Chili's, a Cute Boy, and Love


I used to think about love and about being in love. I would wonder what it was like and whether or not I really would have a "glow" and skip around smiling like an idiot. I got annoyed with people who, when asked the question, "How will I know if I love someone?" responded with some variance of, "You just know."

How obnoxious.

What if I'm Just. That. Stupid. to not know it when I feel it? What am I supposed to do then? Of course, then said obnoxious person would respond with, "Well, then, I guess you've never felt it. Don't worry. When you feel it, you'll know."

What a repetitive jerk.

Then nine months and fifteen days ago I went on a date with this boy. I was nervous. But it's not like I'd never been to Chili's before. Heck, I've pretty much ordered every single thing on the menu. And it's not even like I'd never been on a date before. (Both times were great, by the way.) But this, I really liked him.

He was the sort of boy I would avoid in the checkout line at American Eagle. You see, when I go into a store or, for that matter, anywhere, I avoid the cutest boys. They intimidate me and make my perpetually flushed face turn a deeper shade of red. Trust me, it's not attractive.
Here's what happens:

Enter store.
Find something to buy.
Scope out the cashiers #1: Eh, sorta cute. #2: Cute. #3: Not cute. #4: Holy crap, he's cute.
Avoid cashier #4 like the plague.
Darn it, #1 and 3 are busy.
Okay. (Deep breath) #2 it is.

I scope out girls too. Pretty girls intimidate me, but my face doesn't really get red. So I guess that's a positive.

Anyway, back to this boy and Chili's and my red face. We'd met in January 2009 at church. I had finally found a church home, and he was in my Sunday school class. I noticed him almost immediately because, like I said, I scope out so I know who to avoid. So suffice it to say, we didn't technically have any social interaction more than a few words for a good six months. Secretly, however, I was telling all my friends about this cute boy at church who would never ask me out in a million years but whom I would say yes to in less time than it took to ask. I know how it sounds, but I promise I'm not a stalker.

So it's, maybe, July by the time we actually had anything close to what a normal person would consider a conversation. And it all went down on the tennis court. He hopped out of his green Explorer sporting aviators, a red sweat band, dirty tennis shoes that looked ten years old, and swinging a $15 tennis racket he'd most likely picked up at Walmart. Wait. He wasn't cashier #4...was he? Crap. Here comes the red face.

Luckily, the lovely Oklahoma wind was at its best, so that, coupled with the July humidity, meant my hair looked oh so cute and bouncy. (And by cute I mean horribly ugly and by bouncy I mean crazy witch hair.) At least I had a valid excuse to wear a short skirt.

I soon found out that this boy was even more adorable when trying to swing a racket. So we hit it back and forth, and I did my best to resist the urge to impress him with my amazing tennis skills by blazing the ball past him every time. I only hit him once, and it was mostly his fault because he didn't get out of the way fast enough.

It was past 11:30 p.m. by the time we quit, and I couldn't believe we'd been out there that long. We made promises to hang out again, and soon. After being so nervous to hang out with him alone, the night had gone better than I could have hoped! Of course, when I got home and realized my hair looked like bees had had a fight in my ponytail, I questioned his sanity for wanting to see me again. Nonetheless, I couldn't stop thinking about him.

Fast forward a month of hanging out twice a week (mostly to play tennis on Wednesdays and eat lunch together on Sunday afternoons), and I had a full-on crush. The kind where people you both know notice and whisper and point when you're not around, speculating about whether or not the two of you are a couple.

I'd gotten a gift card the previous week and realized it was the perfect opportunity to have dinner with him without it appearing like a "real" date. I debated all day whether or not to call him. Forget it. I'll just go to Chili's by myself. I can be one of those people who eats at a restaurant alone. No, said my wilder, braver self. You're doing it. Just call him. Don't be lame.

I picked up my phone and slid the screen up. Found his name in my contacts list. Held my finger over the send button.

Nope, can't do it.
Yes, you can.

I picked up my phone and slid the screen up. Found his name in my contacts list. Held my finger over the-- What? Who's calling me?

"Hey, it's me," he said.
It's him?!
Oh hey." Be cool. Just be cool. "What's up?"
"Well, I was just wondering... I mean... I just wanted to ask... What are you doing this Friday?"
AHHHHHHH! Just. Be. Cool.
"Oh, nothing," I responded, thankful he couldn't see my face.
"Well, would you like to go on a date with me?"
"Sure. I'd love to. Actually, it's funny you called," I said. Since he'd mustered up the guts, I could too. "What are you doing tonight? Because I've got a Chili's gift card, and I was just about to call you and see if you wanted to have dinner with me."
"I'm paying for you too," I added, in case he needed an incentive.
"Oh yeah? Well, sure. That sounds like fun."
"It'll be like a trial date," I said. "If it doesn't go well tonight, we don't have to go out on Friday."
"Haha. Okay. How 'bout I pick you up around seven?"

