“Phillip’s a little bit like a hedgehog; kind of prickly until you get to know him.” – A former boss of mine
Quite frankly, that former boss hit the nail on the head where my husband is concerned. Because, let’s face it, Phillip IS a little bit prickly. What most people don’t seem to understand, though, is that he’s only prickly because he’s so freaking introverted. Once you get to know him, he’s smart, funny, and incredibly sweet (at least to me).
Maybe I’m feeling reflective, because it was around this time back in 2009 that we first met. Well, virtually, at least. Like a lot of people these days, we met online. Honestly, it’s a story I love to tell, because to me it’s proof that fate is actually A Thing.
See, a friend from grad school has been compiling stories about the horrors of online dating, and as a fellow romance writer who was very single at the time (and who also was not looking to date at all) I told her, “I bet I can find better losers in Waco than you can find in Springfield.” So I signed up on the same dating website she was using at the time—Plenty of Fish—and created my profile. I was intentionally a little bitchy and off-putting, because like I said, I wasn’t actually looking to meet anyone. I was basically doing research and trolling for fodder for both of us and our writing.
I actually had a few guys message me pretty quickly, which shocked me because, like I said, I was a bit bitchy in my profile. Well, one dude actually told me that I would never find a man with an attitude like mine. I told him what he could go do to himself.
But then Phillip messaged me.
The first thing I noticed was his writing (as a writer, that’s an obvious one for me). It was like I was talking to him, for one thing. For another, he had perfect grammar and spelling, and his punctuation was pretty damned good, too. His vocabulary was also up to par. But he was also funny. In that initial message he mentioned he was blind and told me he held the world record for being hit by the most parked cars.
My next thought was, “Is he really blind or is just just trying to get a sympathy lay?”
There’s a reason why I’d removed myself from the dating scene, y’all.
At any rate, he also told me he wasn’t really looking to date anyone, he just thought my profile was interesting and messaged me. Again, I was skeptical about his motives, but I was also intrigued. So I messaged him back and we started chatting. He said something about reading a lot and I asked him how he managed that considering Braille takes up so much space. He was curious as to how I knew that about Braille, so I told him about my blind friend from high school. And we kept chatting and messaging online, and I even told a couple of friends about him (one of them, bless her heart, threatened to shoot him with a shotgun if he hurt me) and showed them his photo. The same friend who threatened to shoot him said, “He’s kind of cute. I think he has promise.”
It took some persuading on Phillip’s part, but I finally gave him my phone number (I was really, really wary). That somehow turned into our first date, and butterflies the first time he held my hand and even more butterflies when he kissed me later that night.
Like I’ve said repeatedly—I was wary. I’d had some bad previous experiences with relationships and love and sex, had made some not-so-great decisions throughout my 20s, and at the time I met Phillip was in therapy dealing with the WHY behind those bad decisions and experiences. I didn’t trust easily (still don’t, to be honest), and I kept waiting for the mask to come off and for the true Phillip to reveal himself. It ends up, though, that deep down I intuitively knew I could trust him; the night of our first date I fell asleep in his bed while talking to him (fully clothed, for family members who might be reading this!).
I’d never been able to sleep with someone in the bed with me before then, because of those aforementioned trust issues.
I’d been hurt, I’d been abused, I’d been sexually molested as a girl and raped as a pre-teen. In other words—I didn’t really trust people with penises when I was at my most vulnerable. Asleep. In the past, any time I’d spent the night with someone, I’d never really been able to sleep, no matter how tired I was (or, honestly, how drunk I was, because like I said, bad decisions had been made in my 20s). But here was this guy I’d only been talking to for like a week and a half and who I’d just met face to face for the first time and who gave me butterflies and who I was pretty sure I was already in love with and I just passed the eff out in his bed, 90 miles from home (we were living in different cities when we met).
I don’t know how I knew it, but I knew it—he was someone I could trust with my life and he would do everything in his power to protect and cherish that.
Since that night, he’s proven to me time and time again that my intuition was correct. I also learned—pretty quickly, I might add—that the Phillip I knew and saw on a regular basis wasn’t necessarily the one everyone else saw and knew.
