I flew off to Chicago and Frank drove home to New Jersey for our Christmas breaks. Although Frank hadn’t spelled out that the play January 7 would be a date, and I kept insisting to my curious family that I “wasn’t really sure” if it was a date or not, I knew deep down that was exactly what it was. I even told one of my best friends over break that I thought Frank might be “the one.” All that before we’d even gone on one date!
I tried not to think about Frank for the first few days, which was easy since my beloved cousins and aunt were visiting from London. We had a great time taking the littles to the American Girl Place. Did you know they serve fabulous cocktails there? File that away for your next trip to Chicago with little daughters/sisters.
|They also have the cutest plates of miniature food|
That vacation, in retrospect, was full of funny coincidences.
One night Lillian and I went out for dinner and drinks with an acquaintance from ISI, Matt, his friend Eliot, and my good girl friend. Matt was living in Texas at the time and I wanted him to meet my friend, who lived near him. It turns out that was one of the best dinners I ever put together, but not for the reason I intended. Just a few months later Matt and Lillian started dating, and now I’m proud to call him my brother-in-law.
This isn't a coincidence, but I remembered this story while looking through old photos for this blog post, and it was too funny not to share. That break, I bought a lion hat at the Christkindl Market in downtown Chicago and wore it constantly, to the endless teasing of my family. But I had absolutely no shame and posted photos in my sweet hat to Facebook.
My sisters assured me that the hat would scare off any potential suitors, but I maintain that it's the real reason Frank fell in love with me. ;)
The morning of January 2, I flew back to DC. Frank picked me up at the airport, where I looked much too put together for someone who’d caught a 7 am flight. I seem to recall stopping in the airport bathroom to do makeup before meeting him? Anyway, I treated him to lunch at Panera as a thank you, and over lunch he asked what I planned to do that afternoon.
“I’m going to rent a Zipcar to run some errands,” I said. I was all into the Zipcars in those days. “I need to get a few things at Target, and it’s pretty far from my house.”
Frank-the-nicest immediately offered to take me to Target himself, so off we went to spend my Christmas money on an air mattress, a Crockpot, and a tea kettle, preparatory to some friends coming to visit in a few weeks.
Saturday night was our big First Date. You better believe I’d been planning my outfit all break: sheer black hose and heels with a black lacy top, shimmery shrug and curve-hugging skirt. I spent forever getting ready, doing my make-up perfectly and blow-drying my hair. Somehow I already knew that night would go down in Tess history.
There was one dilemma: my glasses. I’m just near-sighted enough to need glasses for the theater, even though I can get by without them in daily life. But at the time, I was still using an ugly pair of psychedelic blue glasses I’d had since the eighth grade. No way could I let Frank see me in those, but what if I had trouble seeing the stage? I decided to hide the glasses in my purse and make a decision later.
Our first date was perfect. Did I mention it was perfect? Frank took me to an amazing restaurant called Rosa Mexicano. I remember Frank excitedly introducing me to his favorite cocktails while I tried to act normal and hide my stomach-full-of-butterflies feeling.
We had such a great conversation over dinner. I only remember bits and pieces of it—we mostly talked about books, no surprise—but I do remember he told me that he had studied Ancient Greek in college and once translated part of Plato’s Apologia from the original Greek. I tried really hard not to swoon.
After dinner we walked down the street to the beautiful Shakespeare Theater. We were early so we browsed the cute gift shop before finding our seats. Sitting in the theater, I assessed our distance from the stage and realized that, unfortunately, my glasses would be necessary.
No worries. I was confident I could get away with hiding the ugly glasses from Frank. I waited until the curtain rose before oh-so-stealthily slipping them out of my bag. Then I made sure to take them off before the lights came on.
Unfortunately, my ploy was not so successful. During the intermission, Frank made a comment about the glasses. He had noticed!! Oh no!!! I nearly died of shame.
Frank says he thought it was “cute,” but I was horrified.* Looking back on it, though, the really embarrassing part is that I actually thought I could get away with that!
We drove back through the dark DC streets and Frank took “the long way home” so we could drive past the Capitol. It looked beautiful, its white dome shining in the night. He played some of his favorite music for me, and as I listened quietly, I knew that night was the start of something wonderful.
*Think of me next time you have an embarrassing first date story.