And that's how it started, nine months and fifteen days ago. Chili's. First "unofficial" date. Nervous. Red face.

Since then, there have awkward silences, admission of nerdy hobbies, strange conversations, disagreements, and bad attitudes. But there have also been jokes and laughter, flirting, kisses, cheesy moments, and, oh yeah, love. It wasn't something I planned on. Certainly nothing I ever thought would happen to me, especially with him. It grew slowly over late-night tennis and walks in the park. That sounds cliche, but we really did take walks in the park.

Then one day, as we were driving (probably to Walmart to pick up supplies for dinner), I looked to my left and saw this boy; and I realized I cared about him more than I'd ever cared about a boy. He was sweet and funny, considerate, respectful, oh so cute, athletic, smart, and interesting. Oh, and did I mention a Southern accent? And dimples?

And suddenly I knew.

It was that love thing I'd heard about but never understood. I don't think I had a glow. I definitely know there wasn't skipping; a string quartet didn't start following me around playing romantic music, although that would have been fun. No, it was just a feeling of comfort, peace, joy. I could be myself with no worries of rejection. I still liked him when he was being sassy or grouchy, and he was nice to me when I got so mad after losing a game of Scrabble I threw a grown-up tantrum and refused to speak to him. I was sad when he had a bad day and wanted to do all I could to help make it better. Everywhere I went, I saw something that reminded me of him. I wanted to buy him things and tell him funny stories and make him smile. Anything to see those dimples. It wasn't all about me and what I wanted; over time, it became about us. And love. And the occasional Chili's date.

My friends don't have to wonder about whether or not we're a couple anymore. There's no whispering or secretive winking. After nine months, we're old news. But this love thing? I don't think it'll ever get old. I just know.
Hannah said...

Funny, I was just going to ask you about the beginning. I love your description of checkouts! I do the same thing!

MTroupe said...

Amanda... I love that you started a blog! Your writing is amazing and I love that I can keep updated on your life! I miss you oh so much!

Sarah said...

LOVE IT. Keep writing! As someone who grades the writing of others, I can tell you that you have great voice! :)

P.S. I'm so happy for you and your boy! I fully expect your story to become a romantic comedy some day, so make sure you take good notes on all the wacky things that happen to you two! And yes, I think Jennifer Aniston would be perfect for your character. :P

Jess said...


#1 - I loved reading this not only because of how cute it is, but because I think you're a really great writer! Not to say that I'm one myself...I just really liked it. I'll be reading your posts again. :)

#2 - This made me teary! It's absolutely adorable and sweet and perfect and I'm so happy for you. You better BRING THAT BOY OVER now that Lost is finished!!

#3 - I'm glad that I'm not the only one who throws "grown-up tantrums". ;)

And, #4 - You are beautiful! Totally one of those intimidating girls. Just so you know.

Amanda said...

Hannah: So glad I'm not alone :)

Troupe: I'm sad the phone convo thing hasn't worked out, but I think about you lots and miss your beautiful face! I hope wedding planning is going well!

Sarah: Glad you think I can write better than high schoolers! Haha. No, but seriously. There have been a ton of awkward moments, so maybe I'll write about one of them sometime. I love your gchat statuses btw. They always make me laugh.

Jess: I love reading your blog, and I'm glad you liked this post. Hopefully I can keep you entertained again. Maybe some Tuesday we can have a movie night, and I'll bring Jordan over!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love your writing. You're the kind of author I seek to remind me to laugh when I read.

[I always remember to laugh while I live.]

Congratulations to you both.

Niken said...

i love this story!
you wrote it so beautifully.

From Foothills to Fog said...

I love reading this! I am exactly the same way and get shy and nervous around cute boys! (And intimidated by pretty girls)...I love the stories of you planning tennis together too! I'm so glad you shared this link with me.

Amber Marie said...

Reading your love story posts like a dang novel!

Renee said...

And I'm back....just stalking, I mean loving, you even more!!! :)

Alicia | Jaybird: Home in Motion said...

I'm so glad I found this post through your recent anniversary post! This is adorable...all of it. Reading your love story posts puts a smile on my face.