|At the National Portrait Gallery the day he asked me to be his girlfriend|
Excited as I was for the upcoming ball, I was beyond ready to get out of this relationship limbo we’d been in since our first date. We’d been spending a lot of time together, but in the three weeks since the date, Frank hadn’t defined the relationship one way or another. It was killing me.
The night before Conservatism on Tap, I had texted Frank a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail—one of his favorite movies. “Wow,” he texted back, “you really are the perfect woman.” I knew that guys don’t just throw around “the perfect woman” willy-nilly. He had to be pretty dead gone on me. So in typical Tess fashion, emboldened by the certainty that he was into me, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
After the lecture and discussion, Frank and I began walking back to the metro with a group of our friends. As we walked, I texted him, “Want to split off and go for a wander?” "Sure," he said. So when we got to the metro stop, we left our friends and kept walking on our own.
We wandered through the streets and finally reached the pretty garden outside the White House, where I sometimes went to eat lunch. We sat on a bench and Frank put his arm around me. We sat there talking in the quiet evening until we saw the lights go off in the White House. (In retrospect, the fact that it was warm enough to sit outside on January 26 might be the most amazing part of this story.)
“So… about us,” Frank finally said. “I was thinking we could just go on a few more dates and see where this goes.”
I was a bit nettled. I had been hoping things would move more into the boyfriend-girlfriend neighborhood.
But then I figured that if he wanted to be casual and noncommittal, two could play at that game.
“Oh ok!” I said brightly. “So you mean we’ll be non-exclusive? Like, we can keep dating other people?”
“What? Are you dating other people? Is there someone else you’re seeing right now?”
“Maybe! I don’t want to talk about it,” I said. “Let’s head home.”
That was pretty much the exact opposite of what Frank meant, and he did not like this new turn of events at all.
“Wait! I mean… we can be exclusive, if you want,” he said.
“Nope.” I was now thoroughly into the idea of being non-exclusive and regretted pushing him into this conversation. I figured there was that guy from McFadden’s, and earlier that day I’d seen I had a voicemail from another guy I’d recently met. If Frank didn’t want to be exclusive, it only seemed smart to be open to other options. I still had a few nagging doubts that he might be a bit of a player.
Poor Frank. He had no idea what he was getting himself into with that innocent remark about “seeing where things go.” He really didn’t feel comfortable with this turn of events—in fact he told me later on that he felt sick to his stomach over it. But I thought I was doing the right thing by hiding my interest. I thought I was just matching his own non-commitment and caution.
So we went home, both trying to get used to the idea of being non-exclusive. Neither of us liked it, but we both thought it was the other person’s idea.
The next day Frank invited me to get dinner with his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend—a double date, officially Date #2. We had a great time and the adorable girlfriend made a point of telling Frank how much she liked me.
Thus began our infamous period of “7 dates in 7 days.” Starting with the double date, we spent time together every day of the next week. We cooked dinner together, we went out for drinks, and we even went to Mass together. I guess when Frank said we would “go on a few more dates to see where this goes,” he decided to have those dates ASAP.
On Tuesday, January 31, several days after our ill-fated DTR, Frank and I went to the National Portrait Gallery together. He took me to see his favorite painting, by Childe Hassam, and standing in front of it he asked if I would be his girlfriend.
I told him I would think about it and get back to him. Yes, I actually said that. Looking back, man, what a brat! But I still hadn’t called back what’s-his-face and I figured I should have something to back up my insinuation that I was dating other people. I knew by this point that if the other guy wanted to ask me out, I would say no, but I wanted to at least return his call.
Next we went to Trader Joe’s for groceries and then back to my apartment to cook dinner together. While Frank was getting stuff together in the kitchen, I snuck into my room and called the other guy. It turned out he had called to invite me to a party that weekend. I wasn’t particularly interested in going, or in seeing him again for that matter, so I politely declined and went back out to the kitchen.
“Frank,” I said. “You know what you asked me earlier? Yes. My answer is yes. I want to be your girlfriend.”
He smiled so broadly and gave me a giant hug. We were both walking on air after that.
Later that night we were playing the question game.
“What’s been the happiest day of your life so far?” I asked.
“To be honest with you,” he said, squeezing my hand, “I might have to say today.”
From then on, we were a couple. And we
The last big obstacle once we started dating was our difference in religion. I loved Frank and respected him, but my religious beliefs are so important to me that I had a hard time with the thought of marrying someone who didn’t share them. When we started dating, I thought long and hard about whether I would be ok with marrying him if he never converted. I decided that it would be difficult but worth it, and I made a great effort to never bring up the topic of religion around him unless he asked. I had no idea that, at the same time, Frank was trying to decide whether to become Catholic. His conversion story is a pretty awesome one, and it began long before we ever met, so I won’t get into it now. Suffice it to say that on our first Valentine’s Day, a few weeks after we started dating, Frank gave me the best gift ever and told me he had decided to become Catholic. From then on, I think we both knew this relationship was a game-changer.
We had only been together for a few weeks when Frank started dropping not-so-subtle hints about getting married. I said we shouldn’t start talking about marriage until we’d been together for at least six months. I finally had to institute the “marriage jar”—he had to put 25 cents in a jar every time he brought up marriage. Before long the jar had to be abandoned because I was guilty of talking about marriage almost as much as he was. Meanwhile he interpreted my six-month rule as “we can’t get engaged until we’ve been together for six months,” so he proposed two days after our six-month anniversary. It was faster than I expected, but I was very happy to say yes. You can read all about that here.
And we lived happily ever after, with plenty of knitting and other grandmotherly activities. ;)
Thanks for sticking with this MUCH too long and detailed and drawn-out story all the way to the end. I hope you enjoyed it!