[me, Brian and Rob after a squeaky clean youth event, pre-texting]
I will never forget the very first text message I ever sent.
Does this work?
The answer came a second later.
I laughed and so did Rob. Our boss, Brian, rolled his eyes. Because, you see, this first series of texts was sent across the cramped attic youth office during our weekly, three-person staff meeting.
It has to suck when you are the boss of a two-person staff and that two-person staff falls for each other, hard. Though maybe an improvement over having nine months of a two-person staff that barely tolerates each other.
See, when Rob and I first met and came on staff together, he was coming out of a relationship with a girl who basically told him she wanted him to make the big bucks. She would give him subtle hints like trying to force him into going to business seminars. When they broke up, he was crushed and thought all women were after money. He also tended to date blondes. (He will deny this. Probably in the comments.) Plus he tended to not have girl friends, believing (mostly correctly) that there are few boy/girl friendships that don't have something romantic underneath the surface.
I, on the other hand, was coming off a senior year of college when I committed not to date anyone. I had been in super serious relationship with a British chap named Pete who was so clearly wrong for me that my inability to see it made me take a break from dating. For a year. Before that, I had dated guys who were no good, soccer hooligans, tortured musician types, straight-edge punks, and pretty much any stereotype fitting a guy that your friends will tell you not to date. (There were a few nice guys in there. But I usually dumped them for someone terrible.) If I had been Elena on The Vampire Diaries, I'd have chosen Damon. If we're talking Supernatural, I would have chased down Dean Winchester. If I had been Bella, I would have spoken in complete sentences and prolonged that Jacob-Edward love triangle, just for kicks.
I was used to being pursued by guys and by dating artsy, creative types. Not all-American nice guys with biceps that were bigger than my head, like Rob.
Brian (and about 200 other people at our 200-person church) secretly planned to get Rob and I together. But since both of us were resistant to match-making and smelled a rat, this repelled us even further apart. Other than laughter over the moment where an elderly woman in the grocery store remarked that the two boy-shaped piñatas in our cart for a youth event were "such beautiful children," Rob and I had little to bring us together.
Then we hired a giant six-person summer staff. Mostly college kids from around the country, we suddenly had a crew of people to hang out with, easing the tension that hung over Rob and I all year when we were the only single people in our church. Secretly I had become fascinated with Rob and his great smile and his ability to love the unloveable. Those kids in the youth group that were harder or high maintenance or just downright annoying flocked around him, and he never lost patience, never showed them anything but the same respect and care that he showed the easy and fun kids. I could see that Rob was a man unafraid to love and love well.
I told myself that he liked blondes and more straight-laced girls. Texas girls. Not transplants from Virginia with a penchant for secretly smoking on my days off and drinking beer while watching the X-Files alone at night. (With no lights on.) This would never work.
But summer is a great time to fall in love. Or, at least, fall in like, which is what Rob and I did. Once a week our group hit Barney's pool hall to play Psycho Pool, a game involving only two balls and racing around the table. Or, in the case of Rob, across the top of the table. I remember riding together to Barney's once in his Volkswagen Thing, a car too ridiculous and amazing to even be called a car. When the engine wasn't too loud, we had a great conversation. We even sat outside Barney's for a few minutes after we got there and ducked to hide when one of our friends arrived. In that moment I thought, Wait--I'm having a good time with Rob. What's does this mean?
As the summer staff cleared out, the fascination I had with Rob's smile and his ability to love grew into an all-out, stomach-wrenching crush. I had a hard time not watching his mouth when he was talking. I spent an hour plucking splinters from the bottom of his feet with tweezers on a staff trip. I couldn't imagine that anyone watching me with him would miss the way I felt, written all over my face. This was a terrible idea, and there was no way he felt the same.
Until the text messaging began.
After that first text, Rob texted me throughout the day, every day. For a guy that can be pretty shy when it comes to asking a girl out, text messaging is the greatest invention ever. With a low risk factor, texting gives you the freedom for flirting and wooing without the face-to-face rejection factor.
So for a number of weeks, Rob and I sent crazy amounts of texts to one another. Enough that I knew exactly how many times I needed to press the number 6 to get the letter O. Enough that Brian and most of our friends groaned and complained and told us the texting had to stop. Enough that Rob finally garnered the courage to ask me out on a real, live date.
It was also enough to give us each $200 overages on our church-paid cell phones. So in our first month of dating, we had to pay off our giant cell phone bills. I generally don't use it, but I think an LOL is in order.