Posted by: Hannah | 05/06/2011

the story of us

When I went to university, an hour away from my hometown, I left behind a boyfriend in his final year of high school. Because I have never had a casual relationship in my life – serial monogamy, that’s the ticket! – I never seriously considered breaking it off so I could start my adult life unencumbered. I wasn’t too sure about leaving home yet; I was scared to be in a city, scared of the incredible amounts of debt my schooling was going to rack up, terrified that I wouldn’t fit in. Clinging to Drippy Wished-He-Was-A-Musician Boyfriend helped me to not feel so cut off.

We had a difficult relationship that year, and finally in February broke up. I’d like to say I was the one who ended it, but I wasn’t. And I was a blubbering wreck, being on my own. I hadn’t been single for long since I was 15, and I couldn’t bear it. I became convinced, at the age of not-quite-19, that I would be alone and unloved forever. Screaming incoherently and throwing cats, probably.

My second year of university, I moved out of the dorms. I hated dorm living. I hated the cattiness. I hated that our dorm had a cleaning lady who actually cleaned the individual rooms, not just the common spaces (I felt so guilty every time I came back from class to emptied wastebaskets and swept floors, you have no idea). I hated that everyone else on my floor had more money than I did. I couldn’t wait to get out.

The day I moved into my apartment, there was a group of guys sitting out front on lawn chairs. They offered to help me move in. They were pleasant and polite. They were nice to my mom. That night, one of them asked me out for dinner.

He and I dated for a year and a half.

It was very serious. I met his parents, he practically adopted mine. We practiced living together once, house-sitting for a friend of his mom’s. We talked about our long-term plans. I tried to like his friends. He tried to like mine. He was already finished school, I was still plugging away at a degree I was increasingly convinced I didn’t want and would never use.

One day, sitting in the day student lounge at school, I met someone new.

I was telling a joke, I think, to my friends. Or a funny story. Something. Anyway, this mystery fellow at a nearby table started snickering. I didn’t recognize him, which at our school was odd – I went to a very small university, and I knew everyone at least by sight. He was sitting alone, reading some dense book, and busily smoking Du Maurier Lights. My brand at the time, when I could afford smokes. He had a great smile. And when he laughed, his eyes would squinch shut so far they’d almost disappear.

We invited him to our table, introduced ourselves. He was very smart – probably one of the smartest people I’d ever met. Great sense of humour. And hey, he was very generous with his smokes, which was a bonus for someone living on a spending money budget of $20 a week.

In due course I met his girlfriend, a very nice and lovely-looking redhead. He met Corporate Wanna-Be Boyfriend. I don’t think it would be out of line to say they didn’t get along terribly well. But Corporate Wanna-Be Boyfriend didn’t mind me having lots of friends – made it easier for him to work all hours of the day and night without me getting annoyed that I never saw him – and his girlfriend got along well with me, so there was none of the jealousy you’d maybe expect from a bunch of 20-somethings.

We were like the cast of Friends, except chubbier.

Eventually, Corporate Wanna-Be Boyfriend and I started to fight more. I didn’t like coming third in his life, behind his job and his buddies. (Years later, I heard the catchphrase “bros before hos” and laughed a touch ruefully, because yeah.) Meanwhile, school was not getting any easier. I wasn’t earning enough money to pay for books, and rent, and food. Once a week, my new best guy friend would take me out for greasy diner food. He’d pay for my meal, listen to my woes, then take me home again. (Years later, he told me that he knew I was practically starving, and figured if I got one decent meal a week I wouldn’t get scurvy.) And his girlfriend was leaving for a year abroad. We were spending more and more time together. We even ended up getting jobs at the same call centre. We spent our breaks together. Our supervisor asked us if we were dating yet. Everyone around us seemed to know something more was going on.

Except for me.

Corporate Boyfriend and I broke up. It was not a good breakup. It was messy. It was prolonged. He still took me to the university formal, because he’d promised to do so and it never occurred to me that there was a better partner sitting across from me at the diner every Thursday. At the formal I got drunk off my ass. Ex-Boyfriend left early, telling me he’d see me later that night. New Best Friend was my ride home. When I asked him to drop me off at the ex’s, I saw him angry for the first time. He didn’t say a word, but even in my completely hammered and self-pitying state I knew he was upset. Stupidly, I couldn’t figure out why.

Next morning, nursing a horrendous hangover, I finally realized what I was doing was stupid, and destructive. Ashamed of myself and embarrassed at my behaviour, I crawled home.

The funny thing is, I don’t remember when My New Best Friend finally made his move. I remember feeling so comfortable with the whole thing. I remember feeling so safe. I remember the first time he told me he loved me, and had loved me for months. There were none of the crazy highs with him. None of the horrible lows, either. I never felt like I had to try harder to get him to love me – he just did, even when I was depressed, even when I was angry, even when I was sad.

He still does.

We dated for a year, then moved in together. Three years later we quit smoking for good, and managed not to kill one another during the horrible withdrawal period. A year after that we got married (and that’s a post for another day!), nine months after that Thing # 1 arrived. (Heh.) Every year we have a special meal together on our “bootyversary”. We celebrate our wedding anniversary too, although it always feels a bit funny because we’d been together long before we got married. Twelve years now.

We’ve had our ups and downs. Who hasn’t? But from then until now, I’ve never once doubted that he loves me and has my back. It’s the first and only relationship I’ve ever had where I don’t feel that it is conditional. He’s still my best friend. Sometimes I think how close I came to missing out, to passing it by without ever knowing it was there, and I’m relieved all over again that he took a deep breath and told me how he felt.


Funny postscript to this story – his lovely girlfriend from all those years ago is on both our friends’ lists on Facebook. And just recently he had a big project at work for Corporate Boyfriend’s company that went really well. In case further proof was needed that we live in a very small city (despite how huge it seemed to me when I left home).

Thanks to Misty for the question, sent via Twitter. I’m all emotional and gooey now, and will probably make Handsome Hubby a very nice dinner tonight.



  1. I loved reading about this…:*)

  2. Aww. I suspect Handsome Hubby might get a really nice desert, too. 😉

  3. I love reminiscing. And who doesn’t love a love story? Martin and I met in my second year of university. I didn’t think I had a hope in hell to snag a guy like him. Thought he was waaay out of my league. Obviously I didn’t shit back then. 😉
    We met in ’97, dated in ’98, were apart in for most of ’99 until the fall and we’ve been together since. He told me he loved me in October of ’99, but honestly it had been since ’97. We were just chicken shits. But that’s a story for another place and time.

  4. PH was my best friend, too. People should always marry their best friends.

  5. “We were like the cast of Friends, except chubbier.” HAHAHAHA!

    What a great story. And it has a happy ending!

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