Checking out the fruit
This is it, our 21st anniversary. After today, you won't have to listen to another maudlin rant for, oh, another 360 days or so. Where we left it: quite ignoring The Rules*, I'd chosen something threatening for our first date -- dinner at my apartment the following Saturday night. I felt pretty good about this date. Karen, I found out much later, was far more cautious. "I still needed to check out the fruit," she said. I didn't need to check. First date, courting, the sex thing, meet-her-parents, meet-MY-parents: technicalities. This relationship was inevitable. That Saturday, I blew off studying and spent the whole day washing clothes, grocery shopping, and cooking. My place northwest of the Berkeley campus put me within three blocks of a bakery, three grocery stores, a produce market, a wine shop, a cheese shop, and a fish market. Only the best for this meal. The menu: salad, sourdough bread, seafood divan, a Dutcher Creek Fume Blanc 1978, and chocolate mousse for dessert. I didn't finish cooking until 8:30. My roommates were in and out; Roger came by to haze Karen mercilessly. Having just had his heart ripped out by a feminist (who, in retrospect, was a far nicer person than Roger), he had to make sure I wasn't falling into the same trap. Karen, I'm sure, will recall that I took part in this hazing ritual (which involved the infamous fish joke) but she's just plain WRONG. Roger did it. Roger. A bit later that evening, my other roommate Russ came by to snag two helpings of chocolate mousse and do the dishes. Russ was always doing the dishes whether he'd dirtied them or not, because he figured Roger and I were too ignorant to use hot soap and water. And, you know, it bothered him. Eventually, they all left us alone, and Karen and I spent the rest of the evening up in my room not having sex. We talked until 2AM. Actually, I think I talked until 2AM. I violated one of the most important Guy Rules, violated it the way an Atkins failure violates a Krispy Kreme. Don't tell her jack about yourself, because whatever she imagines about you is far superior to the Truth. If I failed to reveal all my secrets that night, I made up for it in our many late-night talks in the coming weeks. Who knows; maybe it was the right thing to do. She was checking out the fruit, after all, and I'd given her plenty to squeeze and sniff. I walked her home. At the door, we kissed a few times, and I said, "Well, I think we're pretty compatible. What do you think?" She agreed. In the boy-meets-girl story, you don't expect smooth sailing. You'd be damned bored if Adam Sandler didn't lose Drew Barrymore at least once before the end of the movie. You mean Karen didn't have cold feet, not even once? You mean neither of you went running back to your ex for one last fling, to the horror of the other, followed by a tearful reunion and the confession, I never realized until now how much you meant to me? Nope. Sorry. This relationship was like going down a slide on waxpaper. Three nights later, I was trying to figure out how to invite myself over to Karen's apartment (for some reason, I'd lost the nerve to just drop in like I used to) when Karen showed up with Kira. They hijacked me. Karen, it transpired, still wanted to check the fruit, and Kira was along as an independent grocery inspector. I grabbed my books, intending to study later (har-har), and the three of us took a lunatic trip through Co-Op. Not long after, Karen and I ended up in her room. She put Ravel's Bolero on the stereo and we both thought of Allegro non troppo before we thought of Blake Edward's 10. One thing led to another, although it didn't lead to much more than -- hey kids! Remember this word? Necking. And, once again, we spent a hell of a long time talking. Two weeks of talkin' and neckin' later, we finally got around to checking out each other's fruit for realsies. Karen asked me afterwards, "So. Feeling the thrill of conquest?" "I thought it was all pretty mutual --" "Conquest on both sides?" "I think it was all decided two weeks ago," I said. "That's when the 'conquest' was, if there ever was one." And she agreed. Hey, we were a couple of over-educated science geeks who thought we could control everything with our brains. To some extent we were right. We had some stressful months ahead of us -- Berkeley College of Chemistry was never what you'd call easy, and the elephant in the room was the question, Where will Doug be nine months from now? I hadn't been accepted to med school yet (hadn't even interviewed), and Karen still had a year left at Berkeley. But Fate gave us a cakewalk. Stanford accepted me into their medical school. One year later, they accepted Karen into their graduate program in Chemical Physics. In our year apart, we were never more than 60 miles away from one another; that's a long distance relationship even we could manage.Yeah, Fate gave us a cakewalk, at least until She decided to take a fat crap on Karen's head in late '83. Our first seven years of marriage were pretty rough, thanks to Karen's multiple sclerosis. But the fact we've made it to 21 years ought to tell you something. I love you, Karen. Glad you liked the fruit. D. *The as-yet-unpublished Guy Rules. More on this some other day.