All I wanted was a meet-cute.
As a college student in New York City, I spent a lot of evenings with my roommates watching ‘90s romantic comedies set in places I visited every day: think You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle, to name just the Tom Hanks ones. When your college classes are in the Empire State Building and you watch movies in the park underneath the Brooklyn Bridge in the summers, the lines of fantasy and reality get blurred pretty easily. Soon, I had my heart set on experiencing my own picture-perfect meet-cute with a stranger in the city—one that ideally would end with a happily ever after and a fade-out shot of the New York skyline.
One day, I got my chance. I was ice skating on the rink in Bryant Park on a clear and cold night, and a nice-looking guy skated up beside me and started making conversation about museums and my favorite places to visit in the city. The encounter ended with an exchange of phone numbers and the promise of a date. I was aflutter: this was the start of my own New York romance!
Well, we went on a date the following Sunday, and it was a disaster. I quickly realized that this guy wasn’t my Matthew McConaughey or Greg Kinnear. He was a sketchy character who, among other practical concerns, was being too aggressive and making me really uncomfortable. When we finally said goodnight, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and a smaller sigh of disappointment: maybe the perfect rom-com meet-cute wasn’t in the cards for me.
Fast-forward about four years to a front porch in North Carolina where I met the man I would marry. Nothing in our story would make it into a romantic comedy. Neither of us was interested in the other when we met. We were casual friends for a year before we began the awkward and confusing process of realizing we could be more. When we started dating, it was so hard at first that I was convinced we’d break up. Even once we got engaged, I struggled to silence my fears that maybe our personalities were just too different to work out.
This wasn’t a meet-cute. Sometimes, I felt like there was nothing cute about our story at all. I felt embarrassed when people would ask how we met and I’d have to admit that he didn’t fall madly for me or sweep me off my feet or propose to me with some dramatic gesture.
But the point at which most romantic movies are fading out—when the lovebirds finally end up together–is right when our story got really good. We discovered together that we flourished together in the pace of ordinary life. With his gentle support, he helped me become less stressed-out and more trusting; I encouraged him to take more initiative and to be open to leadership opportunities, which has helped unearth hidden strengths.
Together, we’ve become more active in our church and community and made our home into a place that people can feel welcome and rested. Together we’ve welcomed and cared for a perfect baby daughter who seems to embody the best personality traits of both of us.
Sometimes life together feels perfect and idyllic; sometimes it feels like we’re just getting by. But we’re living out our story: the long, real version, not the 90-minute cinematic cut. And I’m truly proud of it—not because it’s adorable or Pinterest-perfect, but because it’s ours and we’re working hard to make it better all the time.
For those lucky people who do find love at first sight under the stars on the Brooklyn Bridge or on a talk radio program a la Sleepless in Seattle, congratulations! I’m so happy for you. For everyone else, remember that a love story isn’t determined by how you met. And the best ones just keep improving with time.