Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Horse Wins a Race, A Guy Wins My Heart

I am 35 years old and I have only been someone’s girlfriend twice in my life.

The first time was in 1998. I was a senior in high school and dating Dave, an absolute sweetheart. I lost my virginity to him the summer before we went away to college. We stayed together until Spring Break of freshman year when the distance between our universities just made things too hard.

The second time was in 2005. I remember the moment when we addressed it. Max and I were driving to a professional basketball game after dating for a couple of months. Because I loathe uncertainty, I had to ask, “If someone asked me if I had a boyfriend, I should say ‘yes,’ right?” I chose to ask this while driving over the George Washington Bridge, just to ensure all of my anxiety levels were as high as possible. He looked at me like I had just asked him his name. “I sure hope you would say ‘yes!’” he answered. And that was that. 

If I ever want these, please smack me.
(Three years later, he asked me to marry him, and four years after that I would ask him to divorce me.)

A decade since that moment in the car with my ex-husband (and three years since my marriage died), Rick expressed that he wanted me to be his girlfriend. Whoah.

Unlike with Jason, when I wanted no part of being his girlfriend or any else’s, I actually like Rick too. We have been spending as much time together as we can since we met in the end of April and it’s been great.

When Rick brought up the G-word, I got skittish because that’s what I do. Yes, I’ve been hoping to find a relationship again for awhile now, but I’m one of those people who is perpetually single.

I really like being single. I’m good at it. I know what to expect. I know how to take care of me.

But I also know how wonderful it can be to be in a healthy, balanced relationship. Sure, it’s been long time since I had one of those, but I do remember the early days with Dave and with Max – the cuddling, the handholding, the first birthday spent together, the first road trip. And of course, the joy of sex with someone you really care about.

I told Rick I wasn’t quite ready for the labels yet, but I was getting there. 

I wasn’t seeing anyone else and I found myself thinking about him an awful lot. I felt excited about the possibility of… something… with him. Fortunately, Rick has been wonderfully patient with me every step of the way. He told me that he understood and that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Things changed a couple of days later at Belmont Stakes, the famous horse races.

American Pharaoh Wins the Triple Crown, Rick Wins My Heart

Rick had invited me to join him for the big event. He and his friends are into the racing and betting. Me, on the other hand, well I was tagging along for an excuse to day drink. Oh, and to meet his friends, of course!

I knew absolutely nothing about Belmont or horseracing, which made the day even more exciting for me. We rode two different trains to get out to Belmont Park on Long Island, just outside New York City. When we arrived, I was just in awe.

The facility was huge but still charming, with all kinds of seating both indoors and out. (We were in the Backyard, AKA the cheap seats.) Something about the park felt like a throwback, as if I were in a Disney movie like Mary Poppins. The people watching was incredible! The outfits were Vineyard Vines meets Kentucky Derby. To put it in perspective, there were men wearing seersucker suits and women wearing those huge hats like Kate Middleton wears. The crowd consisted of everything from the super wealthy to the hard up gambling addicts. The energy was palpable as we got closer to American Pharaoh’s shot at winning the Triple Crown.

Given that Rick actually understood what was going on, you would think it would be sort of annoying to be at such a big race with someone as clueless as me. But nope! He proudly introduced me to his two best friends from growing up. As we wandered the grounds, he explained the races and the betting (which was totally intimidating and confusing, hence my gambling all of about $25) so that I might appreciate the madness. And the entire time, Rick held my hand.

I had never seen or done anything like the Belmont Stakes, and I was experiencing it with a kind, loving man who thinks the world of me. How lucky was I?

It was a hell of a day! Even I understood that American Pharaoh’s win was a big deal.  

(Confession: I didn’t get out of my chair to watch that race because I was busy eating a soft pretzel with mustard. I didn’t want all that perfectly good rock salt falling on the ground. My love affair with carbs wins again.)

Much later that night, tired from alcohol and snacks and sun, Rick and I strolled from Penn Station to Grand Central. Hand in hand, I found us talking about my terribly conflicted feelings about motherhood. I won’t share the details of that very personal conversation, but I knew in that moment that things had changed for me. Rick wasn’t just another guy I was dating. This man actually meant something to me. 

It was a big day for a horse, and a big day for this divorcee. 

The next morning, while we laid in bed chatting about nothing in particular with our arms wrapped around each other, Rick paused.

“You are my girlfriend, right?” he asked.
There was only one thing for me to say.


When was the last time that you realized you were in a new relationship?

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