How I Fell In Love With An Idea Instead Of A Person

Amber looking at David with adoring eyes.
Amber admiring her “intellectual crush.”

He wore an argyle sweater vest over a buttoned up dress shirt. Literally, a shirt buttoned all the way up to the top, every last button buttoned so that his collar was tight round the nape of his neck. His glasses made him look studious, and his kind eyes let you know that he was an old soul. He was 20 at the time I first met him, but he had earned the respect of an old man, or so it seemed to me. Our teachers adored him and he spoke eloquently and passionately in class in such a way that made me think he’d be the president some day, or that he could be if he wanted to be.

I joked with my friends that I had “an intellectual crush” on this guy. But whenever I tried to talk to him I got so nervous and tripped over my words. I borrowed a book from him once, hoping that we’d get into a deep conversation about it, but when I returned the book I instead got bashful and said “thank you” and left quickly.

A year later we found ourselves in the same social circles, at the same church, in the same classes at school. And I was beginning to notice that this guy in argyle liked me. He told me so one day, and started asking me on dates.

But I was still somewhat terrified of him. He didn’t seem quite relatable because he seemed so put together and polished.  I was intimidated by him, thought he was too good for me. I was nervous, afraid to say something stupid. I remember studying with him one time and trying to read the words on the page, but not even being able to concentrate enough to get through a paragraph. I was too paralyzed with worry about making a bad impression. Meanwhile he sat next to me flipping through pages at a rapid pace and making astute comments along the way. My stomach sank a little. He is going to see through me and realize that I’m not as smart as he thinks I am.

I had an idea in my mind of who he was—basically that he was faultless—and I was letting that idea keep me from being myself around him. I was also letting that idea keep me from seeing who he really was.

If I had stayed in that state—the state that is all about making a good impression—I would have never actually allowed myself to get to know him. I would have remained so preoccupied by my own insecurities and my concerns about what he thought of me, that I wouldn’t have noticed all the things that made me eventually fall in love with him.

I still remember the first time it struck me that he wasn’t only a really smart guy who I admired—but a normal guy who was complex and interesting and, well, human. We were sitting together in the library and he had taken off his glasses and I caught myself looking deeply into his dark brown eyes and really seeing him as if for the first time. In that moment—just for a moment—I took him off the pedestal I’d placed him on and found that he was David, just David—a person I was excited to get to know.

And from then on he kept surprising me.

There was the time when we were on a road trip and he turned to me and spontaneously broke out into a slow southern drawl—and continued to talk that way for hours. And the times he made up silly songs and sang them to me in long voicemails. And the way he joked with his friends and made me laugh. He wasn’t the uptight guy I had first thought him to be.

Then there was the time we were on a date to a nice restaurant and I looked across the table into his eyes and… realized that he had tiny green flecks of broccoli strewn about like Christmas lights in the crevices of his teeth. It’s hard to be intimidated by someone when their smile looks as goofy as his did that night.

Amber and David.
Amber and David.

Shortly after that I discovered his obsession, yes obsession, with baseball. Maybe he was a typical guy after all.

One night after going to a concert we walked to McDonald’s and sat at a table to talk. It must have been 2 a.m. and there was a homeless man sleeping at the table behind us. It was there that David first told me about some of his deepest insecurities, and there that he asked me to be his girlfriend.

It took time for me to really get to know him. It took time for me to let go of the idea of him and to instead start dating him. But with that time came more and more moments in which I discovered the reality of him, a reality that challenged my preconceived notions of him. With those moments came the change of heart I needed to overcome my own worries and insecurities and to replace them with love.

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  • You are welcome, Danny! Thank you for your comment, which made me reminisce and feel all nostalgic, in a good way. Miss you and all those TKC friends.

  • Thanks for sharing, Amber. I have such fond memories from our years in college and remember that a lot of people thought of David the same way you did initially. I love reading about how your relationship developed because you guys are such a wonderful couple, deeply flawed yet exemplary in how your learn from your flaws.

    I, too, remember having moments like the one you describe when David became real to you with so many friends during college that they are like family to me. Thank you for reminding me of that through what you wrote.

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