I always believed in love at first sight. A concept instilled in me, no doubt, by devouring too many romance novels at an impressionable age. (Romance novels, I wish I could quit you!) My fantasy man changed constantly depending on what I was reading or who I was crushing on. When I was 18 my ideal man, like practically every other girl I knew, was Mr FitzWilliam Darcy. Tall, dark and handsome, sensitive yet smouldering Darcy could work a wet shirt like nobody else.
Unfortunately, Mr Darcy was fictional. But I wasn’t daunted, I knew that somewhere out there was a man who liked Buffy as much as I do. (I met that man when I was 18 too. But he was a homosexual. It took over a year of pining before I realised.) But when I met the man for me I’d know. Just like in the stories. Girl spies boy across a crowded room. Their eyes lock. And they know that this is the One they will spend the rest of their lives with.
It didn’t really turn out like that for us.
Let me take you back in time (cue squiggly lines) to when our story begins. It was the autumn of the millennium, jeans were baggy, Craig David was at number 1 with seven days and I was starting University.
I met HWSNBN a couple of days into University. My flatmates and I put a brightly coloured sign on the door of our house inviting anybody to pop in. HWSNBN, who lived in the house next door (I was in 3F, he was in 5F. Yes I am marrying the boy next door!), and his friend the elusive Mr F were the first people to arrive.
HWSNBN was tall, dark(ish) and handsome. His hair was fluffy, like a new-born chick, and his dress sense horrific. He was wearing his customary uniform of a geeky t-shirt and shorts with pulled up socks. His smile was so perfect it took my breath away (and still does). Unlike Darcy, he talked very fast, the thoughts spilling over themselves in his hurry to express them. At the time, I prided myself on being a good judge of character. I could tell from that first meeting the HWSNBN was a nice guy. I had tried dating nice guys before and it always ended in disaster. The chemistry stuttered rather than sizzled and I wasn’t going to settle. So I dismissed HWSNBN as too nice (!) and moved on.
HWSNBN had the opposite reaction. He saw through my unflattering jumper and unbrushed hair (Mum you were right. I look back of photos of me at this time and cringe) and fancied me immediately. I had no idea. At first I was certain that he liked my flatmate. But at parties he would always come straight up to me, introduce himself (despite fancying me it took a while before he remembered my name) and talk excitedly at me. I was utterly confused. Why was he always following me around? What was with the constant smiling? What did it all mean? (18-year old Rowan was a bit of an idiot.)
It took us over three years to get together. Partly because my tactic with people I fancied was to avoid making eye contact or talking to them. Otherwise they would figure out I fancied them, and that would be bad. Yep, I am unparalleled seductress 🙂 Conversely if they avoided eye contact or talking to me that meant they wanted me, bad.
In the meantime HWSNBN became a constant feature of Uni life. I saw him at house parties drinking Green Shit, at the Gloucester every Tuesday night, once even in the snow still wearing his shorts and socks. I always loved hearing about him, the film he was making, the house he was living in and the girls he dated. And there were moments where something almost happened but didn’t: when I sat next to him on the last night of term, when we drank absinthe in his roof garden, or the awkward sideways hug. But still if you had told me then that in twelve years I would be marrying HWSNBN, I would have laughed in your face.
When we graduated, we stood next to each other chatting as we were fitted for our gowns and as we queued to enter the auditorium. As he received his degree on stage I clapped until my hands hurt because I thought I would never see him again. In some alternative reality there is a Rowan who never saw him again and never knew what she was missing. And that thought terrifies me. What if I hadn’t gone to Sussex? What if I hadn’t lived in Park Village? What if we had gone out that day instead of putting a sign on our door? What if in this huge old world we missed each other?
Thankfully my flatmate bored of my mooning over him had other plans.
Next week: how our personal Cilla’s finally took pity on both of us.