A Subaru passenger seat provided me with more information about Gavin, the man destined to become my husband, than I could have imagined.
Future-husband (who happened to be the car’s owner) and I were just finishing a wonderfully prolonged day of bar and coffee shop hopping. It had been a dream date, actually. Neither one of us wanted to leave, but staying any longer would have felt awkward – a feeling that we had managed to avoid so early in our dating life.
Until that moment, it seemed. We were saying our goodbyes in a dingy city parking lot. When I asked where he had parked, he proudly pointed to the rusty, well-worn blue Subaru next to us.
The rust wasn’t the problem. Neither was the age. Actually, it was the passenger seat that I found completely perplexing.
The seat had been turned around. It was facing the back of the vehicle. The engineering feat required to place said passenger seat in a backwards position appeared to my watchful eyes to have been a very purposeful and challenging undertaking. And I could not, for the life of me, figure out why.
I quietly assessed the situation, putting all of my effort into being as non-judgmental as possible. This was not an easy feat, as I was not expecting exposure to my date’s “crazy” at such an early point in our relationship. I knew for sure I wasn’t ready to reveal any of mine yet – most notably my Type A obsessiveness often coupled with a penchant for worry. So, I made a concerted effort to be super casual and relaxed when I asked him why he had chosen such a unique position for his passenger seat.
Equally casually, future-husband shrugged… a gesture that indicated to me that he didn’t find it odd at all. He explained that the backwards facing passenger seat left him with lots of room in the back for tasks that including changing out of a wetsuit after a day of surfing, or sleeping more comfortably when he needed a place to crash.
I was starting to get it. This was less about behavioral oddities (though to clarify, I had not completely ruled that out). At that moment I realized there was the very real possibility that the man in front of me was extremely happy being a party of one.
I took a deep breath, and decided not to get too scared.
Before I knew it, the next date was upon us. He decided to pick me up in that car with the backwards passenger seat. When he arrived I remember looking into the car, looking at him, and thinking to myself “is there room for me??” I believe I even asked the question, though great effort was made to avoid presenting the inquiry to future-husband with an existential vibe. His enthusiastic response?
“You can sit in the back!”
I admit, I was getting a little shaky. But instead of objecting I quickly said “Why don’t we take my car?” I casually tossed him the keys. With that one action I chose to ignore the problem of the backwards seat. For a while, at least.
The dates were fun. Easy conversations took place during activities that we, as aging hipsters dating in our 30’s, enjoyed. In other words, lots of bookstores, coffee shops, hikes, and stops for sushi, craft cocktails and local beer.
All of the travel to and from occurred in my vehicle.
Soon it was time to meet his family. I went to their house for Chinese food. Cartons of goodies like General Tso’s chicken and pork fried rice were placed on the table. It was a communal meal, and we were all chatting, passing food and serving ourselves. I looked over at future-husband who at that precise moment was unloading an entire take-out container on his plate. My jaw dropped just a little as I stared at him, a giant pile of ginger chicken and green beans in front of him.
I figured it might be time to test the waters. I was in a safer dating zone at that point at date 6 or 7, I believe. I took the plunge and said “Gavin, can I have some of those green beans?”
He looked up at me with a confused expression. It seemed that I had dared ask for something he thought was entirely his. Around us, people were happily spooning multiple dishes onto their plates, oblivious to the testing of personal boundaries happening in front of them.
I channeled my inner sharing-is-caring Sesame Street persona and patiently smiled when I said “Please?”
He grinned sheepishly. He then reached for my plate, scooped up a few green beans from his plate, and placed them next to my beef and broccoli.
That day I knew we were on to something.
I don’t believe there are secrets to a successful relationship. Nor do I think that a healthy marriage is something magical that happens. As human beings we are all profoundly imperfect, and to me, things come together when two flawed individuals tolerate (or, I dare say, even embrace) each other’s imperfections.
Simply put, success is when each member of the couple can live with their partner’s nuttiness. Because as we all know, every human being on earth is full of their fair share of nutty.
Even better: if those individuals have the capacity to understand one another, and attempt to adjust learned behaviors over time in a way that pleases the other person – well, that can only help strengthen the relationship.
Two weeks after our family dinner, Gavin pulled into my driveway to pick me up. I met him outside and tossed him the keys to my car. He smiled and tossed them back, pointing to his rusty blue Subaru.
To my joy, the passenger seat was facing forward.