I have always been fascinated by a couple’s love story. I want to hear every facet they share with me! How do two people find each other in a world of over 7.5 billion people? How do you know who and when it is right? How did it all begin?
Bob and I each recalled and wrote about our love story separately, using our own memories and perspectives without conferring with one another. It was then juxtaposed producing a simultaneous experience/reality.
I was twenty-eight years old and still trying to find my way in this world. After three years, 1972-1975, of working at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, the city was going bankrupt and I along with 12.000 other teachers, received a pink slip from the NYC Board of Ed. I was fortunate, however, to land a leave position teaching English at Long Beach High School in Long Island, New York. The year passed quickly and I was going to be looking for another job, since the regular teacher was returning from her maternity leave. And then, from out of nowhere, I learned that I was going to be staying on at LBHS because the students had saved my job by circulating a petition to retain me. Apparently, some seven hundred students had signed the document and brought it to the superintendent. He recommended that I be placed in a position of my own. Little did I know at that time, that this occurrence would change the course of my life.
On April 17, 1977 at 12:30 pm, there was a knock at the door of the stark bohemian style studio apartment shared by my friend and roommate, Melissa, a burgeoning opera singer. My parents had given me permission to take a year off from college at age 20, to follow my acting dreams. The NYC, West 73rd Street studio was, to say the least, devoid of any ornamentation whatsoever! It ”boasted” one hot plate (we could never afford a microwave), and a tiny refrigerator where my ever present meal staple, breakfast bars, were stacked up. Our mattresses lay on their hard, rusty steel frames. These also doubled as our couches! Our huge undraped windows gave way to a full view of a male couple whose proclivity for nudity was apparent for the majority of the day. Overall though, I loved living there because the atmosphere was so artsy- rife with creativity, music, song, and struggling singers and actors- my idea of heaven!
In the early Spring of 1977, the principal assigned me to be the adviser for a Long Island wide high school speech contest to be held at Hofstra University. One of the student contestants was June, who came to my office several times to rehearse her oral interpretation of a poem. On the very first appointment, she asked me if I would be interested in meeting her older sister. I was not at all interested in accepting a date with the sister of one of my students. However, it turns out that June was somewhat persistent.
On the subsequent meeting in my office, she brought a picture of her sister. When I looked at the photo, it was one of these headshots which models or actresses use for their portfolios. I took it all in and when I lifted my head up from the image, I said, “Ok, if you don’t mind, could you give me her number?”
There went my ethics and values right down the drain. I had been approached by teachers, secretaries and other school personnel who wanted to know if I wanted to go out with their daughter, niece, cousin, etc. However, I had stood by my policy of not mixing my professional life with my personal life – until now! So I called Susan to arrange the date. We had a very satisfying conversation, especially as introductions go.
I had carefully curated my “actress” look with my artfully applied makeup and a cool head scarf a la 1970s Diane Keaton and Natalie Wood. I checked out my reflection, trying to emulate this chic, easy look of the actresses I admired so much. A few weeks prior to this moment, my younger 16 year old sister had easily convinced me to meet a young, popular high school English teacher. She had excitedly described him to me and it appeared that we had much in common. “He’s so easy to talk to and everyone likes him.” she said with a lilt to her voice. “He’s even left handed!” He must be an Aquarian, I thought. I asked her to find out and see if he was interested in a date with her big sister. She promised to find out more information and do her job. The next day, she informed me that not only was he an Aquarian, but that we had the SAME birthday! Well, that sealed the deal for me! A few days later, a phone call came through and Bob and I spoke effortlessly on the phone for over an hour! We made a date and we were set to meet each other!
Susan lived on Broadway and West 73rd Street in the Ansonia Hotel in Manhattan. The day of the date arrived and I really felt lousy. I can tell when I’m running a fever and this was one of those times. However, I was motivated to meet Susan based on what my colleagues at the school said about her and, of course, the picture I had seen.The Ansonia was an old art deco edifice which now housed many striving musicians, actors, singers and other aspiring entertainers.
