I had just broken up with a woman after dating her for two years. Her parents liked me, but we argued often and had different likes and dislikes. For example, I like to go out dancing, but she didn’t.
I had also just changed jobs, leaving a large law firm where I worked long hours and started as in-house counsel at a corporation, where the work hours were much more reasonable. With all my new free time, I decided to take dance classes.
I heard about a restaurant and nightclub in Century City that offered dance classes on Wednesday nights. So, I would leave my office in DTLA, drive over, indulge in a happy hour burger and beer and then take a dance class. There were quite a few students in the classes, many of us still in our business attire. It was fun, and I started going every week.
I soon became friends with the other dancers as well as the teacher and teacher’s assistant, Libby. Libby filled me with a sense of wonder. I mean, she was tall and long-legged, with blond hair and green eyes — and many admirers.
A group of us — including Libby — would go out dancing several nights a week. (We skipped Friday and Saturday nights when the dance floor got crowded with drunks.) Over time, as I got to know Libby better, I couldn’t help but notice we had the same likes and dislikes. I learned that she was smart too. And there were other similarities. Both our moms coincidentally had banned us from watching the Three Stooges while we were growing up.
But she was out of my league. She once told me she liked to date guys who were taller than her. (Did I mention that I’m short and wear glasses? I always thought my ideal girlfriend would be Asian, like me … and an inch shorter than me.)
Libby helped me out of a jam a few weeks later when my cousin came into town and was going to borrow my car to tour the city, until we realized she didn’t know how to drive my stick-shift. Libby offered to switch cars with me, since hers was an automatic. It struck me as a kind and thoughtful gesture. I realized I was starting to see Libby as more than just a friend.
I decided to take a chance and tell her how I felt.
Her birthday was coming up, so I invited her to a picnic and a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I packed a basket with goodies — cheese and crackers, grilled chicken and veggies, brownies and a bottle of wine. I tucked in a birthday card and a pair of blue earrings that I picked out because of how her blond hair would set them off.
In the birthday card, I wrote my feelings for her were best summed up by the lyrics from a Cole Porter song, “You do something to me, something that simply mystifies me … you have the power to hypnotize me …”
As she unpacked the picnic basket, she found her present and the card.
I watched her nervously as she read the words I wrote.
She smiled and thanked me.
And then she said that we should just stay friends.
“Sure,” I told her, I understand. And I did. I went into the day trying to manage my expectations. I’d had my fair share of romantic disappointments over the years.
On the drive home, we talked about our upcoming weekend plans, and I told her I was going to Santa Barbara for a beach volleyball tournament with my friend, Pauline. “Who’s she?” Libby asked. “Just an old friend from law school,” I said. Pauline is Filipino, like me, I explained, and our friends and family had been trying to get us together for years, without luck.
The following week, Libby stopped by my place for dinner. I’d offered to cook because I had chicken and corn I wanted to grill. But when she arrived, something was different. That night, we found ourselves talking about our lives, our families, our goals, our hopes and our dreams. We even talked about kids — we each wanted two, a boy and a girl. We even discussed our favorite children’s names.
Libby confessed that while I was watching volleyball and hanging out with Pauline, she’d spent part of the weekend complaining to her friends that I was “so obviously trying to make her jealous!”
Then she spent the rest of the weekend being mad at herself because it worked — she realized she was jealous.
We kept talking until the sun came up and we each had to get to work.
We shared our first kiss that night.
A month later, we were engaged.
And Pauline? She was the “best man” at the wedding.
The author is an attorney in DTLA and has been married for 28 years. He and Libby have two children, a boy, Seth, and a girl, Remi, now both grown.
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