Sunday, February 3, 2008

My Jeffrey

Some friends were in town with their daughter the other weekend and as we were wandering Alberta Street looking in shops when the conversation inevitably went to why I was still single. "We need to find you your Jeffrey," my friend said.

Of course she was referring to Jeffrey, The Barefoot Contessa's husband, and no one we actually know. I love The Barefoot Contessa and her recipes, but some of my favorite times on her show are when she's driving around with Jeffrey, packing them a picnic or meeting him on the beach for a walk. This weekend showed the couple celebrating their 39th wedding. 39 years! It occurred to me that Ina and Jeffrey were not 75 years old, but probably in their late 50's or early 60's and that they had been married YOUNG. It didn't help prior to that that I had watched Downhome with the Neely's, a new show on Food Network, where the starring couple met when they were 15!

I think of what I was doing at 15 ... or in my late teens and early twenties and how NOT ready for marriage I was. At 15 I was drinking Jungle Juice on the weekends at parties I had no business being at and dancing to Bob Marley's Legend album. My late teens and early twenties I was in college and while I had more business drinking jungle juice, by then I had switched to Zima's and pitchers of beer on campus or at the local pizza place. There were guys during that span of time, sure, but any of them my Jeffrey? Would they really have appreciated multi course dinner parties, picnics in Paris and a roast chicken every Friday night? Yeah, I don't think so either.

It seems less like I dated guys and more that I dated stereotypes--the skateboarder/potsmoker, the bad boy, the football player, the baseball player, the writer, the gang member, the smart slacker. Each one was fun for the time but any of them marriage material? Certainly not at that point. But there was one guy ... Ryan ... that may have had it ...

Ryan sat behind me in math class my junior year in high school. I don't think I noticed him once. He used to stay up and watch late night TV and barely make it to class in the morning, I used to focus on applying lipgloss in an even layer while looking in a tiny Cover Girl mirror. I finally noticed him our senior year in high school. I had taken a speech and debate class and for extra credit could go watch a speech and debate tournament ... and get out of my afternoon classes. Sign me up! Ryan somehow had also joined the debate team, despite never talking, and was in the aforementioned tournament. I ended up watching his debate.

Ryan was tall, thin, dressed in a suit with short red hair--not your typical high school senior. He was also very pale, not your typical San Diegan. This was going to be bad. I could tell. How could he debate when I wasn't sure he could even speak? The affirming side took their stance, she led off with a confident speech for a few minutes and then turned the mike over to Ryan. I was already embarassed for him and could feel my stomach getting tighter.

He calmly took the mike, addressed his opponent and the judges, and launched into the opposing side. I had no idea what to do except stare and try and keep my mouth shut. Out of this tall boy came the voice of a man--deep, confident, strong. This supposedly meek high school geek turned into an aggressive orator. I was sucked in. We started hanging out all the time. I even (gasp) joined the speech and debate team so I could be near him and go to tournaments together on the weekends.
We talked every night on the phone until the wee hours of the morning, hung out on the weekends and smiled at each other between classes. BUT WE NEVER EVEN KISSED.

Between his nerves and my inability to make the first move--we always hovered that line between friends and becoming more. Later on we would talk about how strange it was that we never got together--but by that time he had a girlfriend and I was busy flirting with the idea of college guys. A couple years later I would see him one weekend in Berkeley and I heard through the grapevine that he went to Georgetown for law school and then moved to L.A. I'm sure he is married and has all kinds of smart kids and a brilliant wife. But! He doesn't know that he still holds the title to what probably was my best date.

Just outside of San Diego is a little community called Julian known for their apple pie. Ryan picked me up early one morning so we could go. I had spied a book in a bookstore in Julian that I wanted and he offered to drive me (an hour away) to get it. I just assumed we'd run up, grab the book and head home. But while there he asked if I wanted to walk around a bit, and then grab some lunch ... and then on our way home if I wanted to come hang out at his house for a while ... and then while at his house, if I wanted to catch a movie that night. Here was this sweet guy who drove me home so I could take a shower and change my clothes only so he could come and pick me up to take me to dinner and a movie. We started the day early in the morning and ended it late at night. Sure a kiss could have been the icing on the cake but at that time in my little life, the thought that a smart, kind, well spoken, cute guy wanted to spend an entire day with me and couldn't say goodbye has been in the back of my mind on a lot of dates.

So maybe my Jeffrey he wasn't, but future Jeffrey if you're reading this ... yes, a picnic in Paris would be great, but sometimes a girl just needs to know you don't want to let her go. Oh yeah, and make sure to kiss her, would ya?