Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What Football and Bread Have in Common

Super Bowl Sunday always makes me realize how little I know about football. I grew up in a family that didn't follow sports, I married a guy who doesn't follow sports. I went to the occasional high school game solely to talk to friends, and I attended only one game at college by coercion of a date. This year, I find myself remembering that college football date and the circumstances surrounding it. I offer the following as proof that I was once "hot stuff."

During my freshman year of college I got engaged. This was arguably the worst decision of my life. The relationship was one that included the infamous line, "I would never cheat on you, Heather." (I've named the villainess of my novel, Heather. Sweet revenge!) When my fiancĂ© broke up with me, he quite literally told me I was unworthy and undesirable. I believed him. 

My rebound relationship was with a good friend I'd known for a while. That relationship ended when, while filling the car with gas, my boyfriend called the person he was staying with to say, "If Roxanne calls, don't tell her I'm out with Hannah." Apparently, he didn't realize it's possible to hear through car windows.

And so, beginning my sophomore year of college, I was discouraged and truthfully a bit desperate. So desperate I even pinned a note to the front door of my apartment declaring, "Here lives a cute, single girl. Knock and ask for a date." No one ever did.

One day, while visiting my grandparents, my grandpa asked, as he always did, whether I was dating anyone. Upon my answer, he stated matter-of-factly, "That's because you aren't baking enough bread." I lifted an eyebrow at his advice. It made no sense. Nevertheless, that weekend, I laboriously made three loaves of bread--by hand. It took hours. It smelled heavenly. Surely, now, I was finally going to get dates.

I started classes and a new job. The first day of work, a cute guy named Anthony came to visit my coworker Allison. When he left, she went on and on about how wonderful he was and I believed they were dating. I didn't give him a second thought. Later, he'd tell the story of how we met by saying, "I went to visit my friend, but when I saw Hannah, I stopped visiting my friend and started visiting Hannah."

As Allison showed me around my new workplace, we visiting the NOC (Network Operations Center) where all the computer nerds, my brother included, were hard at work. My brother had a challenge with something technical following our visit, and one of his coworkers agreed to help him only if he set him up on a date with me. We spent the next couple weeks together. The best night was when we went to some old mine shaft south of Provo. Standing tentatively and terrifyingly on some old boards set across the infinitely dark pit, we sent milk jugs full of gasoline burning down the shaft. They would explode before they hit the bottom and send waves of  hot air shooting back up into our faces. Some weeks later, several students were arrested for doing the same thing. Oops.

As I set up my computer for the semester, it decided it had critical issues. I couldn't make heads or tails of it. Fortunately, my roommate had an ex-boyfriend who was handy with computers. He'd visited her at our apartment once before and seen me in passing. He agreed to fix my computer only if she would set him up on a date with me. (You didn't know being crafty with computers could buy you dates, did you?) I hung out with him a lot, mostly because he had an excellent movie collection and a big screen TV. One night, he reached over and held my hand at the end of a movie. As soon as the movie ended, I stretched and meaningfully folded my arms. Things went downhill after that.

A couple days after starting my new job, my boss's son came to visit the office. After he left, my boss called me into his office, sat me down, and told me his son would like to take me out on a date. I have a hunch there might be something technically illegal about this approach; how could I say no? (For the record, there was only one date with this guy: a double date with my boss and his wife. Awkward! My date spent the entire movie texting on his cell phone. Sorry, no chemistry there.)

My religion professor always stood at the door to shake students' hands on their way out of class. After reading a couple of my essays, he stopped me and told me he had a son returning from a mission soon, and he'd really like for him to meet me. What was I supposed to say to that?

And finally we get to the guy who took me to my one and only college football game. I call him "Statistics Guy," since he was in my statistics class. He sat in front of me on the first day. He turned around and said, "You look smart. How would you like to be study partners?" Flattered, I agreed. That night, he called me on the phone and said, "I'm having a little trouble with the homework. Can we get together to work on it?" I'd already done the assignment, so I knew it wasn't difficult. "What part are you having trouble with?" I asked. "Oh… Uh… Well, I haven't actually looked at it yet." I told him to look at it first and then maybe we'd get together. Later that week, he called and asked, "How would you like to get together and have pizza?" I was a poor college student, so of course I'd never turn down free pizza. "Good," he said, "because I already bought it and I'm on my way to your apartment." Whoa! What? 

For better or worse, Statistics Guy was actually very good at statistics, and I needed the study help. So we continued our study group, during which I learned he was an outstanding student, preparing for medical school, and desperate to get married. My sister insisted that his medical ambition alone was good grounds for marriage. I disagreed. He invited me multiple times to join his family on a trip to Moab for Thanksgiving. I had a suspicion I'd be received as prospective family if I went.
He invited me to a football game, which again, meant free entertainment and food, so I agreed. At the before-party (which I'm sure has an actual name), he introduced me gleefully to his friends: all of whom were married; all of whom gave us wide-smiled, knowing looks. That, combined with how little I enjoyed watching football was the final straw for me.

Following that date, I finally called Anthony, who had left his number with me on multiple sticky notes at my work desk. His roommate answered, and politely told me Anthony was out. "I think he's out with a girl," he added. Then quickly backpedaled by saying, "I mean, not like he's on a date. I mean, he does date girls. A lot of them. But not all at once. And not tonight. What did you say your name was again?" I told him, and as he wrote it down he commented, "Hannah--that's a new one." The first time I visited Anthony's apartment, this same roommate gave Anthony a huge grin and a thumbs-up, and mouthed "way to go!" when he thought I wasn't looking. 

Some of the many benefits of dating Anthony were that he mentioned he wasn't looking to get married for at least a couple years, he never texted during our dates, he didn't watch sports all day, and he was not, in fact, dating my coworker (although she was quite upset when she learned we'd started dating). I also made a point of showing up for my statistics study group with Anthony in tow, so I could hold his hand and kiss him good-bye. Eventually, Statistics Guy got the hint.

 I sometimes like to remind Anthony of all this, so he remembers how lucky he is. I was, after all, in high demand. And apparently, I make some really excellent bread.