In honor of Valentine’s Day (and Stephanie Weinert’s #fridayintroductionsourlovestory), I thought I’d resurrect a very old post I wrote for the Love and Fidelity Network a few years ago. Here’s the original post.
Ours wasn’t your typical first date. Unless, of course, I was the female protagonist in a Jane Austen novel, adhering to the social and marital protocol of allowing others to select my suitor. It was a rainy day in July, and I was walking downtown for a luncheon with my Dad, my twin brother, my Dad’s friend from high school, and his mysterious, entirely unknown son, Sean. A couple weeks prior, my brother, Michael, had mentioned running into a friend from Notre Dame at work. There were all sorts of connections—Sean had played soccer with and against both of my brothers, in Pittsburgh and at Notre Dame, and had lived just a few minutes from my family’s home growing up. Because I didn’t know this anonymous character personally, I thought nothing of it, but my Dad quickly caught wind of Michael’s insinuations and, as a father of six girls should, began scheming. Before long, I had received an email from my Dad instructing me to meet this contrived group for lunch one day. I agreed, nervously acknowledging the other party’s complete ignorance of this “casual,” totally happenstance and not-at-all-arranged rendezvous, but determined to be as natural and nonchalant as possible.
Yes, it was a total set-up. And yes, I was consciously submitting myself to the potential awkwardness of this midday surprise. But if anyone were to attempt to match me up with someone, my father and my overly protective twin brother seemed fit for the job. All I had to do was like the guy (spoiler alert: I did).
It became fairly clear in the two weeks following that the familial set-up was far from a failure. Sean had contacted me a few days after the luncheon, very coolly pointing out that since we both lived in Pittsburgh, it would be no trouble at all to maybe, possibly “get together” sometime. Spurred on by my overly enthusiastic mother and sisters (just call me Elizabeth Bennett), I responded in the affirmative. Filled with Pirate games and country concerts, the beginning phase of our “friendship” was group-centered, pressure-free, and lighthearted. I tried to keep the fact that he had been unknowingly matched up with me that day in July rather close to the vest, and enjoy the no-pressure aspect of our friendship.
After a couple weeks of getting to know one another, Sean asked me on our official “first date,” and we enjoyed each other’s company apart from my seven siblings and many inquisitive friends. He drove me to a quaint little restaurant just about halfway between his house and mine, and we soon came to treasure this bit of time that was ours alone. We talked about our interests, our passions and goals, my impending doom as an English Literature major seeking employment, our irrational and rational fears, and the real story behind the planned luncheon. We talked about our families, our faith, our struggles as young people in the college and professional world, and our pleasant surprise at how easy conversation flowed and interests aligned. I knew immediately that Sean was a gentleman, and that yes, my Dad and twin brother actually knew a thing or two about match-making. He was genuinely fascinated with who I was—all of my failures, accomplishments, quirks, my uncontrollable love of sweets. And I wanted to learn all about him—how he could possibly maintain such an organized sock drawer, what he found challenging about starting out in the professional world, his valuable experiences at Notre Dame. I suppose it was an untraditional first date, since our intentions were already mutual and clear, but its easy authenticity and eager unravelling of a few layers of each other was just how a first date ought to be. It wasn’t that we were baring our whole souls to each other with an unnecessary gravity—I was still guarding my heart and taking my time, making it clear that he had to win me over. But I could trust that his interest in learning about me was genuine and true, and I happily awaited our next non-parentally involved meeting.