Sooo… I have a sort of (let’s call it) quirky confession to make. When I was little… and then well into my teens… I collected stuff. In particular, I collected Cinderella books, dolls, plates, etc…. which I’m fairly certain I could sell today and make a pretty penny off of… but, instead, they will be passed down to my daughter… and what she does with them will be up to her.
Why Cinderella? Because she was beautiful and sweet and patient and kind and strong and soft and good and smart all at once, I guess. She was the kind of “woman” I aspired to be. She also worked hard and yet, at the end of the day, still shined radiantly, was fit as a fiddle, and looked amazingly beautiful in her sparkling, flowing ballgown… and she even knew how to dance so well that a prince couldn’t resist her.
Well… it may come as no surprise, then, that by the time I reached college, I kinda actually believed that I would meet Prince Charming there and we’d eventually live happily ever after at his royal palace. [OK… yeah, even I knew that was a stretch in real life… but again, it was aspirational. 🙂 ]
And, anyway… what really were my chances of meeting Prince Charming at all, let alone at a ball? I knew it was wishful thinking….
But, shockingly, I did meet my college boyfriend near a dance floor. In fact, I saw him for the first time outside a small dance studio where we had both managed to sign up for a “leisure learn” dance class on campus. I arrived in my pointe shoes, he was dressed in multiple layers of workout clothes. I didn’t see his face at first because he was silhouetted against a window, but I could sense a handsome mystique about him… and it unnerved me.
It was about 4:50pm, Thursday, February 4, 1988. Yes, I remember this moment exactly. After all, I had to be home by midnight, lest I wanted to risk turning into a pumpkin in plain view. In such a situation, I’m sure you would have been watching the clock, too. 😉
The dance class began and concluded within the space of an hour… and not only did the mysterious, handsome (yes, he was handsome and princely) stranger not speak to me, he also avoided eye contact. And, after that afternoon, I never saw him again.
It was a Saturday morning, April 9, 1988… just a few months later. One of my floor mates from my dorm was running in a 5K race on campus. I was awakened at the ungodly hour of 6am or so by her roommate and urged to attend the race to cheer her on. I put on cruddy unwashed clothes — jeans, a sweatshirt and sneakers — and didn’t apply any makeup. I may not have even brushed my hair. But down in the elevator I went, 32 flights (I lived on the top floor — my dorm room version of a “penthouse suite on Fifth Avenue”). I crossed the lobby of our building and stepped out into the fresh morning air as part of a small group of sleepy, but cheerful freshman girls walking steadily toward the site of the race.
I didn’t see him at first, but then his face — only vaguely familiar at the time — appeared in the crowd. I tried to place him… wondering where I’d seen him before. I mentioned him to my friends. They didn’t know who he was either. Did we have a class together? No. That wasn’t it… but, nonetheless, I kept my eye on him throughout the course of the race. At one point, one of my friends shouted to me, “Hey, here comes your guy!” I cringed and hoped he hadn’t heard her as he passed in front of us, below us actually, on a jogging path that meandered through the woods. I still had no idea who he was. And he certainly was not my guy.
The other girls and I made our way back to the finish line where the race ended and the racers collected in clumps waiting to be handed their certificates of completion and a bottle of orange juice. The strange young prince-like man caught my eye and moved toward me and my friends saying nothing. He sat on the grass beside where we were standing. He smiled, but still said nothing. Did he recognize me? I still had no idea who he was… but finally when he was walking away and I was sure I would never have any opportunity to see him again it suddenly dawned on me: I’d met him in that Thursday afternoon dance class a few months earlier.
That’s when my friends encouraged me to catch up to him and say hello. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. What did I know about pursuing prince-like, semi-dancing racers???!!! (Nothing!) Anyway… he was walking well ahead of us… and in order for me to talk with him, I’d have to pick up my pace. My friends, once again, pleaded with me to go after him. So, quite unlike my usual self, I did so. And I officially met him halfway across a bridge (this one) — one that I always thought was rather odd, as there was never really anything below it to cross.
I took a deep breath (after jogging to catch up to him). Then I spoke: “Hi, weren’t you in my leisure learn ballet class?”
“Yes, I was.” he answered.
Our extremely brief conversation continued about two minutes more, during which we exchanged names and I discovered he was in his third year — an older man! I was instantly horrified that I had the audacity to speak with someone who was so much older and wiser than me — a mere freshman. We said goodbye when we hit a corner of the street and left in opposite directions — he to his apartment off-campus; I, back to my dorm.
On Monday morning, there was a bouquet of flowers from him waiting for me in the mailroom, which was very unexpected and startling. Did that mean he actually liked me???!!!
I was so clueless… but….
On Friday, April 29, we had our official first date at a house he shared with a couple of roommates (who were not home) on a street called “Comet Way”. He made Chinese stir fry for dinner and offered me strawberries in a bowl of sugar for dessert. We ate it in his attic bedroom, sitting on the floor, listening to a mix tape he’d made for me. It seemed like our stars were aligned.
Our story ended 3-1/2 years later… in a very unceremonious way, I might add… which threw me for quite an unexpected, daunting loop. I probably should have been much more prepared for it, however. After all, our relationship had always been a bit volatile… with secrets and accusations around ever corner. 😉
It took me a very, very long time to get over that; to get over him. But I did… and those days are long past now.
However… here’s something sort of interesting that I never actually thought about in these terms until recently…
The year following my breakup with the racer, I went out one evening with my “fairy godmother” to a “ball”. Across the room, I noticed a young prince standing in a dark corner with his “royal courtiers”. Moments later, his “king” began to play some music, after which the young prince approached me… and we spent the evening talking. I’m certain we were up well past midnight, which is when I promptly turned into a pumpkin. The next morning, I left town… but not until I’d left a “glass slipper” behind for the prince to find so that he could follow me.
The only problem with this little fairy tale is… after what I’d gone through with the guy I’d thought was a prince… I really didn’t even trust dance floors anymore… you know, for beginning a romance. So… I was kinda too scared to try on the shoe to see if it fit… when that prince* reappeared.
*PS: We are still friends, nevertheless. 🙂