Now, I know that your mama told you not to marry anyone you met in a bar. I’ve never been much of a church-goer though, and that whole grocery store myth has never panned out…so naturally, I had to give the bars a shot.
I had the dubious honor of having an ex-professional basketball player give me to the man who would become husband #1, and it happened in a bar. I was in my early 20’s, and the crowded, smokey pub was called Group Therapy. I was there with a friend I had been casually dating for a month or so. He was enormous…almost 7 feet tall. We were drinking beer and shouting to each other so that we could be heard over the room full of drunk college students, when a much shorter, bearded guy with glasses came up and was introduced to me as ‘Rasputin’. He had a huge laugh and an even bigger ego, from what I could tell. The two men chatted and laughed and after a few minutes I excused myself to go to the ladies room.
After I made my way back to the odd-looking couple, my tall friend made a grand gesture toward me, bellowing, “You want her, Rasputin? You can have her!”
I stopped and did a double take…I imagine that I looked like someone had just slapped me. I wasn’t surprised that Gigantor and I weren’t destined to make it as a couple, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to be ‘given away’ like so much flat beer! (Aren’t you glad I skipped the bad basketball metaphors?)
My friend was serious, though, and he soon faded away into the crowd. I was left standing next to the funny, bespectacled man with the enormous laugh, and he had obviously decided to make the most of it. I discovered that Rasputin was a nickname that our mutual friend had given him…a sort of bizarre term of endearment. I also learned that he was a few years older than I was, had a real name, and was actually quite charming, in a roguish sort of way. The man had stories, that’s for sure. He was well-read and worldly, was a writer, and talked about hitchhiking across the country, hopping freight trains, meeting famous people in big cities, and many other things I’d never even thought of doing. He idolized Hemingway, had lived like a modern Kerouac, and could quote The Lord of the Rings…but mostly he made me laugh.
He asked me out for a proper date, and we both liked to drink and talk, so I accepted. He took me to a lovely restaurant and I was impressed that he knew which fork to use, and at how attentive and smart he was. I loved the attention and was giddy with the newness of it all…at least until I was accused of “fraternizing with the help”. Now, I can’t help but talk to strangers…it’s just who I am… so I struck up a conversation and bonded a bit with our waitress. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it when my suitor called me on it, but I just filed it away in the PRF (Potential Red Flag) folder. He was a bit over the top and maybe a bit full of himself, but we clicked and I liked him and things were going well…and then we saw Vincent Price.
The famous actor was touring with a one man show about Oscar Wilde, and we decided to go. I didn’t yet know much about the works of the acclaimed author, but the play had done well on Broadway, and I was game. We (naturally) made a stop at a bar for drinks on our way to the theater, and then had (a lot of) wine in the lobby at the show. By the second act we were feeling no pain, to say the least. That’s when Mr. (Not Yet) #1’s laugh took on a life of its own.
That laugh stood out. It rang out loud and ohhhhh so clear…a guffaw to be proud of! The only problem was that #1 appeared to ‘get’ a lot of jokes that no one else in the audience did. And not just one time. Oh no…it happened over and over…and over. The show was certainly witty, and there were lots of laughs, but when it was extra quiet and the crowd was rapt in attention…there was that lone, strong, resonating peal of #1’s laughter. I’m sure I elbowed him, but it didn’t help. There I was, Ms. Don’t Notice Me, sitting next to the loudest, most noticeable person in the entire theater…I cringe remembering how mortified I was!
My PRF meter went off the scale, and I broke up with Rasputin that night…I just couldn’t see myself going through that on a regular basis. Our break up held for another year and a half before he and I ran into each other again…this time in a different bar. We had both gone through a lot in that time, and we were finally both ready…or at least as ready as we were ever going to be. Within a year, Raspy and I became Mr. & Mrs. #1.
Many, many years later I went to Hollywood and had a chance to be in the audience of a late night talk show. Before we were seated, the crowd got the ‘special laugh’ speech: “You need to laugh…loud…really loud. However, if you have what we like to call a ‘special’ laugh…well, we may have to ask you to leave. So people, keep that ‘special’ laugh in check!” It didn’t occur to me when I heard that bit of instruction that my ex personified the ‘special laugh’, but he really did. The funny thing is that, when I watched the DVR recording of the talk show, MY laugh is the one that rings out and is completely recognizable! My sister even reported to me that, out of the entire crowd, she could tell when I laughed…every time. Strangely, no one asked me to leave.
I leave you with a quote from Mr. Wilde himself: Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one.