Our first date occurred in the way I least expected. Not only did I ask Dan out on a date, but I asked him to meet me in Chicago.
I had bought tickets to a concert in Chicago. I was really excited about it, and I invited a friend to go with me. The concert was scheduled for the very end of my Christmas break during my first year of grad school in St. Louis. I was home in Iowa with my family for the whole break. And I had been GChatting (I know!) with Mr. Dan all. break. long. Every night.
We had been friends since September. He had given me an awkward hug before I headed home for break. But our feelings for each other had never been a specific topic of conversation.
About a week before the concert, my friend realized she couldn’t make it. Let’s be honest: There was no wracking my brain about who to invite. Dan was on my mind immediately. After doubting and doubting and consulting with a friend, she encouraged me to invite him. Though, yes, that was kind of asking him out on a date. And yes, we’d never spent time alone together. And yes, that’s pretty forward for a conservative Christian girl like myself. (Smile.)
So I asked. On GChat. If he’d like to go. He did, though he would already be back in St. Louis — not his hometown near Chicago — at that point. But no problem, he said. He’d take an early Megabus to Chicago. The I-might-throw-up-I’m-so-excited-and-nervous feeling started then and didn’t end for quite a while.
The night before, I went out to dinner with some friends and confessed that I really wasn’t certain if he actually had a romantic interest in me. Maybe he’s just been bored over Christmas break? Maybe he just likes free concert tickets? They promptly told me I was foolish. I still couldn’t believe them.
I picked Dan up on a busy street corner near the bus station in downtown Chicago. He was wearing a pea coat, and his hair was longer and curlier than I had remembered. I was filled with doubt, and my self-esteem was honestly a little low.
We wandered the Art Institute and took photos by the Bean. We ate at an odd but delicious Chinese restaurant. We were the only ones there, so the staff was lounging at a table near ours. I was certain they were humored by our obvious first date nervous selves. I couldn’t make conversation, and I didn’t eat anything.
We took the subway uptown to the apartment of a female friend of Dan’s. Because the concert was so late, we had to spend the night in Chicago with her. So yeah, on our first date, I slept on a futon, Dan slept on the floor, and his friend slept in her bed in the same room. It was strange, but it was perfect.
The concert was great, though, honestly, I was most focused on how close Dan was standing and what we would talk about between bands.The concert got over late, and we had to take the El back to his friend’s home.
It was cold, and there were piles of snow on the sides of the sidewalks. I realized my nerves had lifted sometime in the prior hours. My hands were “cold,” so he held them. We huddled under a heat lamp at the outdoor El station. I closed my eyes, and he guided me down the sidewalks and through the crosswalks.
I didn’t sleep at all that night. It could have been because the room was toasty and the futon was uncomfortable,but no — I was just really, really happy. Too many moments from the day to run through in my mind.
The next day, we had coffee with Dan’s friend and drove back to St. Louis together. I drove us the last leg of the way. With the St. Louis Arch in the distance, I noticed Dan start to shift around in his seat. He’d lean forward, then back. He was sighing and tugging on his seatbelt. I turned the music down a bit, because it was apparent he had something to say. Finally, he spit it out. Neither of us remember exactly what he said besides this one part: Natalie Elizabeth, would you be my girlfriend?
I pulled up to his house soon after and hopped out of the car to hug him. He asked if we could go out to dinner the next night to talk about what we wanted our dating relationship to look like. How we wanted it to honor God. How we wanted to share it with others. He asked if he could call my dad to talk about his intention to date me.
“Fingerpainting,” this amazing acoustic song that builds and builds was playing through my car’s speaker system. Eleven months and three days later later through God’s great provisions and plans bigger than mine, I walked down the aisle to the same song.