A Sort of Fairy Tale

Zebra wedding cake topper.

December 12, 2009


Today is our fourth anniversary, and as you may have heard, Z and I are in different time zones and on different continents. I fully expected to be in a full-tilt fit of melancholia with a side order of pout as soon as the clock struck December 12th, but it turns out, it’s not happening.


Here’s the thing: we shouldn’t be together.  At all. If I wrote a book about my life (Oh, wait! I am!) and you were introduced to a character called, say, “The Reluctant Girl Scout”, and a character called “Z”, you would say to yourself, Who is this writer kidding? This would never happen. It’s just not believable!

It isn’t believable. It’s a fairy tale. Highly improbable.

1)   There is the improbability of geography. How many Zimbabweans did I meet before Z? Zero. People in Richmond, Indiana, do not meet people from Zimbabwe as a matter of course. Often people in Richmond, Indiana, aren’t even sure where Zimbabwe is or that it is a country. (There is a water slide at Holiday World in Southern Indiana called “Zoombabwe” and that’s about as close as we get.) Statistically, since Z came to college in America and stayed through two graduate degrees, there was a high probability that he might end up married to an American. But me? I haven’t crunched the numbers because I’m not that strong a mathematician, but I think the chances that I– a person who had mostly lived in Richmond and traveled primarily to Ireland and Indianapolis–would marry a Zimbabwean are about .00000000001%.

2)   There is the improbability of time. What are the odds that a visiting professor position in Z’s discipline would open up at the teeny university where I had just been hired full-time six months before? (Sub improbability: what are the odds that at this university, his discipline, which is often considered a social science, would be housed instead with the humanities, where I was, so we could sit next to each other at faculty meetings for the next two years, bonding via the series of disgusted looks we would flash at each other whenever our senior most colleague started clipping his nails in the midst of budget debates?) You’ll have to do the calculations on that one yourself, but I’m telling you, the odds are not high.

3)   There is the improbability of Z finding a cyber café with electricity (there are a lot of Zesa cuts in Zimbabwe) and then finding the ad for the position at my teeny university (not to mention the improbability that he would be hired via a phone interview alone).

4)   There is the improbability of me, an introvert, going to the beginning-of-the- year faculty party where I would have my first conversation with him and make the improbable proclamation to a friend that I was going to marry him. (I didn’t even believe in marriage at this point in my life. I thought marriage is where love went to die.)

5)   There is the probability of Z’s policies working against us. Z did not believe in dating co-workers (he says), so we were never going to happen. I did not know this, nor did I know that when Z has a policy, he sticks with it. (The only policy I’ve ever known him to break was his “I do not go to Starbuck’s” policy, which is hard to do in Seattle.  He let this policy lapse in 2009 when he was out with Z-ma  and she needed the loo.) The whole time we worked together, we never dated. Instead we had “outings”. The closest we ever got physically was when our heads bumped up against each others one night when I was helping him put together his new Kathy Ireland stationary bicycle.

6)   Z just wasn’t into me. We were friends. I was delusional. The end.

7)   I am not a tenacious person. If I have a goal and am met with opposition, I often just change my goal instead of fighting to meet it. Yet when Z left town for Zimbabwe after his job ended, instead of rationally assuming I would never see him again, I became uncharacteristically cunning. I suggested he store his belongings in my attic, thus ensuring at least one more meeting.

8)   The final, most outstanding improbability is that after five years of pining for a man who was only ever going to be my friend I was ready to admit defeat …just as he had an epiphany of his own.



So yes, we aren’t together today. Instead, we are in our respective countries looking at photos on our respective computers of our American-Zimbabwean wedding with the zebra cake topper and the fire in the fire place and the Christmas trees and the kissing ball and the hula hoops and the Scottie dog and my blue suede shoes and his rented tux that was so big it required safety pins and made him look like William Howard Taft.


We could be sad, but in the face of such dire statistics, wouldn’t that just be greedy?








11 responses »

  1. Happy Anniversary! I’m so glad the two of you overcame the odds and found your way to each other in the end. Here’s hoping you get to celebrate on the same continent together next year! xo

  2. Sigh. Your life is dreamy. Your writing is beautiful. Congrats to you both on 4 years. Anytime I congratulate a couple on a new milestone I always have an urge to post a gif on Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presely kissing saying “and they said it wouldn’t last” but I’ll spare you that 😉

  3. You have a gift for taking a simple thing, like meeting a guy from Zimbabwe, because, yeah, THAT’S simple, and turing it into a GREAT story! I love when I open my email and there’s a notice that you’ve posted a new story. Thanks for sharing!

    • I wish I were joking about the William Howeard Taft comparison. Z-ma reminded me earlier today that Z’s brother’s shirt hung all the way down to his knees. In retrospect, we probably should have gone with safari gear instead of formal attire.

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