him and was a gentleman 24/7. I never had to open my own door or pull out my own chair. His arm was always offered when I was walking in high heels, his jacket was always off and around my shoulders before I even realized I was cold. I wasn't used to being treated this way. I didn't know how much I would actually enjoy it. Oh, and you know his cell phone at the gym? Turns out he had been talking to his best friend, getting encouragement and advice on how to ask me out. Didn't I feel like the jackass?
I had fallen for Joe without even realizing what had happened. It wasn't love at first sight, there was no sudden lightning bolt that shot through my heart when I realized that I had fallen. It happened gradually as we got to know each other, a tiny flame which grew and grew until one day I was in love.
Eleven months after I met Joe, we were driving to dinner and I was listening to him talk about his future plans.
"I'm going to go back to school and get my degree," he was saying and I was listening, nodding in support. "And, I'd like to marry you, preferably within the next year."
My head turned in disbelief. Had I heard him correctly? "You want to marry me?"
"Well, yeah. What do you think?"
I didn't have to think about it. "I'd like that," I said, a little flustered and a little surprised. Was he really proposing?
"Great!" Joe said and started digging through his pocket with one hand still on the wheel. He pulled out a large gold ring and handed it to me. "I don't have a proper ring yet, and I haven't asked your father, but my high school ring will have to do until then."
I took the ring and looked at it, wondering what I was supposed to do with it. It was too big for any of my fingers, even my thumb and the next best thing I could do was hang it on a chain and wear it around my neck.
"Don't worry, you don't have to wear it," Joe smiled at me.
"I would if it fit," I offered. "So are we really doing this? Are we really getting married?"
The smile stayed on Joe's face and he glanced at me from the driver's seat. "Lydia, I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you so much."
"I love you too."
A month later and I was officially engaged. Joe and I had picked out the perfect ring, a pink sapphire set into white gold with diamonds around the band. One night, he took me out to dinner, got down on one knee and asked for my hand in marriage. It was so surreal. The entire wait staff started clapping and pretty soon all the tables surrounding us had realized what had happened and were congratulating Joe, asking me if they could see the ring.
My friends were called and the date was set. The wedding took place the following year at an old Southern mansion. My entire family made the trip to Georgia and my five best friends were my bridesmaids along with Joe's sister. I remember walking down the aisle with my dad and thinking about how lucky I was. Joe has never made me cry, together we have grown so much as a couple and also as individuals. He makes me want to be a better person and no one understands me like he does.
We've now been married for two and a half years and I love him more and more each day. Last year we bought our first house, we have two dogs and I'm waiting rather impatiently for him to finish school so we can have a baby. (I want a little boy who looks just like his father.) I know Joe is going to be a great dad and he's already a wonderful husband. I wake up next to him every day, knowing that I am the luckiest girl in the world.