“You seem to believe that a man will drop out of the sky right in front of you,” my then-therapist said to me when I was 29.
As usual, I had been lamenting my lack of a relationship while listing all the reasons I could never actually try to meet someone. A personal ad (the Dark Ages equivalent of Match.com) was out of the question: I might as well put out a sign soliciting ax murderers. Going on a Sierra Singles hike would probably sidestep that problem by providing safety in numbers. But that, too, I argued, was only for desperate and pathetic people. I was feeling desperate and pathetic enough without advertising it. Besides, why spend the day with a bunch of other losers?
Still, my therapist had a point. My friend Mary conspired with her by buying me a Sierra Singles membership. So I was stuck.
“At least I’ll have a nice hike,” I rationalized as I reluctantly laced up my boots.
I did have a nice hike. So I went back, making sure to choose long, arduous hikes instead of champagne sunset strolls. I figured that’s where the men would be.
My third Sierra Singles hike was a 15-miler in Marin County, up Pine Mountain and down to Kent Lake and back. As we all milled around the carpool point in Oakland engaging in the usual getting-to-know-you exchanges, where we’d gone to school came up.
“Oh,” some cute-enough guy asked. “Do you know so-and-so?”
As it happened, I knew so-and-so extremely well; I’d had a crush on him for years, but my college roommate landed him instead. The carpool guy had grown up with so-and-so.
Small-world chit-chat developed into 15 miles of walking and talking about everything—Prairie Home Companion; how the subject matter didn’t matter when the writing was great (c.f. Roger Angell and baseball in The New Yorker); his sister, who homeschooled her kids and was, like me, a Virginia Woolf devotee.
After the hike, everyone crammed into Red Boy Pizza in Fairfax for beer and pizza. Before we parted, Jonathan asked for my phone number (he’d had few opportunities to collect any woman’s number on previous hikes, as he was not clever enough to improve his odds by going on the champagne strolls).
“I think I’ve met the man I’m going to marry!” I crowed to my mother when we spoke the next day by telephone.
“You say that about everyone you meet,” my mother replied.
Fair enough. But like a stopped clock that’s accurate twice a day, this prophecy proved true.
Today is our 31st anniversary of meeting. That auspicious day led to 29 years (and counting!) of marriage, two daughters, and an abiding appreciation for therapy’s art of gentle challenge. At the rehearsal dinner before our wedding, Jonathan’s father urged everyone to donate to the Sierra Club. This weekend we recreated our Pine Mountain hike (we’re still 15-milers at age 60, though we’ve let our Sierra Club membership lapse).
It’s a lot to celebrate, but today’s ritual is my favorite: As we do every June 2, tonight we’ll devour pepperoni and green pepper pizza from Red Boy in Fairfax, clinking our beers together in honor of all the years gone by, and all those still to come.
Have you ever had to overcome your resistance to working at finding love? How did you meet your sweetie?