I was a junior in high school when I met my future husband. I went to an itty bitty school in a town of 350 people (yep, you read that right). We didn’t have a football team because there was certainly no way we could fill the stands, have enough players on the field, and have cheerleaders to cheer on the team without recruiting people from nearby towns. Football is a big deal in Texas, especially high school football. If you’ve seen Friday Night Lights you’re familiar with this.
Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.
To fill the gaping football hole, I went with my best friend, Leslie, to her boyfriend’s games. This particular year, 2001, they were in the state playoffs. We had a basketball game the same night as their semi-finals game. We dribbled and took shots, knowing we had other places to be. In fact, I can’t remember if we even won that game or who we played. The details are vague – except I can remember what I was wearing that day. A blue turtleneck sweater and jeans. Nothing fancy, but the blue made my eyes pop.
We quickly packed into Leslie’s mom’s suburban and booked it to Houston for the game. Leslie had a couple of seats saved by her boyfriend’s brother, Dustyn. We scooted into our seats just in time to see the end of warm-ups and the game begin.
Here’s where I have to tell you a slight side-story.
A few games prior to this semi-finals game, I met a guy named John. He was sarcastic and I was feisty back. But not in that flirty-cute kind of way. In the my-guard-is-up kind of way. Though I talked to him quite a bit, there just weren’t romantical feelings there. I knew the night of the semi-finals game that his intention was to ask me out on an official date. Intuition told me it would happen when everyone cleared away at halftime for bathroom breaks and snacks. (Just to make things completely clear, I should mention that John was Dustyn’s best friend. Womp womp womp.)
It turns out, his seat ended up being right behind mine. Awkward.
I hadn’t turned down many boys in my day. I was only 16 and let’s be honest, I didn’t have suitors knocking down my door left and right. I was just a normal girl who studied and played sports. My plan of attack for getting through the evening: avoidance. I spent the whole first half talking to Dustyn and Leslie. We laughed and talked so much that I missed a good part of the game. Dustyn joked that he was going to hip bump me off over the railing I sat beside. (In hindsight, this seems so silly and juvenile, especially since he was 20. However, his friends say the hip bump was his tell for when he liked a girl. Flirting at its finest, folks.)
Halftime came ’round and Leslie scampered off to talk to friends sitting in another section for a bit. She whispered, “Good luck” to me as she walked away. John did indeed try to talk to me during halftime, but I think we both knew that the spark just wasn’t there. Dustyn didn’t leave the stands so I continued my conversation with him. I was stunned when Leslie returned and halftime was over. Time had passed by so quickly. The conversation had flowed so effortlessly.
Leslie leaned over and asked, “How did it go?” I told her it didn’t and that things weren’t going to move forward with John. “But,” I said, “I think Dustyn is really interesting.”
Leslie has this way of getting really excited and clapping her hands together incredibly fast. She had this mischievous look on her face, and I could tell she was anxious to talk to Dustyn to see what he thought of me. I just knew there was no way. I mean, I was 16. What would a 20 year old guy find interesting about me? Sure I was smart and had matured much more quickly than a lot (ha, not that there were a lot) of other kids in my class, but still – ME?
Unfortunately, the Buffalos lost their game that night. The refereeing was terrible and things didn’t seem fair. While I should have walked away with a broken heart, I clung onto each second I could spend with Dustyn and Leslie in those stands. I don’t remember the final score. I can’t recall the final play. I do remember getting in trouble after the game because I didn’t meet my parents where I said I would. (They had driven up separately to the game.) I was grounded for two weeks – couldn’t make any plans and had no phone privileges.
My fantasies of Dustyn calling were dashed. How in the world would I ever get in touch with him now?
This is where the best friend comes into play. She knew that every Friday night my parents went to my aunt and uncle’s house. As I got older, I opted to stay home or go out with friends. This particular Friday night turned out to be a stay-at-home night. How could they restrict me from using the phone if they weren’t home? The phone rang. I answered. It was Leslie calling to “chat” from Dustyn’s parents house. This had never happened. I should have suspected something was up, but things never clicked for me until somehow, miraculously, I was on the phone with him.
AND I WAS BEING ASKED OUT ON A DATE. Oh. Em. Gee.
I had to have an awkward conversation with my parents after that, ya know, about the whole “he’s four years older than me” thing. I was so nervous. Again, another hurdle to cross.
Insert another side story: Months before I met Dustyn, I had talked to a guy who was 19. My parents absolutely refused to let me date him. There was no way. They didn’t trust him. Said he was way too mature for me. Thought his intentions were bad. How in the heck was I going to convince them that Dustyn — even older — was a good guy? They hadn’t met him.
I remember being in my mom’s bathroom, helping sort laundry, when I decided to approach the subject of a date with Dustyn. It went so much easier than I could have hoped. I asked. She gave her permission. (I think she was also thrilled it was a double date with Leslie and Dustyn’s brother, Derryk). Here’s the twisted part. Dustyn’s uncle introduced my parents. Despite my assumptions she wasn’t familiar with who he was, I was dead wrong. She knew the family, knew they were good people.
I’ll keep the rest short because I could ramble on and on about this boy and how much I adore him. Our first date included going to my favorite Mexican food place, Casa Ole, a trip to the mall where I scurried around looking for a Christmas gift to buy Dustyn because I didn’t know he bought me one, and to a showing of the first Lord of the Rings movie. To this day, we still argue about when we first held hands. I didn’t remember a single thing about the movie other than how much I liked him. (Re-watching it later felt like seeing it for the very first time.)
The day after our first date, I saw him again. He told me he loved me. You guys, I know I dislike insta-love in books, but I have to constantly remind myself that I am a living example of this. Though it took me a few months to say it back to him, I knew I had fierce feelings for him. I was Dustyn’s first for everything: first girl he held hands with, kissed, told that he loved. God willing, I’ll be the only.
Today, July 31st, we celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. We finished our college degrees together, bought our first house, moved to California for my job, moved back to Texas where he supported me starting my own business, lived in an apartment for a couple of years, and then bought our second house. We’ve currently have two amazing dogs, Jules and Camy. This man, he’s a good one. He makes me laugh when I least expect it, he’s our diligent dishwasher when I make dinner, and can turn my most moody days into the happiest. I’m so looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him.
To celebrate our anniversary, I want to share a few books that really stand out to me — couples that made me reminisce falling in love with Dustyn, young love that if were real, I hope would last.
Here’s to insta-love, hip bumping, and believing in young love.