"What a lovely singing voice you must have."
Those are the first words Matt ever said to me.
Wrote, actually. They were in a message, on the infamous dating app known as Tinder, in response to the words that appeared below my profile picture.
Most people have some info about themselves below their picture. Their likes and dislikes, maybe some hobbies, what they're looking for in a date, what they're NOT looking for in a date, some facts about who they are or where they're from. Instead of all that, I decided to weed out the bad seeds by seeing who would get my Ghostbusters reference. The only words that accompanied my picture were: "THERE IS NO PATTI. ONLY ZUUL".
Most guys, I am horrified to say, had no idea what the reference was to. One said something along the lines of "Ghostbusters! Awesome!" One replied with "I am the Keymaster, are you the Gatekeeper?" I gave him the courtesy of messaging him back at least, but he was a dud.
Then, one, AND ONLY ONE, successfully replied with an acceptable answer to that statement.
"What a lovely singing voice you must have."
That man was Matt McClowry.
I was so excited. We started texting each other right away. It was almost as if all of the sudden, everything I had been looking for just fell into place, swiftly and easily, like when you find that one card in computer Solitaire that you've been waiting for and the popup asks you if you would like to auto-finish.
We talked about the movies we liked. He told me he was a comic, which I was pretty psyched about because I love comedy. We talked about our favorite comedians.
At some point, my birthday, April 6th, came up. He said that that was his father's birthday. His father had recently passed on, and he and his family were still reeling from the fallout of that. If you know Matt, you know he's not a superstitious or spiritual guy, but even he had to admit that there was likely some cosmic relevance to that.
That's what we were. That's what we are. Cosmically relevant. Star-crossed, if you will. Meant to be. And we knew it before we even met.
A couple of days after the birthday thing, I was on the train from New York City to Westchester to go see Rifftrax: Live with my sister. (For anyone not familiar, Rifftrax: Live is where the guys from the TV show Mystery Science Theatre 3000 make fun of bad movies live in a movie theatre.) I saw I had received a text from Matt asking me "Do you watch MST3K at all?" And that's when I knew, for sure, that this was going to be it. The one. I had finally found him. It took a long time for him to arrive, but when he did, there was no question in my mind. It was obvious.
I remind you, we still hadn't even met at this point. All of this happened over a few days, a week maybe.
He asked me out and asked what time he should pick me up. I was thrilled. No guy had ever asked to pick me up before on a first date. It was always some casual, "I'll be here if you want to meet up" kind of thing. Sadly, that's what dating has become nowadays. But Matt offered to pick me up, even though we lived in New York City and were walking to the restaurant we had chosen for our date. The diner we wanted to go to was closer to his apartment than mine, but he walked all the way to my apartment to pick me up and walk me back there.
I was so nervous and excited to meet him. My heart pounded while I was getting ready. When I finally opened the door to see him, I couldn't believe it. He was like the man of my dreams in real life; tall, handsome, and muscular, with sinister eyes (My sister always said that I liked guys who looked like they wanted to kill someone. Apparently I have a type.) We walked to the diner.
Even though I was pretty much convinced that this was going to be the guy for me, our dinner was awkward and weird, but not in a bad way. I knew he had Asperger's - he even had it on his Tinder profile- but I had never encountered it in real life, so I didn't fully know what to expect. His weirdness didn't bother me, but it was hard for me to not receive any feedback from him about when I was being too weird, to not have the normal give and take of a conversation, to be ok with sitting in silence for long stretches. I think this is something that he's taught me to do over the years. I am an empath, and my natural inclination is toward making sure everyone's comfortable in a conversation. With Matt, this is impossible. I've had to learn to be ok with his discomfort, and thus, my own.
But despite that, everything was just so easy with him. I never had to pretend to be something I'm not, or wonder what he was thinking. His honesty and morality were a breath of fresh air to me. He didn't play any games, and so I didn't have to. It was a relief. We had similar backgrounds. Even though he came from Detroit and I'm from New York, we were both raised in suburban Irish Catholic homes. It's a wonder that we met where we did. In retrospect, the Ridgewood area of Queens was probably the last place either of us belonged, and yet that's where we somehow found each other, amongst a sea of very different people.
The night we first met, I felt like a huge weight had been taken off of my shoulders. I had always believed in the idea of a soulmate, that I would one day find the love of my life. Maybe "believed" is too strong of a word. Hoped, I guess. But I am a pragmatist, and a strong part of me worried that that idea was only for fairy tales; that such a thing didn't actually exist. It's an amazing feeling to have living proof of something like that. Finding "the one" is daunting. But once you've found it, you understand why pretty much every book, song, movie, and play revolves around it. If I do nothing else with my life, I can say I have experienced true love. One day I was alone, and the next, the man I was going to marry texted me.
I wish I had been more patient over the years that I was waiting for him. I wish I had understood that one day he just shows up, and you totally know it's him right away; there's no doubt or fear about it. I wish I 'd had more faith in that; and that I'd known then what I know now that I have Matt: That true love isn't full of sacrifice, struggle, fighting and disappointment. It means not having to compromise who you are for someone else, because that person loves you for you. It's someone loving you unconditionally, just as you are, and loving them the same way. It takes patience, and understanding, and problem-solving, sure. But you do those things together, as a team. It's supporting each other through everything and in everything, because a win for them is a win for you. Matt's goals are my goals, and mine are his. We complement each other. We fill in each other's gaps.
