(Me and the Missus at my High School graduation in 2000. I was as awkward as you’d expect me to be at 18, and the Missus was looking unbelievably hot in her Band uniform.)
Today, me and the Missus celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. Allow me to reflect upon this in the nostalgic, personal and hilarious manner you have grown to expect and appreciate from Wisconsin author, blogger and humorist, Ryan J. Zeinert.
The very first time I became aware of the Missus’ existence was when I was a Junior in High School. The Missus had an older brother named Tyler that I always found intriguing and intimidating, and we shared a Business Enterprise class during his Senior year. Tyler was a pretty hardcore punk; he wore the same hoodie covered with patches every day, screamed his guts out in a local metal band and appeared as if he was constantly high (he was). This always interested me, and I was perpetually looking for ways to talk to the guy; to infiltrate his world. Now that he’s my brother-in-law, he’s no more than a really nice guy I see from time to time that is endlessly interested in the Civil War and has a fear of loud noises and balloons. Funny how things turn out.
Anyway, I remember one day in the Business Enterprise class, while working on the latest copy of the School Newspaper, our principal barked over the P.A. with a list of people that needed to come to the Front Office. One of the names was one that I had never heard before, but her last name was the same as Tyler’s. “Could it be that Tyler has a sister?” I thought to myself. “And how fast can I make it up to the Front Office to confirm this theory?“
As it turned out, Tyler did have a younger sister; a Freshman named Celia that I had somehow never noticed until the day her name was announced to me over that loudspeaker. I immediately needed to get this girl into my life somehow, and the whole thing started rather creepily, if I may say so myself. A friend of mine gave me a photo of Celia, which I hung in my locker before even speaking to her. There’s a great song by a Milwaukee band called The Benjamins which contains the lyric: “I’ve got a picture of you that you didn’t give me. Be careful.” I didn’t really understand the emotional worth of that line until I became a living example of it. Chances are that I was going to push Celia away before even saying hello to her, which was my style at the time.
The first time I laid eyes on her, I knew that I was instantly in trouble. She was alluring as hell; her eyes sparkled with rebellion and intelligence, and her hoodie was also covered with patches, but for bands that I actually listened to. She seemed angry all the time, and was a National Honor Society member that loathed the distinction and shunned anything that brought attention to her accomplishments and 4.0 GPA. This girl was dangerous, and it was as if she fell out of the sky to complete me. Truth was, however, that this wasn’t the first time she had this effect on yours truly.
If you recall from my legendary essay, titled ‘The Homecoming Quadrilogy,’ you’ll remember a chapter titled ‘J. Crew & The Mystery Girl.’ To give you the short version of the chapter in question, there was a beautiful girl that I had never seen before at my Homecoming Dance, and while I spent over an hour attempting to muster up the courage to ask her to dance, I realized that she was actually there with her boyfriend, leaving me heartbroken and destined for loneliness until the rapture. The M. Night Shyamalan twist to this tale was that the mystery girl in question was the Missus, and I would eventually go on to see her naked and marry her. Staring at her photo every day in my locker failed to click the connection in my cloudy, 17 year old head, but meeting her in person made me realize that fate was seeing to it that we end up together.
Apart from worshipping Celia from afar, the first time we officially spoke was in the Summer of 1999. Me and my friends ran into her and her friends at a punk show in Oshkosh, and I truly became smitten with her. She was bright and funny, tentative and shy. Reserved with moments of wide-eyed astonishment. She was either very deep, or astoundingly bipolar; either way, I was going to find out. I invited her to a concert that my band was to be playing later that month, and when she showed up, I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. Only problem was, she still had a boyfriend; the very same Mr. J. Crew that ruined my night at the Homecoming dance.
We all know what it’s like to want someone that you can’t have. It’s a feeling that unites all of us in solidarity; the wretched, helpless, emotional longing and overtly-whiny pain that comes with wanting so badly to love and be loved in return. To combat this pain, you do what all teenagers (and adults) do when faced with such a cruel fate. You start acting really, really weird. You lock yourself in your room all day. You stop eating. Your poetry output increases by 400%. The Smiths suddenly become your favorite band, and you sit on your roof, shaking your fist into the night sky, wondering why God would put such a perfect human being in your life that you couldn’t touch. To this day, few feelings are more dense, affecting and crazy annoying.
That night, at my band’s concert, we did a cover of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case,’ and I invited Celia onstage to belt it out. As I sat behind the kit and watched her studded jacket sway in front of about 50 of the drunkest kids I have ever seen, I felt way worse than I should have. This sucked. I wanted her.
