Here's the second part of our stories about how we met our husbands. Find the first part here.
In the weeks leading up to the Disney trip, I thought about canceling several times. I didn’t know three of the people going, and the two I did know (Mary + her fiancé Cody) were little more than friendly acquaintances. When Mary first asked me to go, she said that they needed a minimum of six people to get the best rate for the trip, and she implied that a couple of people had already canceled. I would be number six. I could tell I was kind of a last resort. Mary also told me that the three people I didn’t know were a priest, another nurse, and a guy friend of Cody’s.
On the morning we left for Disney, we met at Mary’s house. I was introduced to the other nurse (my future soul mate/bridesmaid/girl pal Patrice) and the formidable-looking priest (the future celebrant of my wedding and baptizer of my child). As I sat chatting with my fellow travelers, I low-key wondered about this guy friend of Cody’s. He had gone with Cody to pick up some things for the trip, but I thought he was late and was both silently judging him for that and wondering if he was cute. My ears perked up at the sound of an unfamiliar male voice, and I turned around.
A guy with blond curly hair and sunglasses was looking in my direction. He quickly looked away, walked out of the house, and started loading the car. As we all packed our belongings into the trunk and discussed the driving shifts, things started getting awkward. Was someone going to introduce me to this guy? Why hadn’t he introduced himself? I’m a pretty committed introvert, but I couldn’t take it any more. I turned toward the guy, stuck out my hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Genevieve.”
“Dalton,” the guy replied. Everyone got in the car, and we started driving.
After a rest stop at a Wendy’s on the road, everyone switched seats. There was a copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce sitting on my new seat. “Whose is this?” I asked. “This is a great book.” Dalton’s deep voice answered from the front. “Mine.”
Later, I realized that I was going to need to fuel my caffeine addiction by walking over to the food court for coffee before we went to the parks for the day. I wondered if I’d be walking alone. “Where my coffee drinkers at?” I asked the people of the van. “Me,” said exactly one person. Dalton.
I knew right then that I was in trouble.
I should say here that if you haven’t yet read the first post in this series, you should know that I was pretty eager to meet my future husband. I had joined Catholic Match, okay? But my time living alone in Monroe was beginning to clarify a lot of the mistakes I had made thus far with dating. For one thing, I had had two consecutive relationships that were over three years long. Interspersed here and there were some other romantic flings and unhealthy attachments. It was becoming evident that I committed to relationships way before I realized how wrong they were for me. I thought that I was dating with the intent to marry, but the reality is that I was becoming too serious too soon. Lots of alone time, prayer, and reflection were making this apparent.
Anyway, this guy- despite his C.S. Lewis book and his coffee habit- was not going to become just another person I was interested in just because he was there. “This is MY trip,” I reminded myself. “I’m just going to have fun, not stress, and eat lots of Mickey Premium bars. That is the purpose of this trip.” After about thirteen hours in the car, we checked in to our All Star hotel (three females in one room, three males the adjoining room) and went to sleep.
On our first day, we went to Hollywood Studios (also know as MGM for those of us resistant to Disney change.) We ate at Pizza Planet for lunch. Dalton ordered first and went to save a table for the group. I was the second to arrive, and we sat quietly as we waited for everyone else.
“What cupcake did you get?”
Despite our lack of conversation, I began to feel strangely at ease with this laconic person. He seemed easygoing and funny, and his kind, understated way of being made me feel comfortable.
Since we had a priest with us on the trip, we were all terribly spoiled with daily Mass. On the second night, we had Adoration. After a minute or two of feeling self-conscious about praying with these people I barely knew, I was able to enter deeply into prayer. For no reason whatever, that night I decided that I needed to let go of any ties I still had to any previous romantic entanglements. I had never done this before, but it somehow seemed like the right thing to do. I started with my earliest kindergarten crush and worked all the way up to present day. As I thought of each person, I prayed for him, and I gave any residual emotion or attachment over to God. The last person I prayed for was Dalton. “Lord,” I prayed, “I just met this guy, and I already have a crush on him. This is utterly ridiculous, and I don’t need this right now. I only need you.” After Adoration, I felt peaceful, free, and tired.
