No fine print, just a fine woman.

Nineteen years ago today, I got married. For the second time. There are all sorts of things that I could say here about getting it right this time, first time around is just practice, etcetera – but that is all very cliché – and not all that reflective of the realities of life.

I could also go the ninety-nine cent greeting card route and throw out some platitudes about ‘marrying my soul mate’ or some such, but again – cliché and not really on point.

Getting married nineteen years ago changed the course of some people’s lives, made some lives better, even created new lives that will now perpetuate and reverberate through other lives. That Saturday extravaganza and assorted hoopla pre-and-post made the world, I think, just a little bit better in the process.

At the very least, it made me better.

I met my wife Amy via a personal ad she had placed in a quaint little start-up newsprint tabloid called ‘Single World’ that was available at free newsstands at grocery and convenience stores, hotel lobbies, restaurants, bars, and – where I found my copy and eventual bride – the Laundromat in the Hi-Lake Shopping Center in south Minneapolis.

Ahh, romance before it got all high-tech and ‘matchy.’

At the time, the whole singles-ad thing was still relatively alternative in nature; meaning it was a revenue boon for the Twin Cities alternative newspapers, and were usually just listed just after the display ads for bongs and other paraphernalia and just before the display ads for strip clubs. Good for amusement purposes when hanging out with pals post-bar rush at Perkins, but nobody in my crowd saw them as viable ‘love connection’ reading

What set Single World apart from the other freebie publications of the time was that its stated mission was to be a ‘Christian singles magazine.’ Now while I never saw anything that was in contradiction to the publisher’s stated intention to deliver a high-brow, faith-oriented forum for singles, the primary nod to its Christian underpinnings was a weekly listing of events at area churches: singles dances, special interest Bible and other book studies…and a slew of self-help and twelve-step programs.

Looking for love in all the ‘My name is….’ places?

I have nothing but respect for most such organizations, but whenever I picked up a copy of Single World, I saw that the ‘Weekly calendar of singles events in the Twin Cities’ was an increasing longer alphabet soup heavy on the vowels: AA, NA, ACA, GA , OA, with the occasional TOPS and POS thrown in for good measure.

Know that I am not making fun of any of these organizations or the work that they do; I have had many friends throughout the years that have been helped by them, and the church I belonged to at the time sponsored three different AA groups and a TOPS chapter. Many weeks more than fifty such groups and their respective meeting places and times were listed – all in the name of ‘meeting other eligible singles.’

A novel approach; the antithesis of the bar-pickup scene

But the idea of utilizing that weekly listing as a ‘hangout checklist’ seemed fraught with a variety of issues for a single guy like me, not the least of which being, do I want to actively seek romance with someone who has the same neuroses as mine, or go for someone with completely different issues than my own? Plus simply going to a meeting and pretending to have whatever issue was at hand seemed at best, deceitful.

I avoided that issue entirely by just reading the personal ads.

The first ad you placed was free, so anybody could join in.  As befitting the goal of the magazine, the ads were free of anything overtly sexual, and were divided into just two categories: men seeking women and women seeking men. Aside from that, the formatting and singles language was pretty much the same as in other publications: SWF, DWM, SBM, and so on. The only other thing that set these ads apart from other locales was a predilection of many of them to note, usually as an end line, what twelve-step group(s) they belonged to.

But mostly, they were fairly benign verbal snapshots of women’s likes and dislikes, turn-ons and turn-offs. This being in Minnesota, ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’ and ten-times that many recalcitrant and reserved Scandinavians, they tended to rely heavily on ‘loves walking around lakes’ proclamations over the proverbial and Playboy-Bunnyesque ‘long walks on the beach’ shtick. Aside from that…

It being Minnesota, the ads were also abundant with ‘quiet evenings’, personal reading lists, and helpful ideas on how to spend long winter nights with that ‘special someone’ – which usually steered back toward the reading lists, with the added ‘in front of a roaring fire.’ It being Minnesota, there were also those who specified their blaze of choice; fireplace or campfire.

No, the personality types are not interchangeable. That’s another post entirely.

All in all, Single World was an entertaining read, good for a few spin-cycle chuckles every week or two. There were only a few ads that ever really enticed me; one that ended up as a lunch date at a suburban Pizza Hut, chosen, I learned only later, because it had a bus stop out front and my lunch date had some lost driver’s license issues stemming from a DUI.

The other ad I responded to with a letter led me to where I am today; very happily married for nineteen years.

