It all began on July 24, 1993. I went on my first date with Courtney Becker (at the time). We went over to my buddies’ house to swim in his pool. Probably not the best plan overall since what would happen if it rained? Why not go with something more tried and true (dinner and a movie)?
If we rewind the clock just a little bit…
Courtney and I met at Kroger. I’d been working their for a couple of months at that point.
The only reason I chose Kroger in the first place was to get my dad off my case. You see, after I’d hit 16, I had jumped to get my driver’s license, but I didn’t have a car. At best I could run errands for my parents… maybe use it to go out with a friend. But the months rolled by and I had little to no desire to get a job.
It seemed like a drag.
But, it was going to have to happen. However, I was smart. I decided I’d just go up to the closest grocery store, get the application, bring it home, and buy myself a week or so. At some point they might call. At some point, I might have to go to another place and fill out an application. This was going to take some time to happen.
It took an hour for it to happen. I went in for the application, the manager was there and interviewed me, and suddenly I have 20+ hours a week.
So laziness led me to Kroger. Had I been a little more of a go-getter, then perhaps we would have never met.
Lazy for the win!
I actually wasn’t there for her first day of work. When I did meet her she was dating another guy (they’d started on the same day), so I didn’t think anything of it. But as time went on, we became friends. She’d invite a bunch of us over to her house to watch the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs (this was back when it was a unicorn of sorts for the team to be good). Another boyfriend at some point in there, but I wasn’t angling or anything. I was happy to have a friend.
I went on one date prior to the faithful July 24 date. To say I lacked self-confidence would have been an understatement. When I was asked by my parents why I didn’t ask out any of the girls, my answer was a bunch of rambling gibberish.
The truth was Fear.
Fear of rejection.
People make the joke, “what’s the worst that could happen? She says no?”
They act like it is no big deal to hear someone say NO. And they aren’t entirely wrong. Yes, being rejected wouldn’t feel good, but that wasn’t where the Fear came from. It was the thought of them laughing at the prospect. What if they not only rejected me… they then went and told everyone who would listen that John McGuire had tried to ask them out.
What an idiot.
What a nerd.
With all those thoughts swarming around my head, I thought it better to pine away in silence with any of the girls in school I might have liked.
Time went on. A year had passed. And a group of us went to Six Flags (escorted by my mom). I don’t remember anything special particularly happening on that day. I’m sure Courtney and I rode some rides together, but she rode rides with other people too.
We got home and my mom said “That girl likes you.”
What? Not a chance of that. You see, my mom wasn’t the one who lived in my head. She wasn’t the one who thought they were ugly. She wasn’t the one who felt socially awkward. She wasn’t the one who wasn’t sure there was a person out there for them. Maybe come college. Maybe.
But she persisted. “That girl likes you.”
Kroger intervined again. Ashley in the floral department pulled me aside one day and told me straight out “Courtney likes you. She wants you to ask her out.”
Now this… this felt like enough information to go on. Maybe she did like me? Maybe she would say yes?
But there was a problem.
Our work hours.
Every week they would post the work times, and typically I’d have 3 days (nights) off and 4 days on. Courtney was the same. So when I went to find that magical night where both off… a week went by. And Ashley came back, because apparently she thought I didn’t understand. “What’s taking you so long?”
So I had to just hope the next week’s assignments would grant that rare concurrance of both schedules being open. And as luck would finally have it, somehow neither of us worked Saturday night.
I wish I could remember how I actually asked her out. We talked on the phone a fair amount, so it was probably during one of those conversations.
The last detail was to figure out what to do. My friend, Lee, must have seen how nervous I was with the entire prospect, so he offered his pool and other people there so that there would be a little less pressure.
I jumped at the chance.
And I asked her out.
The strange thing was the Fear was still there. Even though I knew she liked me. Even though I knew she’d say yes. The Fear tried to worm its way into my brain and convince me that wasn’t going to be the case. That somehow everyone had misread the situation, and my nightmare of rejection was right around the corner.
She said yes. We went on our first date 30 years ago. We’ve grown up together. She is my best friend.
And I’m still amazed that she said yes back then.
John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.
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