The trip was way more fun than I imagined it would be. We were chosen to be in a parade in Animal Kingdom, and since we got to wear huge hats with Mickey ears, I felt pretty anonymous and had a great time. We took advantage of Extra Magic Hours, ate Mickey Premium bars, and even had lunch at Be Our Guest- the first time I’d gotten to eat there. I was really missing my family on our Epcot day. Epcot, particularly the World Showcase, is our favorite place in Disney World, and the group was kind of speeding through it. They decided to stop for lunch in Japan, and I told them that I was going to go ahead alone to Morocco. Morocco is my dad’s favorite lunch place in Epcot, so I ordered his usual and sat by myself at a table to watch people walk by.
By the time I met up with the group in France, something had changed. Maybe it was the brief time away, but I can’t explain this part except to say that as we walked into the United Kingdom, I felt totally at home next to Dalton. The air between us seemed warm, electrified, and I was aware of him constantly. I liked him, against my better judgment, and even though I wasn’t interested in any kind of commitment with him or anyone else, it was fun to have a crush again- besides, I had prayed about it, so of course everything was going to be fine and it’s not like we were going to date and he probably didn't even like me and-
Yeah, clearly I was in a very peaceful frame of mind about everything.
When you travel in a group of six to Disney World, there are lots of seating combinations for the various types of rides. When you travel in a group of six to Disney World and you have a crush on one of the people in your party, there is only one seating combination that matters. Dalton and I sat next to each other on exactly one ride- Thunder Mountain Railroad. The rollercoaster kept throwing my body into his, and each time, I would surreptitiously slide myself back over. This was exactly as uncomfortable and thrilling as it sounds.
One night, we were having dinner at Pinocchio’s Village Haus and I pointed out the waiter to Patrice. “He’s cute,” I said offhandedly. Patrice then announced this to the whole table. I felt myself melting into a puddle of redfaced shame as Mary called the waiter over. “Hey, would you mind taking our picture?” The unsuspecting waiter took our picture. Mary looked at me devilishly and began to say to the guy, “Hey, what’s your name? She thinks you’re-”
I ran out of the restaurant. The waiter’s name was Patrick.
Later, Mary asked me if I really thought Patrick was cute. “He’s okay,” I said slowly. “Why do you ask?” “Oh you know, I just thought maybe you might think other people were cute.” Of course, I knew exactly what she was getting at, but I played dumb. “You mean Patrice? I love Patrice. She’s the cutest.” (She is.) Mary looked slightly disappointed, but she didn’t push the issue.
One night, we went to Downtown Disney (Disney Springs) and had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. We ordered a bottle of wine for the table. The waitress came around to check everyone’s ID. When she got to Dalton, he shook his head and smiled at her, but he didn’t take out his ID. “Oh yeah,” Cody said to Dalton, “when are you legal?” This is how I found out that Dalton was twenty. I was twenty-five. Dealbreaker! I was disappointed and relieved. This guy definitely would have been filtered out of my Catholic Match search. I felt myself relax. The pressure was off, and we could just be friends.
I should clarify here that while Dalton was perfectly friendly, he had given me no indication that he liked me in any particular way. My tendency to jump straight into romantic fantasies with unsuspecting men was exactly the reason that my Adoration prayer was so meaningful and so necessary.
Since Dalton and I were the only two people on the trip who drank coffee, we walked over to the food court alone before going out to the parks with everyone else. One morning, after making small talk while pouring the coffee, I looked at him and said impulsively, “You’re a good human being.” It was a very out-of-character move for my normally introverted self, but I had been thinking it for a while, and I just had to say it. He looked surprised and embarrassed, but pleased. That was probably the most meaningful exchange we had the entire trip.
When the trip was over, we drove home. Dalton and I sat next to each other in the van, and we finally had an actual conversation, one that lasted almost the whole way home. We talked about music (we were both fans of Passenger and Ed Sheeran BEFORE THEY WERE COOL, OKAY?), books, school, Star Wars, our families. It seemed like we had enough in common to bond us, and enough difference to intrigue each other. We didn't offer to switch seats at rest stops this time. The hours flew by.
