It was a crisp early morning in January, the very first day of my second quarter at community college. As I unpacked my purple notebook, purple gel pen and matching purple stapler, I felt nervous about all the newness of the quarter — will I like my teacher and how will I do on the tests? After 4.0-ing two out of three of my classes the previous quarter (let’s just say PE and I didn’t exactly get along), my personal academic aspirations were pretty high. I was sitting in the front row, determined to fully live up to the good-students-sit-in-the-front stereotype in all its glory. I even highlighted my goal grade — 4.0 — on the class syllabus in, of course, purple.
Dr. Jansen, our Intro to Political Science teacher, began class that morning by informing us all that Syllabus Day (the most boring day of the entire quarter: it pretty much consists of explaining that, yes, we have to do homework and it’d be a good idea to show up for class) was going to be moved to the following day. Today, we were going to be concentrating on getting to know each other. Oh, boy.
The class of groggy college students groaned at the idea of human interaction at eight o’clock in the morning. Several were still nursing their morning cup of joe. And it appeared, at least to me, there’d be not just one but two boring days to start off the quarter. Sigh.
First, I introduced myself to the girl on my right. Her name was Nicole, which I promptly wrote down in purple ink in my purple notebook to keep from instantly forgetting. She did 4-H, liked horses, and also loved the color purple. The boy on my left’s name was Ian, which I didn’t bother to write down because that’s my brother’s legal name so there wasn’t much chance of me forgetting. Based on his t-shirt, he seemed to like video games. I had no interest whatsoever in video games. And I decided, after our brief exchanges, to make more of a point of getting to know Nicole; after all, she was a girl, liked horses, and also carried a purple pen, so we had things in common.
Later that afternoon, while sitting in my third class, Introduction to Formal Logic, I noticed the guy with my brother’s legal name and the video game t-shirt sitting across the room from me as our philosophy teacher lectured on the syllabus: Yes, there’d be homework and, yes, it’d be a good idea to come to class. Here, I learned video-game-t-shirt guy was a philosophy major.
He moved across the room in Logic so that he could sit right next to me. Uh-oh. Warning bells went off in my head. It was only the second day! If things kept up, I feared I’d have some brokenhearted philosophy major on my hands by the end of the quarter. Would that mean he’d plunge into an existential crisis when he realized I was so focused on school and work that the only dates I went on were with my textbooks?
After he’d settled into his new chair directly next to me, he tried to make small talk. He complimented me on one of the pins on my backpack which read: I heart nerds. Oh crap. I just thought the pin was funny! And I’m not even really that nerdy, sometimes I even have to think before saying Star Wars or Star Trek to make sure the right one comes out (and, sometimes, it doesn’t). And now some guy is going to take it as encouragement! Ugh.
Once home, I decided it was best to not wear the pin declaring my love of nerds anymore in public and, therefore, promptly pinned it to my bulletin board. There, I thought, it would never have the chance of giving anyone false hope.
He noticed my pin was gone. Awkward.
We hung out between classes. Well, actually he followed me to the library and I didn’t know how to politey say, “This is the hour I spend happily and completely alone. And like a smoker missing their smoke break, if I don’t get my ‘me time’ alone with my own thoughts, homework, and dreams of getting stellar grades in college, I might get pissy later.” But because I couldn’t think of a nice way of telling him to scat so I could be by myself, we worked on Formal Logic homework together. A logical way to spend my interrupted personal time.
I was feeling nervous about Formal Logic — it’s like algebra, only more alien looking and without any numbers — and math gave me anxiety like nobody’s business. Ian offered to look over my homework before it got turned in. After taking Intro to Psychology the previous quarter though, a class where 25 percent of the students flunked simply because they didn’t bother to ever crack the $100 hardback they’d purchased, I didn’t have very high expectations of my fellow classmates. But he seemed to be getting the whole alien puzzle thing our teacher called “Formal Logic,” so I let him take a look.
Letting him look over my homework had been a mistake, I decided. Sure, he’d been able to catch a mistake, which meant I’d gotten a perfect score on the assignment … but now he wouldn’t stop trying to help me! He was constantly attempting to look at my homework so he could “help.” Frustrating boy. I could do it just fine on my own, thank you very much.
He’d continued unabated in his attempts to help me with my homework — usually Formal Logic but he was game to help with Intro to Political Science, too. At this point, I began to complain to my family: “I’m so frustrated! There’s a guy at school who thinks I’m cute but really stupid. He’s always trying to help me with my homework because he thinks I’m dumb and can’t do it on my own! Ugh.”
This was the very first thing my family ever learned about him.
He was still asking to help me with homework! How insulting. He obviously thought I was an adorable moron. How nice.
The now almost daily complaining to my family about the boy who thought I was cute but dumb, had continued for a while. They all seemed to empathize with my plight. That rude nerdy boy.
It’d been one of those everything-that-could-possibly-go-wrong-did-go-wrong days. So I was feeling pretty blue. He noticed I was feeling sad and offered to treat me to a movie, so we went to see Sherlock Holmes that evening. It was surprisingly fun, and he didn’t treat me like he thought I was dumb either. He actually seemed to think I had interesting things to say.
Hanging out had gone well the day before and life was still pretty crappy, so he initiated getting together again. We walked around a park and ran a few errands. One of the stops involved swinging by his folks’ place to pick up a few grocery items. His parents seemed nice, but it was a little awkward to meet the parents of guy you only just decided you might be able to be friends with. A few days later, he told me that his mom thought we were dating — or nearly dating — and had even told his sister about “the cute girl Ian was with.” AWKWARD. Like, super awkward. In reality, I was only just coming to terms with the idea of maybe being friends because maybe — just maybe — he didn’t think I was dumb, after all.
It took about six months from the time we first hung out before I decided that I liked him (for him, it was oh-she’s-cute-and-I-should-get-to-know-her-by-trying-to-help-her-with-homework at first sight). Then, I was concerned about compatibility: we had some very different ideological perspectives, which meant that we viewed life, relationships, and all kinds of very important things from different lenses. This began our six month long ideological discussion: we read books, watched lectures on DVD, discussed and disagreed.
Almost exactly a year after we’d met, we eventually decided that we’d reached a point where we were compatible on the main issues and were wiling to be gracious on the minor ones. I’d spent the entire six month long discussion wondering if it’d end with the answer being no; I’d tried to brace myself for it. But the answer, thankfully, wasn’t no and I couldn’t have been happier.
And, after we’d been officially a couple for almost three years, we book the chapel, I bought a dress, and we said our vows. And that brings it up to today: exactly eight weeks since we were announced husband and wife, and exactly four years since we first met in Intro to Political Science. I guess being made to introduce myself to the students sitting next to me turned out to not have been a waste of a day. And I guess I do love nerds — well, at least my nerd — after all. But I still don’t wear the pin. Instead, I now wear a wedding ring, which I guess pretty much means the same thing.