On May 1, 1993, I met the woman of my dreams at a party.
This was a party I worked embarrassingly hard at getting myself invited to. It was a birthday for someone I didn't know very well and, by all accounts, I really had no business being there. But I was 16, lots of people I knew would be in attendance, and I desperately needed the night out.
And did I mention I was 16 and it was a party? Yeah.
A few weeks before, I had been unceremoniously dumped by my boyfriend. I even got the "It's not you, it's me" talk. Ouch.
Hey, no hard feelings all these years later; he was and still is a very nice guy. But I was drowning in rejection at that point, on top of living on my own for the first time, going to high school, and just trying to figure out where my life was headed. And also if I was gay. Because, despite the wounds of rejection, I was starting to figure out men were not my thing.
Still, I needed some fun and distraction. So when I found out most of my peeps were going to this party, I wanted - no, needed - an invitation. (Again: 16.) A couple of nights before the big event, I got my wish. The birthday boy's roommate happened to be hanging out with my extended group of friends. "You can come with me to the party," he offered. A friendly date, of sorts. He would meet me downtown and we would go from there.
Cool beans! I met him downtown a couple of hours before the bash. He seemed like a nice guy. He liked coffee, I liked coffee. He liked music, I liked music. He was a white supremacist, I was-- wait, what?!
By the time we were halfway to the party, I knew his buzz cut was not just a fashion statement. Well, shit. This might be why he had a hard time time finding a date to the party and had to ask three-degrees-of-separation Rando McGee over here if she'd like to go.
I wasn't terribly assertive back then, but there was one thing I knew for sure I couldn't do: spend the evening with a racist turd with a terrible haircut. When we walked into the party room, I not-so-politely told him to fix his life, and bee-lined for my friend, who was sitting at a table near the DJ.
I still remember that table; the size, the shape, the colours bouncing off of it from the lights on the dance floor. I remember it well because that's the table I met my wife at.
I had stepped away for a few minutes to find the bathroom - making sure to plan my trajectory so I could avoid Little Hitler - and when I came back,
Of course, she didn't look like she does today. She looked male, but with a strong feminine feel to her.
And I, who had struggled to be into guys the way society told me I should be, felt an attraction I had never felt before.
We met. We smiled. We shook hands. And within minutes, her presence eclipsed everything around her. There was no more table, no more dance floor, no more friend (sorry, Sue.)
It was she. It was her. It was us. And I was already falling in love.
It would over 22 years before she would come out to me. It would be many more months of self-reflection before I could reconcile the strong attraction I felt for her - before I knew her as her, and instead knew her as my boyfriend, then fiance, then husband - and my identity as a lesbian.
Oh, and I'm still wrapping my head around how my very liberal self met my very liberal wife because of a white supremacist. Try telling that to your kids.
This whole story of how we met is kind of messy. A party I manipulated my way into. An accidental date with a racist idiot. Falling in love with a woman I wouldn't know was a woman for almost as long as I didn't know I'm a lesbian. None of this is clean cut. It's not simple. It has no straight lines.
(Well, that last part kind of figures.)
But maybe that makes sense, since love isn't all that simple. Love is its own tangled mess. It wraps us up in its tendrils and holds on. And before you know it, it's 24 years later, you have three kids and three pets and still too much mortgage, one of you goes by a different name and pronouns, the other one is sharing your love story for a much-larger-than-you-ever-anticipated international audience, and both of you - oddly enough - are far happier than you were the first 23 years of your relationship.
Love is messy. Love is beautiful. Love is knowing the person you met at a party in 1993 is still the same person you're with today, but now when you kiss her, you get a fresh lip gloss application and that is a serious upgrade.
Zoe, I want to have at least 24 more years of love with you ; this time with less closeted lesbianism and side character racism. What we have is as unique and wonderful as how we met.
Happy meet-a-versary, wife person. Here's to messy, beautiful love.