As I entered the lobby, the place was consumed with activity. It made my sick head spin with a sense of imbalance. I entered the elevator to ascend to Susan’s apartment floor. I felt a bit strange but that passed as I stepped off the elevator. As I walked down the dark hall to Susan’s apartment, I really did not know how things would go and then I knocked and the door opened. I looked at Susan and her image was quite different from the picture I had seen. She wore a kerchief around her forehead and her make up was heavily applied so as to make her appearance rather theatrical. Susan’s overall demeanor was cheery and her blue-green eyes were alive with excitement. “Hi, nice to meet you,” she exclaimed. “I’m fine (I really wasn’t) and how are you?”I responded.
I opened the door to literally find the Marlboro man standing before me. If you are reading this, and don’t remember (are too young to know who he is), google his image! His deeply tanned skin was accentuated by his medium brown hair and full mustache which was stylish for the times. The look was completed by a dark leather jacket and Levi jeans. Of course, he had a pack of Marlboro cigarettes peeking out from the jacket pocket. (As I write this, I am totally being transported back in time!) I must say, I was totally taken aback, because his look reflected the type of a man I would NEVER date or see myself with! What was my sister thinking, fixing me up with this “Macho” (google it) man?
The apartment was a former hotel room which now was presented as a studio with a bathroom and no kitchen. The high ceilings had a large, curtainless window which was the centerpiece of the flat. As I gazed through the window into the apartment across the way, to my astonishment there were 2 naked men promenading around without a care in the world.
Of course this scenario had me take a proverbial step back. I want to say that I truly was not feeling well and that the overall effects of Ansonia’s milieu and Susan’s incredibly unbelievably joyous personality and enthusiasm created a state of disbelief in my mind.
The rest of the date was acceptable and ironically long, but definitely not love at first sight for either of us, to say the least. My parting line was, “Good luck to you,” as I left Susan’s apartment and most certainly also shut the door on our relationship.
I will not go on and on with the details, but I will tell you, it went on and on and on…
Bob hardly spoke and I did enough talking for the two of us, which was ironic, because being an introvert, this not a position in which I usually find myself. We went to a trendy cafe for lunch, a walk and a boat ride in Central Park and then getting hungry once again, we went for dinner. I kept thinking about how uninterested I was in this man and how I could end this seemingly endless date! The one strange thing that stood out to me, was that after dinner, he came back to my studio to freshen up before his hour long ride back to Brooklyn. I recall that he asked if he could put the hockey game on for a few minutes to check the score- (oh yes, I forgot to mention we also shared a tiny black and white TV!) He used Melissa’s bed (sorry Mel) as a couch and I sat on mine. They kind of made a semi-distant L configuration. I was feeling impatient and wanted him to leave already! I turned to look at him as he watched the hockey action and his face slowly morphed into that of a much older man. (Little did I know it was a premonition of what was yet to come!)
I shook myself out of the trance and began to verbally end the eight hour date. He stood up after negotiating for a few more minutes to finish the period, and politely kissed me good-bye and wished me lots of luck with the off-Broadway show I was about to open in at La Mama ETC. I shut the door in peace and happiness that he finally left and DID NOT ask for another date! Phewww!!!
Upon returning to work on Monday, one of my female colleagues asked me how the date went. I didn’t really have a specific answer, so I quipped: “Ah, she wasn’t that great.”
My colleague looked at me with her mouth agape and said, “Bobby you’re crazy.”
Well, that response set me to thinking, maybe I misjudged Susan. And maybe I am crazy!
So, I decided to call Susan again. The Ansonia had a switchboard operator whom I had to go through to reach her apartment. The first time I was put through and Susan’s roommate, Melissa, an opera singer answered the phone. “No, she’s not in, she said blandly. “Oh ok, could you tell her that I called and I’ll try again?” The receiver clicked and Melissa was gone. For the next week or two I tried several more times to reach Susan, leaving messages for her with the switchboard operator or being connected to the room with no answer. It never occurred to me that she was avoiding my call!
