It was 1985. It was her first day as secretary to the supervisor of an engineering unit that handled projects once they began construction. I was supervisor of an administrative subunit that handled non-engineering project activities.
From her desk, she could see me as I came in or out of my office. The first time she saw me, I was wearing a light beige, buttoned sweater with dark brown pants. Back then, I had a 32-inch waist and weighed 130 pounds.
She asked one of the women in my unit: “Who is he?” The answer included the fact that I was from the Philippines and: “Wait until you hear him talk.” I don’t know if that comment meant I had no southern accent, could affect a foreign accent, speak in a foreign language, or some combination of all three.
Whenever I came to visit her boss, she was very friendly. Enough so that I quickly deduced she was sending a signal. But did I want to accept it?
First, she had the deepest southern accent I’d ever heard. So deep I sometimes couldn’t understand some words. Second, she didn’t fit the “profile”- a college-educated woman in a professional job who had at least led a middle-class childhood. She lacked the first two and I doubted she had the last one.
I think what encouraged me was a transparency and simplicity about her that shone through. I’m a very observant person. I noticed that she was never catty or gossipy; never said a bad word about anyone past or present. She always seemed to be in a pleasant mood.
One day, a I received a rather large travel reimbursement. I found a reason to visit her boss. While I was waiting for someone to leave her boss’ office, I mentioned the travel check to her and wondered aloud what I might do with it. Her move…..
She suggested I take her out to dinner! And I agreed…
That first date began with dinner at one of our finer (no buffet) Chinese restaurants – Ming Tree, which is still in business at the same location. The coup de gras was going across the street to the mall where I introduced her to white chocolate at a confectionary which has long since disappeared. Then I dropped her off at her place. No kiss or advances.
Shortly after I got back to my place, she called. She said she had really enjoyed the date, and thanked me for introducing her to white chocolate. I told her we’d do it again and she said she’d like that. I was 34 and that was the first time anyone had called me after a first date.
That was in October 1985. In January 1986, we began living together. At her suggestion, I recall.
In March 1995, we were married on her deceased mother’s birthday. October of next year will be the 25th anniversary of our first date.
I’m glad I didn’t listen to my “head” when deciding whether to ask her out. Education, job, background. These things matter little. I’m glad I had the wisdom to go with my intuition rather than with my admittedly privileged class perspective.
Despite our many “exterior” differences, I see myself in her. Why I do is another post I’ve promised PTFan1. I’ll get around to it…
Everyone who’s known us for any length of time says I’m a lucky man. I know it.
We say “thank you” to each other almost every night as we go to sleep. Time I said so publicly: thank you Susie for all these years and the ones to come.