I don't think neither Matt nor I actually wanted to be on Tinder. It doesn't seem the most likely place to meet the love of your life. But I thank God for that stupid app. And for the fact that neither one of us accidentally swiped the wrong way. And for the fact that Matt knew the next line in Ghostbusters. But somehow, I had known that the guy for me would. And I was right.
I had a very hard time writing this story.
I had a hard time writing this story because there is no drama in things working out perfectly. Have you ever watched a movie where you knew what was going to happen right from the very beginning? That’s the problem when you meet the right person: it’s just not the best story.
Romantic fiction has thrived for generations on tale after tale of mismatched lovers from opposite ends of the tracks who get together even when the whole universe is against them. A form of wish fulfillment that its writers and readers can live through vicariously. A security blanket of delusion that they wrap their hopes and dreams in. Understandable. There’s excitement and intrigue in “will they or won’t they?” They want to see a good girl win the heart of a bad boy, or a brooding young man transformed by a spritely muse. No one wants to watch a show about the happy couple watching Hulu Plus and going to sleep. But at a certain point you have to discern between fiction and reality and realize you’re not going to make a partner out of the wrong person anymore than you’re going to make a time machine out of Delorean. Fortunately, that was the point I was at when I met Patti.
Patti replied to my messages immediately and enthusiastically. I never had to worry about being “too nice,” or having to pretend to be something I wasn’t. She was and is a conscientious and diligent planner, completely antithetical to the flakiness I had foolishly thought had to be accepted as the norm. Not only did I know I loved her and wanted to marry her almost immediately, I had no reason to feel as though I should keep that to myself. We were simpatico from the very first time we interacted and throughout three years of dating, including living together within the first months of our relationship and moving across the country together shortly thereafter. I can not stress enough how easy it all was.
When the time had come to propose, once again, I had been relieved of most of the challenges that would go into said venture. Patti had her eye on a ring she'd seen on an Etsy seller’s shop and had saved a screenshot of it on her phone. All I had to do was sneak a peek at it at the right moment and order it without her knowledge (I still abruptly asked her her ring size one afternoon because I’m about as smooth as a popcorn ceiling). Since we were going to be traveling for a few weeks, she of course wanted to visit Disneyland before we left (which, if you've met her for five seconds, you'll know is her favorite place). So the stage was set. The only issue left was timing.
The ring arrived in the nick of time; just days before we were supposed to go to Disneyland. I was able to hide it in the liquor cabinet in the meantime, although I probably could have just set it on top of the refrigerator and she would have been none the wiser. We would stay the night at the Hilton Anaheim (thank you, Hilton Honors Points), but while in the broad sense I was very aware that this was the perfect time and place to propose, the specifics presented a series of challenges. How would I conceal the ring all day? How would I not reveal it while going through security? Would I take the risk of losing it by keeping it in my pocket? In light of these concerns, I opted not to bring it to the park and left it in my laptop case, which I hadn't even bothered to bring a laptop in.
While we were in Disney, I dropped my phone. In spite of the military grade case I'd been gifted by my sister as per Patti’s recommendation, it was having a technical issue. I was quite agitated about this turn of events, and the timing could not have been worse, as we were about to return to New York and my phone is of the utmost necessity for navigating the subway system. In addition, I was getting tired and hungry, and my frustration with the phone and the stumbling blocks I'd encountered had left me grouchy. So, we left the park. Luckily, on our way back to the hotel, I tried restarting my phone manually, and that corrected the issue. The next issue to deal with was my hunger.
Most of the time I try to adhere to a low-carb diet, and for that purpose, In-N-Out is far and away the best value on the fast food market (I wouldn't be being true to myself if this story didn't contain an utterly irrelevant Aspergian digression or several).
So, after navigating traffic en route to a feast of In-N-Out Flying Dutchmen (basically a grilled cheese with hamburger for bread), we returned to the hotel room to an open picture window and a view of the nightly fireworks. Patti enthusiastically took out her phone to record the ongoing festivities, oblivious to the fact that I had a stroke of good fortune and, for perhaps only the second time in my life, had the presence of mind to realize it. I had known I'd wanted to do this for nearly three years, and had no desire to wait a second longer. With her attention diverted, I casually took the ring out of the otherwise barren laptop case. I may have stumbled a little, but it was fine as long as I ended up on one knee.
When Patti turned around, I'll never forget the sensation of shock and happiness that seemed to wash over her in that moment. For the only time in three years, and most likely for the rest of our lives, I seemed to have caught her by surprise. All she could say was "Aw, honey..." I rose from my knee, but she demanded I get back down and actually ask the question. Ending my respite from utter predictability, I directly quoted Rocky II and asked her “if she wouldn’t mind marrying me too much.” She accepted, and although her excitement never wavered, she soon remarked at how it didn’t feel much different. Truth be told, I didn’t feel different either, because I knew what was going to happen right from the very beginning.