Like I said, he can come across as being a little prickly. That, my friends, is because my husband is an introvert. And I’m not talking about someone who would rather stay at home with a good book rather than go to a concert introvert, I’m talking the type of introvert who all but closes himself off in social situations if he doesn’t really know the people he’s with. And even when he does know the people he’s with, he’s not a fan of big crowds.
The world can be a little too people-y for my introverted husband.
I honestly think some of that has to do with his blindness—not because it’s a disability (because it’s not—the man rode bulls for crying out loud), but because so much of your interactions in social situations rely on visual cues. Think about it. When you’re with a group of people—especially a group of people you don’t really know that well or at all—you don’t what their speech patterns are like, so you watch them. You watch for that intake of breath, or the look away, or the sip of wine, or the head tilt that indicates it’s somebody else’s turn to speak. For someone who can see those visual cues, navigating social situations can sometimes be a bitch. It’s even more of a bitch for someone who can’t see at all.
So basically, people don’t really get to know Phillip. And weirdly, a part of me kind of revels in that. I see a side of him that no one else does—the REAL Phillip—and that makes me feel incredibly special.
See, the man I’m married to is a great conversationalist when he wants to be. He’s incredibly intelligent, well-read, and has a fantastic sense of humor. We don’t have cable, because most of our time is spent talking about current events or politics, or the books we’re reading, or watching baseball, or just having random conversations that lead to me Googling things like, “Do fish fart?” (That actually happened.)
He’s a music lover, and has a habit of rewriting song lyrics into hilarious parodies. And a lot of the time, dirty parodies at that (which of course makes me laugh like crazy because I have the sense of humor of a fourteen-year-old boy). And when songs aren’t being rewritten, half of our conversations consist of random references to song lyrics. Because we’re super cool like that, yo.
He always makes sure to be in the bathroom to hand me my towel when I get out of the shower—and for me to use to balance on (I’m short, and we have a garden tub, so sometimes I need help balancing because I’m also clumsy AF).
He tries to spoil me rotten, but I won’t let him. (Okay, I won’t completely let him, because I get it considering I like doing nice, unexpected things for him, too.) I mean, I’m pretty sure if I told him I wanted to paint the walls of our house with a mural of a farting unicorn he would think I was crazy but would figure out a way to make it happen if it would make me happy.
He’s my biggest champion, supporter, and fan. He’s the first person to read any of my books, and while he always has suggestions and finds things that need to be corrected, he also says super sweet stuff like, “I’m in awe of your storytelling ability.”
On the days I go into the office he messages me when he wakes up to tell me he loves me and that he hopes I have a good day at work.
He doesn’t smile often, but it’s one of my favorite things about him when he does.
He’s fiercely protective of the people he loves, and the same holds true for our dogs (I mean, they really are our kids and are the size of teenagers, just with more hair).
I’ve never known anyone with a stronger moral code or sense of right and wrong while still being fully aware that there are always shades of gray.
I think one of the things that first really drew me in—aside from the sense of humor and large vocabulary—was his sense of independence. Even though our obstacles had been very different, we’d both had some odds stacked against us, and both of us have always found ways to get around those odds. I appreciated and respected that (still do), and it makes me feel like we’re kindred souls in a way.
Beyond all of that, though, I see the man who taught me how to trust. I know it sounds cheesy or trite or cliched or whatever, but I honestly did not know it was possible to love someone so freaking much. Sure, he gets on my nerves sometimes (I mean, he has this super annoying habit of always being right) and we occasionally will disagree with one another, but he’s also my best friend and my partner in this crazy adventure called life.
From the beginning, we just clicked as a team (well, there was that one time I accidentally tried to kill him via knives in his dishwasher, but that was a total accident). And even though no one knows me better—and I know him better than anyone else—I also love the fact that even after almost nine years together we still sometimes discover new things about each other. We also grow together, encourage one another, and if one of us stumbles the other one is always there with a helping hand.
It’s funny, because from the get-go I felt like Phillip saw me. I mean, deep down saw who I was at my core. He was the first person to really, truly, see me like that, I think. Over time, I’ve come to learn that it works both ways—I’m the only one who really sees him, too.