Little Big reader Nadja wanted to hear the story of how Anthony and I got together. Some names have been changed to protect the very-much-non-innocent.
High school was not a pleasant time in my life. It was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. My family was smack-dab in the middle of alcoholic dysfunction, we were poor and I was awkward, I was surly and rebellious. I pushed a lot of people away by being aggressively standoffish. I had few friends but those I did have I loved fiercely. It was such a bad time in my life that for years after I would cringe when people would exclaim that Anthony and I were high school sweethearts. We were not charmed innocents kissing under the bleachers at a football game. We were much more interesting.
Here I am, circa 1996, just living my life in thrift stores, sleeping on window displays at the Salvation Army. Often I was with my best friend who, for privacy’s sake, we’ll refer to as Ambee Woo. Ambee Woo was my near constant thrifting companion and I spent the money I made babysitting on boy’s jeans, polyester shirts, and apparently, paintings of Paris. Just like today, I am always the one leaving the thrift store with more bags than anyone else.
There’s Ambee Woo. She had a huge crush on a guy we’ll call “the Ritter.” He was having a party, and Ambee Woo was invited. I’m her wingman, and normally, I’d have her back. “I don’t know if I want to go,” I told her. “I’m leaving town for a funeral tomorrow.”
“I know,” said Ambee Woo. “But, please, Carrie? I don’t want to go by myself.”
I relented. I’d go, I told her, but I wasn’t going to stay all that late.
We went. I wore ripped jeans, my favorite pale blue thrifted SF Pickwick baby doll shirt, dark red doc martens, and a bracelet I’d made out of a choke chain. In short, I gave almost no thought to my appearance.
Anthony attracted my attention on campus, but our paths had never crossed. He had perfect jet-black hair, high cheekbones, and impeccable taste in thrifted shirts. All the boys I knew who had copped a thrifted style did so ironically with a grunge edge. They’d wear their D.A.R.E. t-shirts with gnarly, unbrushed hair and long-sleeved unbuttoned flannel shirt. Their look seemed to say, “I’m ironic and dirty and for some reason I think this will get me laid.” Anthony’s hair may have been shaggy, but his look was clean and polished in a way that said, “I am fully confident in my looks and sexuality which is why you want me even though I’m wearing a woman’s polyester shirt. BOO-YA.” I didn’t know his name. I happened to be dating two boys at the time so it didn’t matter.
When we walked into the party, I froze. There he was, in a fantastic polyester shirt, chatting it up with the Ritter.
It instantly occurred to me that when you meet a person you have admired from afar a couple things could happen.
Upon opening his mouth he could the biggest idiot who had ever lived, and for my fantasy’s sake, I desperately wanted to avoid that. What if he was arrogant? Arrogant men are the worst. What if he was mean to animals, or had specific, repugnant theories about “what chicks liked”? He could be dull. DULL! I would not stand for it. He could be a dull, arrogant, racist, misogynistic frog torturer who hated reading. That would be awful.
Or, even worse, he could open his mouth and be the most perfect being in all creation, and you’d be standing there in your scuffed boots with a stupid dog chain bracelet, and everyone, including him, would be wondering why you were allowed to be in his presence. I felt that this was far more likely.
It’d be all over. You could never fantasize about sunlight hitting his warm brown skin without remembering your failure.
I wanted to run, I wanted to hide, I wanted to be anywhere but there.
I don’t know exactly how Ambee Woo knew I liked him, but she did. Despite my frantic attempt at an exit, she pulled me over and before I could stop her she introduced us. I remember being able to say nothing, so she told him my name. “I’m Anthony,” said the most perfect being in creation. It was all over. I was in love in one breath.
It turns out I wasn’t irreparably flawed, and perfect beings don’t exist. It turns out we were both pretty wonderful people who had flaws and imperfections. We both enjoyed reading and dancing and never cast so much as a threatening glace toward an amphibian. Without a thought I broke it off with the other two dudes and Anthony and I became inseparable.
It’s pretty much the same today.
And now, picture time!
The photo below is from one of the Proms we attended. I’m wearing my DIY corsage, some painful-looking wedge heels, and Harry Potter glasses. Anthony is wearing the best sideburns ever and a look that says, “I’m done taking pictures now, Dee.” My mom must not have heard that look because she took at least three more photos after this one and, like a flipbook, you can see his face grow more and more annoyed.
The glint of the camera’s flash on my nose ring makes it look like I have a fantastic golden booger. Ignore that.
Later that night we went to a Denny’s in a nearby town and people kept coming up to us and saying congratulations. We couldn’t figure out why until we realized their prom wasn’t for another month, so they assumed we had just gotten married.
Here we are before our actual wedding. I dyed my hair dark brown and weighed about fifteen pounds.
Here we are at our actual wedding in 2003.
We did not go to Denny’s afterward.
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