Once we were back in New Orleans, the group had one final goodbye meal at, of all places, a CiCi’s Pizza. We said our goodbyes in the parking lot, and I saved Dalton for last. He hugged me, then we looked at each other, and he said, “Nice to meet you.” I stood there for another moment, expectantly, but he didn’t ask for my phone number. He got into his red truck and drove away.
I left off talking about how I felt pretty sure as a senior in high school that I was called to religious life. But there was someone at the same time who was interested in pursuing a relationship with me, so I was also exploring that option, which meant I was obviously not 100% opposed to marriage, even though I told basically everyone that I was.
What was good about this relationship was that it showed me that marriage can be holy. It didn’t end up working out between the two of us, but I still feel very grateful to him for his thoughtfulness and prayer throughout our relationship, which lasted for about a year and a half (we ended things at the end of my second year of college).
Fast forward to January 2014. A few months prior, I had broken up with another boyfriend of close to two years. I was still kind of getting over this breakup, so I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of going to Catholic Singles Night (actually known as Christ in the City) in New Orleans. Christ in the City is basically a night of adoration followed by drinks at a local bar. As Jonathan likes to put it, it’s two very Catholic things: Adoration and drinking (in moderation, duh.) Anyway, I hadn’t really been to many social events over the months after I had gone through that more recent breakup, so the idea of going to an event where there were thirsty men on the prowl was not appealing to me. There was also the risk of running into my ex, which again, did not appeal to me at all. But I had just made a new friend named Josh who lived nearby and who wanted to go, so I decided I’d go with him and convince him to leave early so that we could just get in and get out, and I could at least get my feet wet in the social game again.
And that’s basically what we did. We prayed, and then we all walked over to the bar and had drinks. I saw some old friends, met some new ones, and finally started to feel like myself again. I thought to myself, “Maybe I can go to more things like this. Maybe it’s actually good for me to get out of the house and meet new people.” As it approached nine o’clock, I told Josh I wanted to head home (basically quit while I was still ahead and the night was going well). As I was opening the door of the bar to leave, a guy dressed in a blue oxford shirt, wool J. Crew coat, and round tortoise-shell glasses stopped me. “Hi,” he said. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
My thoughts at this moment went something like this: “Crap, I almost made it out of here unscathed.” “Wait, he’s kind of cute.” “Ughh I’ve got to go to bed so I can wake up early and finish my lesson plans.” “Well Josh is nowhere to be found so I may as well talk to this guy.” “Man, he is pretty cute.”
He introduced himself and asked for my name. Once he told me his name, I realized I knew of him already. His brother was one of my favorite priests in the area, and his dad was the editor of the Catholic newspaper in New Orleans. Then I remembered that a friend of mine had mentioned she was interested in him because someone told her he was going to be a doctor, he was a great dancer, and he was lots of fun. So at this point this was all I knew about him, plus the few things he was telling me about his state in life (third year med school, deciding what branch of medicine he would go into). We made normal small talk, but I noticed he wasn’t looking around as I was responding to his questions, as though there was something or someone else in the room he was interested in. He wasn’t just making small talk to be nice. His gaze was on me, and he genuinely seemed to care about the answers I gave to his questions.
I went home not thinking anything of it. After all, this was my first social outing in a while, and I knew I needed months, probably years before I was ready to enter into a new relationship.
But then I kept going to these types of events. And Jonathan kept showing up. Not in a creepy, “HERE I AM, DID YOU MISS ME” kind of way, but in a “Oh yeah, there’s that Jonathan guy over there. Huh, he’s here. He’s actually lots of fun. And he looks good.”
I saw him the night before I left for a trip to visit one of my best friends who was doing missionary work in Belize. It was at a Mardi Gras parade where the only riders are women (which is my least favorite type of parade because I never catch anything), and the prized throw is a decorated shoe with the name of the parade (Muses) on it. There were some guys in our group being utterly obnoxious, getting in the way of people and pushing girls out of the way to catch shoes. When Jonathan saw me and that my sister and I were there waiting patiently (and getting pushed out of the way) for a shoe, he decided to make it his task to catch a shoe for us. He was calling out to the ladies on the float, and he had me laughing so hard. He wasn’t being rude, he wasn’t making it all about him. He was determined to catch a shoe so he could give it to us, but he wasn’t pushing people to get one. When a troop of dancing Michael Jacksons passed in the street, we both started dancing like fools in the street with them.
