My favorite love story of all is how I met my current boyfriend. Last summer, my step-sister got married in England. I was one of the bridesmaids. Although I was dating Patrick at the time, he opted out of a one-week paid trip to Europe (why?) in order to stay home and collect dust.
Off I go, slightly resentful toward my boyfriend, but also excited to spend a week with my always-entertaining British step-family.
The week was jam-packed with pre and post wedding events. Rehearsals, family dinners, trying on bridesmaids dresses (which were ordered online and came in a little too tight and 6 inches too long).
The second night there, the “kids” of the family hosted a BBQ in my father’s backyard. We were about a dozen 20-and-30-somethings. My sister and I were on kitchen duty and spent a good part of the evening making food for everyone to enjoy.
Once the sun had gone down, my step-siblings’ two Swiss cousins arrived. Immediately I was drawn to the bigger of the two, Thomas, quiet and shy, but extremely adorable and exactly my type. Big, tall, massive men are kind of a weakness for me. They don't even have to be massive as in "in shape." No, no. They can be like, muffin-top massive and I will be drooling.
The bigger, the better, right?
So here I am in the backyard of my Dad's house, 4 glasses of wine in, secretly eyeing him eat the salads and garlic bread that I made. He’s eating my food! And I hear he’s a chef! This is exciting!
The next day is the wedding.
We start off by getting ready at my step-sister's grandparents’ house (his grandparents too! All of a sudden, every family member is connected to him). The previous night's wine is catching up to me during preparation time. As my step-mother is lacing me into my dress, I’m throwing up in the powder room. Sigh. I really hope I don’t have a panic attack during the ceremony.
All goes well at the church -- the couple is married and we all head over to the reception. The location is beautiful. Outdoors on a small lake, dinner and open bar under a huge tent. It’s all really fitting for a summer romance.
During dinner, I keep looking over to the table where Swiss-boy is sitting. He’s with one of my step-brothers, so I know I have a reason to go to the table.
After polishing off a bottle of wine with my other step-brother Charles, I get the nerve to pick up my inches-too-long dress and walk over to his table. After chatting with everyone casually, I focus in on Thomas and start showing interest.
I don't think he expected a lady to be so smitten with him that particular night, but he was certainly gracious and gentlemanly. He was adorable and funny. We slow-danced AND fast-danced to "I've Had the Time of my Life."
He got my drinks and held them when I went to the loo. He spoke French and had an accent! He actually asked me things like "What is your life like? I want to know what things you enjoy." Was I in love? Umm, yes! Move over Patrick Swayze, Ryan Gosling, Bruce Willis in "Pulp Fiction" and basically every boyfriend ever, combined...this is my guy!
The reception wrapped up about 11PM -- way earlier than I wanted it to. I could have stayed forever walking around the lake with him, talking and drinking beer. It was really enjoyable to be in his company.
The night ended back at my dad's with a romantic and oh so cliché "Can you help me with my dress?" moment. Every minute with him I'm literally thinking "My life is unfolding like a romantic comedy RIGHT NOW. This is what I've waited my entire life for."
Despite wanting to kiss him, or have him kiss me -- I’m still thinking “I’m not an available woman. I have a boyfriend. I can’t do this, right? Right? He’s also, like, my cousin, sorta? Is that weird?”
Opting for the “safe” option, I thank him for unlacing me and close the door to change into PJ’s.
The next day there is yet another family party. I wake up on the living room couch and hear people talking in the backyard. Oh no. My step-mother is telling the breakfast group how cute Thomas and I were dancing the night before. Part of me is happy that we’re being talked about (we are pretty cute together!) and the other part is desperately wanting to fall into the couch and disappear.
I pull her aside and ask her not to say too much about this -- after all -- I’m not single, and I don’t think he is either. We have reputations to uphold here, woman!
Not to mention, it’s weighing heavy on my mind that I am crushing on someone who is so intimately connected to my family, too. Although I’ve always been the type to wear my heart on my sleeve, this seems somewhat taboo to me. I’m not quite sure what our family members will think. Will they find it weird? Super weird? Or, maybe they’ll be modern and accepting like me?
Also, I realize that nothing has actually happened and I might be looking too deep into a simple crush.
I spend the day at the park with my sister, brother-in-law and baby nephew- happily hungover, reliving the details of the night before in my head.