When the show was over, I slurred in her ear, “Do you believe in fate?” I honestly can’t remember how she answered, but it didn’t matter. I believed in fate, and that’s all that counted.
After the concert, I started to develop more of a speaking relationship with Celia. I became friends with her friends, we wrote letters and may have even exchanged a phone call or two. In retrospect, it’s clear that Celia liked me at this point, but she was smart enough to know that friendships are ruined by relationships, and besides, she had a boyfriend in another city that was older, handsomer and richer than me. I hadn’t a chance, so I stayed polite and remained the quirky background noise in her life.
To pass the time and dull the unbelievable pain this was causing me, I tried out other relationships that were almost instantly ruined by the obvious fact that I was hurting. I wanted to be with nobody but her, and it showed. My emo phase was at critical mass, only it was real, legitimate emotion (besides, the term ’emo’ was barely a blip on the radar at the time). The peak of this came while I was at a concert with Celia and her boyfriend, and I had to stand behind them for the majority of the evening and not puke all over the bar. Soul-crushing, this was.
Fortunately, the cards were in my favor, mainly because Celia’s boyfriend was an absolute prick with little-to-no redeeming social values. It was only a matter of time before he shot himself in the foot, and Celia took this opportunity to get out while the getting was good. She dropped the news on me while I visited her at the supermarket where she worked (which had the brilliantly original name of ‘Food Mart’).
MISSUS: “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I broke up with ____.”
CDP: “Oh wow, really? Gosh, I’m really sorry about that.”
(In reality, my stomach had gone ice cold, as I realized that nothing stood between us. It was scary as hell, and as someone who has never been dealt a fair hand, it almost made no sense.)
MISSUS: “It’s okay. I’m happy.”
CDP: “Let’s go out for dinner.”
To this day, Celia’s ex-boyfriend is one of only three guys whom I would pummel with my bare hands if I ever saw in person again (The other two will be revealed at a later date). You may think that this is due to a long-standing and completely unnecessary grudge I hold against him for keeping Celia away from me for so long. Truth is, it has to do with a verbal confrontation we had shortly before they broke up. I won’t get too far into it, but the guy didn’t take too kindly to his relationship fizzling out, and he did some things to the Missus that I see no need to forgive. Furthermore, it’s been a long time since I’ve hauled off and cracked someone that deserved it, and I think that my Homecoming story deserves a more heroic ending, even if it is nine years after the fact.
That night, me and Celia went out for a dinner at the best Italian restaurant I could afford with a $6 an hour job; Fazoli’s (say what you want, those breadsticks are incredible). We spent the next few hours getting to know each other beyond the music, preening, posturing and various other crap that kids do to maintain the image they want to present to others. It was that night that I became aware that me and Celia connected on a far deeper level than what bands we thought were cool. Sure, I had no idea that she would be doing my laundry a couple of years later, but I still thought it was a good talk.
We tried to stay cool about everything. We tried to pretend that we weren’t becoming a couple. We tried to act like all normal friends wrote ten letters a day to each other and drove to graveyards in the middle of nowhere just to talk. Truth was, we were hopelessly falling in love with each other, and it was so effortless that I felt as if it was almost too easy. The girl that I worshipped from afar, the girl that was always just a little bit out of reach, was now calling me. Writing me. Kissing me before classes and hanging my photo in her locker. It was too good to be true.
The next few months were the most romantic and memorable of my life, as me and Celia took our love to the streets and became inseparable in every way. Food tasted better. I could listen to pop radio without crying. We made fun of everyone and everything in our path. Nudity was commonplace, and the sky rained down gifts of forgiveness and acceptance onto my person.
The feeling of suddenly loving someone and being loved back is the most addictive and potent feeling in the world; it’s what married folks refer to as ‘The Spark.’ We all want to experience ‘The Spark’ non-stop, that’s how amazing of a feeling it is. Hell, marriages end because of people jonesing for ‘The Spark.’ For the time being, our Spark was cresting over us like the second wave of a DMT trip, and it was unlike few things I’ve experienced. We had built this dream together and were standing strong forever; nothing was going to stop us now.
But there were roadblocks.
For one, I had a lot of bad habits to shake off. The women I had previously dated allowed me to get away with such obnoxious habits as wearing bowling shirts, listening to Rap Metal, not reading books and generally being a douchebag. Celia, on the other side of the coin, was prone to bouts of craziness. Many a night, I would have to sit on the phone for hours and take barrage after barrage of accusations that, in retrospect, had almost nothing to do with my moral character. Mostly, they were just because I would forget to call or something.