The ad Amy placed was, to hear her tell it, strictly to not get left in her roommate Marla’s dating-dust in the summer of ’91. Having discovered Single World and its non-threatening nature and placed an ad, Marla’s potential for a more active social life was all the encouragement Amy needed to place her own romance classified.

Amy’s ad got my attention immediately.

While most of the ads in Single World were fairly commonplace X-and-so seeks companionship with potential for romance, the ones that went (in any way, shape, or form) outside of the basic parameters stood way out.

The ‘home teams’ thing was intriguing to be sure, but more so was the ‘friends call me a woman with a taste for the bizarre.’ In two sentences we had moved from ‘intriguing’ to ‘where’s my Crayon?’ as her ending picture request sealed the gotta-write-this-one-a-letter deal.

Suffice to say, I sent the letter (and Crayola Norman Rockewell), she got it. Phoned me on a weekend I was out of town, and left a couple of messages on my answering machine that I retrieved when I returned home that Sunday night. I called her, we clicked pretty well. We spoke again the next night, and then a third time, racking up some thirteen hours of phone conversation before meeting for our first date, at little restaurant in my neighborhood; The Lake Street Garage.

I was smitten the moment I walked in, and saw her sitting alone at the near end of the bar, nursing a Diet Coke. She was wearing khaki pants and a peach colored blouse; her long, rather curlyon-the-ends blonde hair hung down over her shoulders. She had a white headband holding her hair back from a very attractive face, and the most unique shade of blue eyes I could remember seeing.  A stunning smile….

I immediately discovered that all the cool stuff discovered in over a dozen hours of phone chat was contained in one really fine package. Still is, by-the-way, on all counts.

But the deal was sealed then and there by Amy’s opening comment to me as I walked into the Lake Street Garage. Having spent much of our phone time getting to know each other’s basic likes and dislikes, she turned my way as the bell on the back of the restaurant door announced my arrival, and I stepped inside saying “Amy?”

Her response? “Well I know why you picked THIS place – they serve Coke and not Pepsi!”

We enjoyed dinner, then a lengthy walk around the neighborhood. Stopping for a bit to rest on the vacant plastic-sling swings at Longfellow Park, we sat next to each other, swinging and talking, her hair fluttering in the breeze. Even though she went home that night and told roommate Marla, “Well, I’m sufficiently underwhelmed!” she did agree to see me again. And again.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

A couple of interesting footnotes: it took another year or so, but roommate Marla also found her husband via Single World. Oh, and Amy’s pop of choice these days is Diet Coke, not Diet Pepsi.

Nineteen years. Wow.

When we met, Amy was a social worker running a teen center in the basement of a north Minneapolis church, and I was a non-traditional college student working in the hotel business. Eventually, she moved on into the corporate world, I advanced in the hotel business, not completing college.

In the meantime, our family grew; Will was born in 1995, Sam came along in 1999, and Lindsay – who was seven when Amy and I met – remained a constant in our blended clan. Before long, I was working in social services, first at the county, then state, level (sort of the Diet Pepsi/Diet Coke thing, in reverse)while Amy’s career track trended upward, which eventually led us to relocate from the Twin Cities to Marshall, in rural southwestern Minnesota, where Amy was in corporate human resources.

While there, I eventually finished my degree, and after a round of state budget cuts eliminated my employment counseling job that I had transferred to, I joined the corporate ranks as well. During all that, the company I was working for sent me to Louisiana, to help rebuild company operations post-Katrina. While having dinner in an IHOP one night, I read a newspaper article about the TeachNOLA program, which was recruiting people from the business world to come teach and help rebuild the city.

It wasn’t an ad, it was a full-fledged article. Still, there is a certain symmetry to the scent of newsprint…

Here we are, 2011, still happily married, now teachers in New Orleans. Professionally, the most difficult thing we’ve ever tackled, but arguably the most rewarding. The boys continue to thrive, Will having made it to his second year in a high school ranked among the top thirty in the country. Sam wants to follow in his footsteps. Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, Lindsay is about to bless us with our first grandchild.

Life is good. Nineteen years and counting good. The adventure continues.

Happy anniversary to us.


One thought on “No fine print, just a fine woman.

  1. Grmarachel August 2, 2011 / 9:59 am

    You really should write a book on your life Mark, it would end up being Novel size!!! 🙂 Congrats on 19 years with Amy, you make a great pair and your kids are great too!!! Who would have thought you would be a Grandpa this year too!


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