That’s when I realized, “Oh crap. Oh crap. No. I cannot start liking him. It’s too soon, and this is not what I’m looking for.” I remember telling Gen that night after the parade, “You know, Jonathan seems really nice, and I’d have a crush on him if he weren’t the center of attention.” I didn’t want anyone who would forget about me in a crowd, and it seemed like that would be what I’d be getting myself into if I started to like him. Plus, I just wasn’t ready to think about that yet.
Well when I went to Belize, I experienced a great deal of healing. I felt like I was in a great place when I came back. I knew that the next time I entered into a relationship, I needed to stay true to myself if I was going to be happy. No more trying to make something work. If it was the right thing, I would know, and I would be free to be myself.
I saw Jonathan the night before I left for Belize and the night after I got back. Looking back on that, I realize how much this was not a coincidence. It was as though God was keeping him in my memories during the most breakthrough parts of my healing. When I returned from Belize, I felt lighter, more joyful, more energized. And when I had a conversation with Jonathan that night, I realized that maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I started to like someone again. Of course, I didn’t want to assume that Jonathan was interested. In fact, I thought he was interested in Gen that whole night. But surprisingly I wasn’t sad. I knew that whoever I was going to end up with would want me and only me; and for some reason I felt like I would receive this sooner than I expected. (Side note: About a year ago, I was reading old journal entries when I stumbled across one from right before I met Jonathan— it said something about how I felt like God was preparing me for something, but I didn’t know what yet. And I prayed that I’d be ready and would know when I encountered it.) (Other side note: Jonathan was interested in me. In fact, we were at a bar celebrating a mutual friend’s birthday, and Jonathan had his best friend Johnny show up pretending to have just “run into us” so that he could meet me. Apparently Jonathan told Johnny that night after I had left and they were sitting in Johnny’s truck that he was going to marry me. Johnny told him to slow down, but he said NOPE I AIN'T PLAYIN' basically.)
A few weeks after I returned from Belize, there was another young adult event in the archdiocese, after which many of us went to the local bowling alley (where Gen would eventually have her wedding reception) for a live band, drinks, and dancing. I ordered an Andygator (a stronger beer from a local brewery), which apparently really impressed Jonathan. (True confessions: I ordered it not because of how strong it is but because I liked how there was an alligator on the bottle — I'm a sucker for marketing.)
This night was BANANAS. It was the night Jonathan asked me for my phone number. Some of his friends were getting together the next day for a St. Patrick’s Day parade, he had just told the person next to me about it, and he wanted to include me in the loop (I thought he was just being sweet and extending the invite to me because I was awkwardly standing there—come to find out, he planned that number swiping business all along; HE’S SO FRICKEN SMOOTH). That night two people other than Jonathan asked me on dates. I think one of them was just drunk, but the other guy got my phone number too. He kept asking me to dance, and after the third dance in a row, I realized that he was a little clingy and started to panic. Then, like the smooth hot stuff boss that he is, Jonathan swept in and saved me by asking to cut in. (This is the part of the romantic comedy when your stomach turns and you get all fuzzy inside.)
At that moment, I was done. I knew there was no turning back, and I was hooked. I hated that it happened so fast and that it was with someone I told myself I couldn’t be attracted to, because everyone was attracted to him. And he was always this nice with everyone. I told my friends who were with me that night (one of them was Patrice, actually!) that I was attracted to him but not to tell anyone, because I didn’t want to be one of the many “Jonathan groupies” out there. I was going to lay low, be myself, try to be cool, and just have fun.
Some friends met us for food at Camellia Grill, a 24 hour diner with incredible milkshakes and even better service. We stayed out until about two thirty in the morning, and on our walk back to our cars, Jonathan and I strode side by side. In our late night delirium, we talked about our favorite music, and he sang Louis Armstrong to me in his best Satchmo impression. I don't need to hide it now (since I snagged him) that I had jittery shivers and a few heart palpitations when I heard him singing. I went home that night on cloud nine, not overanalyzing, not planning for the future, but just enjoying the gift I had been given and reveling in the idea that three different people, one of whom I cared significantly about, thought I was attractive that night. It was what I needed to realize that I still had it. And I was about to get myself back in this game.