Hmmm…maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.
I could imagine Celia’s late-night revelations, while sleeping on the floor of her constantly-messy bedroom. “My God, I’m dating a…..dude! A real-life, acne-speckled, Limp Bizkit-listening dude! I’m so much better than this! I’ve read The Catcher In The Rye 18 times! There’s a Screeching Weasel patch on my jacket! I saw the Descendents live when I was 12 years old! How could I have possibly ended up with this lowlife?“
Back at my house, I was having similar moments. “I should have known she’d be insane. I mean, look at her. She’s beautiful, she’s too smart for her own good and she sees through absolutely everyone. Nobody like that can stay uncrazy for long; it’s impossible. It’s only a matter of time before she stabs me to death with an Olive Fork, and I’ll deserve it for trying to hard to acquire her. Fate is a cruel bitch, and I had it coming.“
The fights we had during the first year of our relationship were some of the worst we’ve ever had. I punched walls. She broke antiques. I cried a little. She cried harder. The arguments were more so than any fight about money, work, time management or any other ‘adult’ problems we’ve faced since then. Teenage emotions cannot be reasoned with, and the superficial things we argued about in 2000 seemed worlds more important than the crap we shuffle around in 2008. That’s the way it always is; when adults tell you that you’ll look back on the things you worried so much about as a teen and get embarrassed, don’t listen to them, because at the time, they’re the most important things in the world. Hindsight is for losers; live in the present, and never feel bad about the things you hold dear, regardless of how big of a pansy it makes you look like.
Anyway, me and Celia had experienced our first year of courtship, which had taken us from the top, to the bottom, and back to the top as far as our love for each other went. I graduated from High School in June of 2000, and decided to do absolutely nothing with my life until she graduated in June of 2002. During that time, I worked at the Hardware Store and socked away enough cash for us to move to Madison and go to college. Who said I’m not responsible?
Well, I’ll be paying off the student loans until the end of time, but hey, we own a house, so suck it.
In the span of those two years (2000-2002), we had started a band and toured all over the state of Wisconsin. We released an album, experienced celebrity on the lowest of levels and got engaged. I began to realize that we were capable of taking on anything that stood before us, and I knew we were ready to take the next few steps into eternal adulthood: Living together, College and Marriage.
In 2002, we moved to Sun Prairie, and the rest is history, it would seem. As you’re well aware, I graduated college in 2004, launched the CDP in February of the same year and married the Missus that June. I also realize that I don’t have a single CDP essay about my time in college. Weird.
We’ve been married for four years, and we’ve been a couple for almost nine. I’m proud of this, and I’m proud of my wife. Never mind the fact that she buys me groceries and makes sure I don’t leave the house with grape jelly on my pants, but I’m proud of what she made me. If you, the CDP reader, find me the least bit interesting, alluring or worthy of sharing a beer with you, you can thank the Missus for whipping me into shape. In tune, the Missus can thank me for turning her into a more patient and logical soul, even though I still always have to help her calculate the tip everytime we go out to eat. We’re still working a few kinks out, it would seem.
I will spend the bulk of our anniversary in my garage, itemizing a ton of old clothes and pants that we’ve accumulated and subsequently discarded over that last decade. As I do this, I’m reminded of an episode of The Simpsons, where Marge and Homer spend their anniversary at the dump, looking for a new motor for their refrigerator. It makes me laugh, and as I look at the remnants of our past, comprised of faded shirts, CD’s, books and toys, I’ll do so with the comforting thought that I’m one of the luckiest guys that I know.
If you had asked me in 1999 where I’d be in ten years, I would have given you some dumbass answer that I actually believed was the truth. I would have told you that I’d be a sports broadcaster for ESPN, or perhaps still working at the hardware store, making six bucks an hour and living in my grandparent’s basement for eternity. In reality, I live in a big, new house with my wife of four years, and my non-intrusive office job gives me the financial security and free time necessary to pursue my ever-evolving career as a writer. None of this would exist without the Missus, and quite frankly, it can all go away forever as long as I still have her with me.
This essay was more than a little masturbatory and probably uninteresting to anyone who isn’t Celia, but screw it, this one’s just for her. Just consider yourself lucky that I don’t write stuff like this every day, because I totally could and I totally wouldn’t get sick of it.
Happy 4th Anniversary, Celia. I love you more than everything plus one.
Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.