(Part One )
There I was, eighteen years old and ready to do something with my life. I bought a house with my brother but then decided that I wanted to get some Bible schooling under my belt. I left him to take care of reselling the house and went to a year of Bible College. I spent most of my time studying and laughing, and watching the boys with interest. Even though my sister-in-law had started a poll before I left on what last name I would come home with (I think Swartzentruber had the most votes– followed by Yoder. In their defense, I WAS going to a tiny Mennonite college. The names made sense.), there didn’t seem to be anyone really interested.
Once again, I was the smart and lovable older sister. Eventually the day came when the guy I had been particularly watching asked me about one of my close friends. I looked him in the eye and told him to go for it. She was an incredible girl. If I had made it to the ripe-old age of 19 without a date, I figured I could make it a bit longer.
The truth was that not dating through high school, and even college, was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Even in the middle of it, I think I recognized the pros of that decision. Maybe it was different for me than it would have been for others– but I needed the distance. I was such a people-pleaser inside, still not completely confident in who God created me to be, the space gave me the time I needed to figure out my purpose. And the fact that I didn’t have to deal with a boy wanting to kiss me? Yeah, that really did make it easier to decide what I wanted from life.
I moved to Upstate New York, where my family had gone while I was at college, bought a house on a pretty rough street, and dove headfirst into mission work again. One of the God-things I wanted was to live Christ to my neighbors whether I was in the USA or overseas.
When I was 21, I was co-leading a young adults Bible Study and feeling a bit overwhelmed at how lonely I felt. I had always been a few years ahead of others in my thinking, so I wondered if maybe everyone else just wasn’t ready to settle down or pair off, but then a new girl moved to town and I watched as almost all the single men seemed to be in some kind of competition for the right to date her. Every one of those guys would talk with me, in depth, about spiritual issues, but apparently I wasn’t… something. I wasn’t even sure what. At that point, I figured it was probably the lack of skinniness, but since I was fit and strong and had figured out how to make my head full of curls fall into ringlets instead of frizz, there wasn’t much else I could do on the looks side of things.
I knew that I did really want to get married eventually, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to compete. While I could get pretty competitive on the basketball court, I was not going to spend my time trying to get and hold onto the attention of a boyfriend. A guy would either need to like me, or not, but I wasn’t going to sweet talk or flirt my way into a relationship. The simple truth was that there were more important things for me to do. Like tell the little children who lived on my street that there was a God who created them and loved them.
I hung out with groups of people, and since I lived with two other girls, my house was constantly filled with eligible men. Really nice ones. But nobody asked me to grab coffee with them, or walk to church with them, or meet up at the gym. Since I really did want to get married at some point, the lack of interest was getting to be a bit discouraging. Okay, that’s an understatement. It actually left me more insecure as time went by. Was it possible that there was something wrong with me?
I asked my mother and she looked at me with a bit of humor in her eyes. “Well, I would guess that most of the boys know that you’re not someone to just trifle with, so they aren’t going to say anything unless they’re serious. And they probably won’t get serious unless they have an idea that you might be interested back. So, you could smile at a boy you liked, Tasha. It’s not exactly throwing yourself at them to smile.”
I insisted that I did smile at boys and she accurately pointed out that I mostly smiled at the boys I wouldn’t ever date, even if they asked. Then she explained to me that one guy I had really respected and admired (and really hoped would show some interest) had actually shown obvious interested in me when he had come to town the last time, and I had walked into the room at one point and never even looked at him. She had felt bad for him because even she thought I wasn’t interested.
I remembered the incident, and remembered purposefully not making eye contact because I really did like him and figured it would show all over my face. I had never caught the hint that he might be interested. I figured he was just hanging around because he liked my parents. Bah. Apparently half the problem was that I was seriously bad at this boy-girl thing. And really bad at catching hints.
If I did want to get married someday, it seemed that I would really need to work at this. I wasn’t in a hurry, necessarily, but I did figure that being a little teachable might be in my best interests. I would make it a point to smile at the men who looked my way.
At that point, a younger guy friend asked me on a date. Just for fun. “I want to practice treating a girl right,” he told me. I went. We had a blast. He picked me up on his motorcycle, took me to dinner, held my chair for me, and kept me laughing the whole time. When he dropped me off that night, he held my hand and winked at me. I told him that he would make some girl incredibly happy.
I joked with my friends because I finally had a date… with big-sister status still in place.
Since I was now in my twenties and still wasn’t turning guys away, I was able to make a few specific decisions. While I had been continually doing mission work, even in my hometown, I was itching for another adventure. I signed up to work overseas for six months and started planning to leave.
Now, the way the story goes, I met my husband for the third (maybe fourth?) time that Christmas. It’s hard for me to say, as I don’t really remember. I was headed to Brazil within two weeks and was busy getting my house set and my bags packed. When a girlfriend introduced me to a man at the back of the auditorium after a Christmas program, I glanced at the other guy he was standing with (one I knew but didn’t have any interest in whatsoever) let my gaze flicker over him, smiled, and turned to chase after my twin nieces who were trying to escape.
It’s so funny when you look back on life. At that moment I was unaware in any way that by the next Christmas the man I had glanced over and then so quickly dismissed from my mind, would be my husband.
For over a year this guy had been watching me. That sounds creepy but totally wasn’t. You see, he was friends with my brother, but they mostly visited at work. My brother ran an automotive repair shop in town, and this guy had a lifetime of experience with diesel engines and farm equipment. Whenever there was an issue he needed help with, my brother would call his mechanic friend. Apparently, a few of the times when this particular man was standing around my brother’s shop, I was as well.
We also had dozens of mutual friends and had been in the same place more than once. He had noticed me, repeatedly, but was quite aware that I didn’t seem to even remember his name. (I am embarrassed to say, he was right.)
The reason he hadn’t already stepped into my line of vision by asking for a date was simple: he found out how old I was.
Eventually, I figured out that was a huge part of what kept quite a few guys from ever asking for a date after high school. It wasn’t my lack of size 2 jeans, thank goodness (well, maybe for some but hello, I didn’t really want them anyway). It was the fact that the guys my age thought I was years older and the guys who were older found out my age. I was twenty-two with so much life experience under my belt, and such an introverted personality, no one could quite get close enough to even understand who I was.
Except this one guy, who listened closely every time my big brother talked about his pesky little sister.
And somehow, in the middle of all that, he decided that maybe I wouldn’t mind the ten year age difference between us. And just about the time he was ready to make his move, I moved. Out of the country.