I love hearing the stories of how couples met. I’m not sure where or when the fascination began, but I’ve had it for a rather long time. Having heard hundreds of “how we met” stories (this is among my all-time favorites,) I have learned the following:
- One member of the couple always tells the story better (if not more accurately) than the other.
- There is neither correlation nor causation between interesting stories and successful relationships.
- It doesn’t matter how two people have met, no matter how boring or even bleak the circumstance, when a man’s eyes don’t get a little brighter when recalling the meeting of his partner… well, let’s just say that I’m rarely optimistic for their prospects.
A couple of months ago the Washington Post added the “On Love” section to the Sunday Arts & Style. The stories of meeting and courtship quickly became mandatory reading for me. I have blogged about being affected by that section, been frustrated by stories that made me think “Why the fuck did they getting married?” and certainly have been alternately challenged and charmed. (The editor has made it clear in responding to reader complaints to the ombudsmen that the section is, by design, not always a bucket of sunshine and kittens.)
This Sunday the article opened with the shocking (to some) declaration that they “had spent fewer than 30 days in each others company before they got hitched.” As the kinda guy who is thoroughly enamored of The Story, I was a completely interested in the tale of the Nurse and the Military Officer. As any good writer wants to happen, I, the reader became invested.
I was invested in their childhood meeting, moving, and eventual reconnection many years later. I invested in his divorce, her dying father, their friendship. I invested in their moment when potential became possible. I invested in their engagement and mostly electronic courtship. I invested in his difficult times when he identified with Tom Hanks & the volleyball on the island. I invested when she said “you’ll never be a castaway again.” I invested in their individual and collective steps to deal with his pending deployment to the Afghan Theater.
And then I had to put the article down. I was about 80% through the piece but I was emotionally petrified and gripped with a fear that this couple, this lovely couple with the bravery to love ambitiously, would be felled by his bravery in service. In my head, I was stomping my feet and throwing a tantrum at the Washington Post.
“Promise me there’s a happy ending, promise me he makes it back” I actually said aloud, giving voice to my demand but not sure to whom it was directed. “There’s no way that they would make me care that much only to…” I didn’t finish the thought.
I did finish the article, and then I went shopping for a care package for a friend in Iraq because I didn’t know what else to do.