Lost a Friend, Gained a Spouse by
(115 Stories)

Prompted By Chance Encounters

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

Two years after that chance encounter

At the beginning of my senior year at the University of Michigan, I made a pact with Paula. We were done with frivolous dating and vowed to spend the year working on our minds. In that spirit, we went to see The Shop on Main Street. This Czech art movie had won the 1965 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, so it fit in well with our plan to be intellectually challenged. It was also the night I committed the most anti-feminist act ever. I came with Paula but left with Fred.

That chance meeting ended up being the longest date of my life. It has lasted 54 years.

My vow of female solidarity and avoiding dating didn’t even last a week. We happened to sit next to a group of guys, and I knew the one seated next to me. Fred had been in one of my classes and was also the fraternity brother of someone I had dated. Turns out, going out with someone in the same fraternity as a previous boyfriend was another taboo I broke that night in September of 1966.

I knew who Fred was because of the fraternity connection. When he took Sociology 101 with me the year before, he borrowed my notes because he rarely attended the class. Fred had the audacity to criticize my notes for being too long, written in turquoise ink, and filled with too many doodles. All of this made them difficult and expensive to copy. But they were good enough to earn him a “B” for a class he almost never attended. While I earned an “A” for this rather useless class, I realized he was pretty smart to do so well with just my notes, as he didn’t read the text either.

Sitting next to him at the movies was totally random and life changing. The Shop on Main Street was a very moving film. The main character takes the job of “Aryan comptroller” for a rundown button shop managed by an elderly, mostly deaf Jewish woman. She has no idea why he is there or that there is a war. They become close, but when the Jews are being rounded up, he turns her in, only to change his mind after it is too late. The dream sequence at the end left me in tears. And then, emotionally wrought, I left with Fred instead of my girlfriends.

When he asked if I would like to take a walk with him to discuss the movie’s deeper meaning, I was all in. I’m not sure why I ditched my friends and betrayed my plan for sisterhood and studies other than the fact that I thought he was cute and I knew he was smart and funny. He claimed to share my emotional upheaval and earnestly agreed with my assessment that the protagonist in the film reminded me of my grandmothers. He felt the same way. Only later did I learn that he had never known any of his grandparents.

Nevertheless, our romance bloomed from that chance encounter at the movies. We dated throughout our final year of college and eventually married in August, 1968. I doubt that I would have agreed to date him if he had called to ask me out. Instead of spending the year pursuing intellectual activities with Paula, I was riding around on the back of a motorcycle and attending crazy fraternity barn, toga, and trip-to-Miami parties again. It was probably the last carefree year of my life, and I have no regrets about the 180 degree turn I made after sitting next to a guy I barely knew at an art movie.

Graduation pictures

I have no recollection of what happened to Paula. I think there was a third girl with us that night, so I didn’t totally dump her. Still, for someone who had decided she was finished with casual dating, that evening ended up being my shortest resolution ever, but it was also the longest date of my life. It has lasted 54 years.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real and join my Facebook community.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

Visit Author's Website

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Laurie, so happy for your happy ending, and so much for good intentions vs mutual attractions – the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak!

    And I bet you both still love the movies altho now you’re watching them at home on Netflix!

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Great story, Laurie. And, as they say, life is about choices. Sounds like a good one. Particularly since it sounds as if you still managed to retain your commitment to feminism all these years, even after leaving with a — gasp! — boy. That said, I hope you were — or, in retrospect, are — rightly suspicious of what a guy is euphemistically saying when he asks if you’d like to “discuss the movie’s deeper meaning.”

    And one question. Never having been a frat guy, what is a “barn party,” other than a party in a barn? In the rural town I grew up in, we called parties in barns something else: square dances.

  3. Marian says:

    I had to laugh to see what I missed at frat parties, Laurie. I knew the basics of your story, and having met Fred within the last year, it’s really hard to think of him being disingenuous about discussing that movie, but there you are. You have made up for leaving with a guy given what you’ve done with the rest of your life.

  4. What a sweet story! If I had been Paula, I wouldn’t have minded. Being a good friend means being supportive of whatever good things (or guys) come your friend’s way. That’s also a part of feminism. But you don’t remember her reaction? Did you really lose a friend that night?

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Yep. Never spent time with Paula again. Perhaps it was my guilt or her jealousy or feeling of being betrayed. If I could only remember her last name, I might try googling her, although at my age that is often not a great idea. Starting to find more obits than connections when I do that.

  5. Suzy says:

    Laurie, this is a wonderful story, although I feel like I have heard at least some of it before. Either you talked about it for a previous prompt, or I read it on your blog. Still, I didn’t know all of the details, like the name of the movie you saw, and the line Fred used about taking a walk to discuss the movie’s deeper meaning. How great that this date has lasted 54 years and shows no signs of ending! You are a lucky woman!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I am very lucky indeed, Suzy.Especially during these months of staying at home, I have come to deeply appreciate our friendship as well as our long marriage. And, as I told Marian, I quickly developed a good BS detector so he didn’t get away with lines like that for very long (LOL).

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    Laurie, I agree with everyone else. You needed the release after watching that intense film and Fred was there for you (even with other intentions). And attraction can’t be denied. I also love that you took notes in turquoise ink! Too funny! (I remember getting my first pink Flair and doodling with that, but a few years later and never for note-taking.)

    It is heart-warming to learn, bit by bit, over these many prompts, about what a good man Fred is, and how well you fit together. That was, indeed, the beginning of something special.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Betsy. I feel the same way about reading about your relationship with Dan. And by the way, those turquoise ink pens were actually ink cartridges, not ball point pens. I think I liked them because they were better for doodling.

  7. Ah, Laurie…feminism notwithstanding, I think we do have to recognize that those moments when our hormones are pulling us by the nose (or whatever) are necessary. Sure, sometimes it’s just “animal magnetism,” but sometimes it’s a pull toward a soul mate which was obviously the case with you and Fred. And I agree with Joan that being a good friend means being supportive or at least understanding, especially since this obviously wasn’t your typical M.O. And, I think you were taunting the fates, as I was when, single again in the 90s and fed up with dating, I made the declaration, out loud, that I was through with men, then the next day met the man who would become my second husband.

  8. Great story, Laurie! I love the passage where your guy-to-be invites you for a walk to discuss the film’s deeper meanings. It’s telling that you both were able to turn such a line … and what a line! … from just that into a lifetime relationship. Nice work!

Leave a Reply