“You have to start meeting people, come with me to the party!” my friend Claire breezily suggested. Inside, I recoiled at the thought of going out. I had recently returned to the Midwest after a two-year hiatus in Europe, and my rose-colored glasses had fallen off. Sad I was still single and sadder still I was no longer in Europe, I made a willful effort to try and get my feet back under me and agreed to go to the party. I put on the nicest thing I owned and my decade-old dancing shoes. I bought a new lipstick and a ticket to the party. And then I shored myself up for a night of awkwardness and disappointment.
I arrived earlier than anyone else, overly eager to not be late, and stood embarrassed in a corner alone as the people setting up milled around me and occasionally smiled in my direction—pityingly, I thought. The venue began to fill, my friend showed up with her date, and the evening commenced. I found a slightly less awkward place at the bar, and grasped my rum and coke for dear life as the dancing started.
As the dancing continued and no one asked me to the floor, I fell into full pouting mode. I had just spent 6 years in college and graduate school, places full of intelligent people my age—and had not only found no one to marry, but had never even been asked on a date. And here I was again, starting over, knowing no one, at 26. I started to feel really sorry for myself.
Then suddenly, out of the crowd of happy, attractive people bounced a tall young man in a grey three-piece suit. He asked me to dance. As we danced, I became increasingly impressed. He was a good dancer, he knew how to lead, and he smiled all the while. He seemed to enjoy my company. My desperate brain formed a sudden conclusion: “Maybe THIS is the man you’re supposed to marry!” But after that one dance, I didn’t see him for the rest of the night. “Or maybe not.” I went back to my bar corner, finished my drink, and left early.
My struggle with finding my place in the local singles scene lurched forward until the following Halloween. I saw him again, standing alone by the snack table, dressed as Sherlock Holmes. I suddenly remembered his name—Keith. The last ten months had made me bolder, so I approached him and we chatted about school, work, and our costumes. We parted ways for the evening and didn’t speak again all night.
But then, I began to see him more, at a dance here or a party there. He was always in the corner of my eye, smiling at me.
It was the next December and I was at a casual party wearing the nicest gown I owned—a choir performance dress. I had promised a friend I would try to swing by her party after a performance, and I forgot to pack a change of clothes, so the performance dress was my only option. Keith looked me in the eyes when I came into the room, intrigued. I noticed him making more eye contact than usual. I assumed it was because of the strange dress choice.
Three months later we met by chance at a dance practice. More side glances from him. Weird—but it made me feel good.
I moved into my new house in August and invited a few people for my house warming. Never one for big crowds, I invited selectively. He made the list, showed up, and quickly became the favorite of all of my girlfriends. So I decided to try to set him up with a few of them, believing he would never be interested in me. I felt this way because no one had taken interest in me yet—so why should he? Always the realist, I felt that the evidence of my experience was stacked against the likelihood of any possible interest.
A few weeks later, I got a text from one of the girls I had been trying to set him up with. They were going on a date. My brows furrowed. That’s great! Right? Surely this was the end that I wanted? With shame I felt the tiniest bit of relief when she said he called it off after two dates. She was disappointed. Why wasn’t I?
In November, he asked me to come dancing with friends. I told him I was too busy to make it, but he kept asking—and every time he would text me, I was pleased. Finally, I thought, “What the hell—why not?” The time I finally came, he danced with only me all night. As he took my hand to lead me to the dance floor and asked me what my favorite chocolate was, I knew. I knew like you know a good melon.
In December we went on our first date. In March we went to Colorado together with his family. In May he asked me to marry him. And in December we said “I do.” Turns out my desperate brain was right that first night two Decembers before. He was the man I was supposed to marry.
Editor's Note: When She Knew is a Readers Write column. Share your own story here.