Ironically, Bob did call again the following week. He actually called a number of times leaving several messages. “Why is it the ones you want to call, never call, and the ones you never want to hear from again, do?” I sighed incredulously to Melissa.
I was exhausted from working during the day as a hostess at Longchamps, a popular restaurant, and rehearsing for my show downtown at night. I decided it was time for a visit home. I had already explained to my disappointed sister that the date didn’t work out and profusely thanked her for her generous, well intended efforts.
Upon my arrival, my dad, who was the kindest, sweetest man who ever lived, started questioning me about the date. This was very out of character for him! I explained to him that Bob wasn’t interesting, he hardly spoke and he never even held my hand!
“I like that, he said. I don’t care for it when men are pushy with my daughters. He was a gentleman!” He literally badgered me to call him back. (Again, this was very uncharacteristic for him.) ” You can go to my office, he offered. I will never bother you again, but PLEASE, just call him back!” he pleaded. I made my father promise to never mention it again, if I would call. I just wanted to get this horrible task over with.
“Hi Bob, this is Susan. Melissa told me you left a few messages. I have been so busy,” I offered.
“Yes, I decided to give you another chance…,”he stated. Um whaaaat? He was giving ME another chance??? How nervy!!! Why in the world did I listen to my dad? We went back and forth with whom was giving who another chance!! Unbelievably enough, he talked me into a second date for the following Friday night.
And then, one evening while I was sitting in my apartment watching television the phone rang and it was Susan. I said to her, “I thought I’d give you another chance.” She exploded back at me, “You thought you’d give me another chance?” I’m the one who is giving you the chance. It was my father who had to convince me to see you again.”
Well that was a reality check for me and a most humbling bit of information. After that, we actually had a nice conversation. We planned on meeting at her parent’s house in Long Beach where we would go for a jog on the boardwalk.
Bob would come by after school. He asked me if I jogged (slow run) and I told him of course. I mean, I never did, but how hard could it be? I came home the following weekend for the date.
He arrived on time and I opened the door to find a much more relaxed, friendlier and even handsomer version of the other Bob. He was in a blue and white athletic outfit (jogging suit as they called it then) and he held an identical one in his hand for me in red and white. He guessed my size and he was 100 percent on target. I melted at his thoughtfulness. Changing into my new outfit and sneakers, we proceeded to jog. I got out of breath after one block. “I thought you jogged!” he said with a slightly shocked visage. Needless to say, we walked the rest of the way to the beach. We stopped by the swings. I remember we conversed as he was pushing me. The conversion flowed, as it did the first time we were on the phone. We watched the waves…
As a gesture of conciliation, I purchased two jogging suits, a red one for Susan and a blue one for me. I guess it worked because Susan seemed to be thrilled with the gift. So off we went on a run in our new jogging outfits; however, just a couple of blocks into our jog, Susan wanted to stop. And so we did, instead walking to the Long Beach Boardwalk, while chatting up a storm. It was in this outdoor, fresh-air environment when I began to really fall for Susan. In those days there were swing sets on the beach and I pushed Susan as high I as I could until she said ”Stop.” And I did cease and then the romance picked up! From there, we went to dinner at the town’s landmark Italian restaurant. The dinner conversation went beautifully and it was the final validation for me that this was going to be a relationship which had an enormous potential!
Bob was pushing me on one of the swings on the beach. It was pure and romantic. At one point, I asked him to stop. Upon grounding myself from the swing, I stood up and turned toward him. He placed his muscular arms around me. I will NEVER forget that hug. It was protective and warm. We ended the date with a most lovely, relaxed and conversational evening at my favorite local Italian restaurant. We have been inseparable ever since…
We got married 2 years and 2 months later. My advice to single people –Give it a second chance!!!