I spent my senior year of high school skipping class to go body surfing with a red-headed rodeo boy who worked at the gym where I taught swimming lessons. I had other boyfriends too, but I could never decide on which one to keep. Then I went to Germany and met a boy with long hair who rock climbed and had just finished a cycling tour of most of northern Europe. I fell in love, and spent a year with him there.
We had a lot of fun: I learned to rock climb, and road ride with him. We traveled a lot. But somehow we never could really talk---in spite of the fact that he was a dual German-US citizen and could speak English fluently. In fact, our communication, or lack of it had less to do with language and more to do with the fact that we didn't have the same starting point. There was no overlap between us, so we were always hearing different things.
I read James Joyce and Jane Austin at the local library. He hated to read. I used words like etymology, nomenclature, and quintessential, and he'd give me blank looks, until I paraphrased. I was planning to go to college. He was planning not to. I wanted to have romance, he wanted to have sex.
Eventually I went to college and he kept rock climbing. I had a bunch of other men in my life then, some were sort of boyfriends, some just bed friends. And I spent a lot of money on phone calls. We tried to grow towards each other, to clarify things, to articulate something about the way our hearts moved, but everything we said clashed, and when he moved to the states I kept wanting him to read the damn poetry I wrote for him, and to respond. And he kept kicking my ass mountain biking and would leave me crying on trails I couldn't ride.
So I rode Canada with a bunch of girls, from Massachusetts. And several hundred miles of road later, after swimming in Canadian lakes and fixing my own derailleur, I decided I didn't need a man.
Then I met my husband. He was a total biking dork, who said he had his life all figured out. The first words I said to him were "nice bike," the mountain biker's equivalent of the "you had me at hello."
We went downhill mountain biking the day after we met, and had an fantastic time: he let me ride his bike, and waited for me when I couldn't keep up without making me feel small, and he rode my bike, and broke my wheel. But mostly, we talked. And we talked. And we listened. And we understood. And for the first time ever, I felt I'd found a man who wanted to share with me more than just his own ego, and who wanted to hear more than just 'I love you.' Which is what I told him two months later.
He was the first man, and the only man to whom I've ever said those words first. And so I married him.
Next week is his birthday. It will be the seventh birthday I will have spent with him, and I still can't shake the feeling that I've hit the jack pot big time. We play together, run together, ride together and fight together. And when we talk together, we hear each other. We speak the same language, use the same metaphors. Which isn't to say, communication is effortless, because it isn't. There are plenty of days when our words tangle and the meaning is lost. But when we're both trying, our words give our love wings. And that's a damn fine thing.