Our First Date by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By First Dates

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Our first date…I can’t just start the story there, I have to go back eight months, to the day that I first met her.

"Well, then, chivalry is not such a good thing."

At the time, I was the president of the Harvard Club of Central Ohio, and was managing our annual back-to-school “picnic” for our incoming and returning students, and alums who wanted to meet them and wish them well.  She had not been aware that there was a Harvard Club in the area, but had learned about the picnic through the Dartmouth Club.  (As I learned later, she has an undergraduate degree in German from Harvard, an MBA from Dartmouth, and a JD from Columbia.)

When she checked in, I remember being surprised that she was not Asian, as her last name was clearly Japanese.  But I was busy handling the details of the picnic with the restaurant staff, and really did not spend much time talking with her that day.  Apparently, however, she was attracted to something about me, because over the ensuing months, she found more reasons to be in the same place with me.

I should stop now and note that both of us were in marriages that had gone bad, hers almost from the beginning, mine after almost thirty years.  There is no point in going into any of the details, they are not really relevant.  Neither of us was actually looking for anyone else at the time, we were just resigned to the situations we found ourselves in.

She began showing up at our monthly Friday after-work social hours, and I became more aware of the fact that I found her very interesting.  Then we both attended an MIT event at which an Ohio State University professor spoke about the upcoming presidential election.  (He predicted that John Kerry would win, not realizing that a gay marriage amendment on the ballot would bring out hordes of Bush voters.)  I was disappointed to see that she was sitting at a table with a number of Republicans – I knew that I could never be involved with a Republican.  As it turned out, however, she was not aware of their party affiliation, and is every bit as liberal as I am.

Our next meeting was at a party where the Harvard – Yale game was being shown.  We spent virtually all of our time at that event talking to each other.  She told me later that she was impressed with how much time I spent talking about my daughters, and how I didn’t even mention my then wife.  I was considering walking her to her car, when suddenly she told me that she had to go watch her son play soccer, and she disappeared.

When I got home, I put out a note to the Harvard Club mailing list stating that I really wanted to add a distaff alum to our board of directors.  I clearly had in mind one particular distaff alum, and sure enough, I got a reply within a few minutes indicating that she was interested in the position.  Over the next few months, she was there for every meeting, but at one meeting she did not wear her wedding ring, and made sure that I saw that it was missing.  At the next meeting, I waited until she arrived to tell the directors that I might seem distracted because it appeared that my marriage was in trouble.

On April 1, 2005, we had another Friday after-work social hour, and I spent the entire evening talking with her.  As the party broke up, I offered to walk her to her car, telling her that it was a rough neighborhood.  (It was not.)  When we got to the parking lot, she was so shook up that she couldn’t remember where she had parked her car, what kind of car it was, what color it was – she finally remembered her license plate number and we found it.  And at that point, fearful of rejection, I chickened out, big time.  I just shook her hand, said “Drive carefully” and walked away.  She told me later that she just sat in the car for a while asking herself “What the hell just happened?”

She waited until Sunday to send me an email, thanking me for being so chivalrous.  I responded that the chivalrous part was when I shook her hand and walked away.  Her nearly instantaneous reply was “Well then, chivalry is not such a good thing.”  And I wrote back that we really needed to get together and talk.  We agreed to have dinner the following Friday, April 8.

We had dinner at a small Greek restaurant.  The first thing I said that evening was “I don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s marriage breaking up.” She replied that her marriage was already seriously broken, that I should not be concerned on that account.

After dinner, we walked over to a city park, stood by a small lake, and made out like a couple of teenagers.  Eight months later, after both of our divorces became final, we were married, in my mother’s living room, with one of my brothers as best man and the other brother, who happened to be a judge, officiating.  More than thirteen years later, we are as happy as a couple can be.  We are also best friends.



Profile photo of Jeff Gerken Jeff Gerken

Characterizations: been there, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Jeff, what a wonderful and heartwarming story! I love how the actual first date takes up only four sentences in the last two paragraphs of the piece. And how your clear and vivid description of the eight months leading up to the date makes us so happy when you finally get to the Greek restaurant. I’ve been on the board of my local Harvard Club for years, and nothing that exciting has ever happened here! May you have many more happy years together.

    Next week you can tell us about the honeymoon!

  2. Absolutely terrific, Jeff. You tell it wonderfully.

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Great story, Jeff, and not just because I can semi-relate to it in terms of my own 30-years-after-college romance with my wife (though we had known each other since junior high school).

    I was particularly impressed by the fact that, contrary to most male-female relationships (or at least stereotypes of them), you were the more reticent participant, and you write very honestly about it. And I would absolutely kill to ever be on the receiving end of your wife’s zinger about chivalry. I am so glad that this had such a happy ending for you both!

    One final point. I was also impressed that, per your telling, you could make out standing up.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    I really enjoyed your friendship leading up to that first date. Finding each other and ending up married for 13 years is a great hapy ending to your saga.

  5. John Zussman says:

    What a sweet, romantic story—almost a throwback, since the courtship really happened before your first date, and the date itself was almost anticlimactic. Wishing you both plenty of happy ever after.

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