At dinnertime, he arrives at the house while I’m painting my toenails. I’m super quiet and shy. I need another glass of wine.
We head to the grandparents’ house for the dinner party. I spend a little time talking to him, and then, after dinner, the “kids” decide to go to the pub for a nightcap.
Sitting next to him, drinking cider, it hits me “He’s going home tomorrow. I can’t miss my chance!” I start getting fidgety and nervous -- time is not on my side. I decide to seize my opportunity. I grab his hand under the picnic table and whisper to him “I need to kiss you.”
He looks at me and says, “Me too.” Yeah! My direct approach has worked.
I get up and pull him behind the pub for some “privacy” and kiss him until my step-brother interrupts. The bar is closing and we need to call it a night. While we’re saying goodbye (he’s going back to step-bro’s apartment, and me, back to my father’s) a feeling of dread comes over me. I’m never going to see this beautiful creature again! This sucks!
I get back to my dad’s house and text my step-brother. I’m a little tipsy and feel like I have nothing to lose. “Tell Thomas that if he wants to see me again I’ll be outside in the backyard of my dad’s near the tent.”
Step-brother is a little grossed out but passes on my message.
“He’ll be there in 20 minutes.”
OH MY GOD. I run upstairs to the washroom, drunkenly shave my legs in a frenzy, then run back downstairs to grab pillows and blankets for the tent. I can’t believe he’s actually coming. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I feel like I haven’t been this excited and spontaneous in years. It’s a good feeling.
As I’m grabbing a few bottles of Vouvray champagne from my dad’s collection (thanks Dad) I see that he is waiting outside the front door. Ah! He’s arrived!
I go outside to meet him and we sneak into the backyard like a couple of teenagers about to make out for the first time.
We sit on the grass behind the tent, so that if anyone comes looking for us, we’ll be hidden. (Again, how old am I? Surely not almost 30.)
For what seems like hours, we lie on the grass and watch the stars -- drinking champagne from the bottle and talking like we’ve known each other our whole lives. I’m so comfortable with him.
At one point, I go inside the house to use the washroom on the main floor. I am so excited to be reunited with him that I run across the backyard toward the tent. In the dark British night, I fail to see a box of garden lights directly in my path. Boom! I’m on the ground. I’m hurting. Pretty badly. I think my legs are bleeding.
I’m crying silently as I pick myself off the ground. He’s run over to see if I’m OK. In that moment I feel a mixture of embarrassment and happiness. Embarrassed that my clumsiness kicked in during my epic love story night, but also happy that he’s there to help me up and soothe my pain.
I have an epiphany that night -- whether this is a one-night thing, or more, I really like the way I feel with him. I don’t even feel this good with my actual boyfriend. I silently decide that I will break up with Patrick as soon as I get home. Life is too short to settle for convenient, unpassionate relationships. I want magic, and this night has shown me that it does exist.
In the morning, I wake up glued to him. We fell asleep like two puzzle pieces that had found their place. I’m hurting everywhere. Not only are my legs covered in bruises and dried blood, I got bit by mosquitoes overnight and slept on a tree stump.
Despite the pain and morning breath, I look over to Thomas and think: This was a very memorable night. I found a very special man. I would like to sleep in more tents with him in the future.
Fast-forward a year, and we are still together.
We have to be inventive to make the distance work (lots of exciting vacations and non-stop texting!), but it’s worth it. It took a few months of getting to know each other better, a few visits and trips together to realize that what we have is real and worth pursuing.
We both had reservations at first about “coming out” to the family, but in the end, it was less weird and more accepted than we had hoped! Of course we have to be a little more discreet with certain things that we don’t want everyone to know about but my easygoing personality helped smooth any interfamily awkwardness out. Now, I can comfortably joke about the fact that my father is his uncle, and that’s kind of funny and endearing in its own way.
One added benefit is that my father already knew him and approved of him long before I had even met him. This means I never have to worry about the “bringing boyfriend home to meet Dad” BBQ.
Also, we can kill two birds with one stone for family events! Just throw the whole bunch of weirdos together and call it a day!
Our family is a multicultural mixed bag of step-this-and-that, and, probably one day, in-law-this-and-that. It's different, but it's so typically and perfectly "me" that I really wouldn't have it any other way.