Romantic regrets are the main theme over here at Doorflower. Melissa Rae Madison stops by with hers on tour for her book The Pursuit of Happiness.
There’s always that one moment in life that you look back on and think, “What if I’d handled that differently? What if I’d chosen the other path?” There are plenty of dating mishaps in my past that I’m happy to have behind me, but if I had to choose one to redo…
I was in law school and my best friend Susan insisted that I meet, oh, let’s call him Carl. Susan was friends with Bill, Carl’s roommate, and for some reason she decided to play matchmaker.
“You’ve got to meet Carl. He’s not in law school. You’re going to love him!”
Oh, prophetic words from the lips of a second year law student, who, let’s face it, may have been a tad tipsy at the time. Or just delirious from pouring over legal texts in a crowded, stuffy library for hours at a time. I met Carl, and while it might not have been love at first sight (well, ok, it might have been), it was at least extreme like. At our first meeting, however, Carl told me a long convoluted story about some cute girl who’d been in one of his classes the previous semester. I felt hope begin to fade until he reached the end of the story. Apparently at the end of the semester the whole class went out drinking together and his crush stuck close by his side all night, then, when Carl failed to make a move, gave him a hug and said “Call me sometime, sweetie!”
“Should I have called her?” he asked.
In a genius burst of passive-aggressive manipulation, Carl had communicated to me that no matter how much he liked me, he wasn’t going to make the first move. After much agonizing and some encouraging (bullying) from my friends, I asked him to the Barrister’s Ball, also known as Prom For Law Students and he accepted.
Once I’d made the first move, Carl overcame his alleged shyness and asked me out on our first date, which would occur before the formal. A movie date would be a nice way to break the ice, we agreed.
In his car on the way to the movie theatre, I was already reconsidering. He was playing country music on the radio and I wasn’t a fan. Conversation lagged until suddenly Carl asked me, “What’s your favorite movie?” Before I could answer, he said, “Mine’s Raising Arizona.”
“Oh,” I said, delighted that we had something in common after all. “I don’t know if that’s my favorite, but it’s definitely in my top 5. “
“Well,” Carl continued, his eyes on the road, “I’m going to name my first son Nathan Arizona Junior. Is that all right with you?”
That was such a creep thing to ask that I considered telling him to pull over and let me out of the car. Instead, I said, “You can name your kid whatever the hell you want.”
That was my mistake. I should have told him, no, that we were not going to name our son after a character in a Coen brothers film, but how could I have known how life would turn out?
Many years later (how many, I’m not going to say), as I sit on the couch writing this, Carl is talking to our youngest son about his homework, and Nathan Arizona, our oldest, is siting next to me texting a friend of his. He’s taller than me, his feet are enormous, and he’ll be going to college all too soon.
“Do you like your name?” I ask him.
“Sure,” he says, not taking his eyes off the screen.
“If you could change it, would you?” I persist.
He turns off the phone and slips into his pants pocket as he stands up to leave the room.
“No. Unless I can change it to Dragon.”
Well, maybe I wouldn’t do it over after all. Come to think of it, I guess I wouldn’t change a thing.
Melissa Rae Madison