I spent the first 25 years of my life looking for love in all the wrong places.
Turns out, however, there weren’t too many ladies out there looking for love in all the Fong places.
Actually, my dating history wasn’t too bad — up until about the second grade. I had plenty of girl friends until then — there just happened to be a 15-year gap after the second grade in which I couldn’t get a date if I bribed a girl (Not that I actually tried bribery. Or would admit to it in print if I had).
This became a pretty big problem along about the seventh grade or so. That was right around the age boys started dating girls. While most other seventh grade boys were holding hands with their girlfriends in the stands at the high school football games on Friday nights, I was sitting there trying to figure out what play former Troy football coach Steve Nolan was going to call next (Note: more often than not, buck sweep). Which would have been fine, had I wanted to go out on a date with Steve Nolan (contrary to the way it may have seemed during large portions of my career, I did not).
High school was an even bigger disaster. While other boys my age were thinking about who they were going to ask to homecoming or the prom, I already knew my prom date was going to be Hughes, my best friend in life — who, fortunately for me, was every bit as inept as I was when it came to matters of the fairer sex. The two of us felt almost betrayed our senior year when our friend Randy (and I use the term friend in its loosest sense) actually got a date to the prom (we’re pretty sure he did bribe her).
It’s mighty lonely going through high school watching all the other boys and girls going through the dating rites of passage. Which is why I was so excited to graduate and go to college at The Ohio State University — home of roughly 26,000 members of the opposite sex. I figured even someone with a face like mine could find someone at a school with that many females whom I could date.
And, believe or not, I did. I finally went on my first date and — at the tender age of 22 — kissed my first girl. Still, though, I never dated anyone seriously for more than a month or two — you know, roughly the same amount of time it took for them to actually get to know me.
By the time I graduated and moved back home to Troy, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact I would be alone for the rest of my life. If I couldn’t find a lady at a school that size, what chance did I have in a town whose well had been dry my entire life?
And that’s when love came walking in.
In June of 1998, the Troy Daily News was in the market for a new reporter. The former executive editor, David Lindeman, interviewed a number of candidates. When one of them came in for an interview, I walked in during the middle of the interview and handed him a slip of paper, telling him it was a phone message.
That piece of paper read, quite simply: “Hire her. She’s hot.”
Mr. Lindeman did hire that young reporter — who turned out to be much more than just “hot.” She also turned out to be intelligent. And patient. And caring. And funny.
And my wife. And the mother of my children. And my soulmate.
You know, it’s funny. In all those years of being alone, I built up in my mind what it would mean to find my soulmate. I envisioned candlelight dinners, love notes left on pillows and car rides up and down the coast. And, sometimes, being married and being in love is all of those things. But sometimes true love is also cold pizza dinners after a track meet, to-do lists left on the fridge and long drives taking our kids to various events.
It’s not always the rose petals, slow dances and poetry I envisioned, but as we prepare to celebrate our 17th anniversary this weekend, I realized that true love isn’t any of those things. True love is being able to look at someone at 10 p.m. when you’ve both been working all day, both are in desperate need of sleep, shower and possibly a stuff drink, and still being able to smile and say, “I love you.”
I spent my whole life looking for what I thought I wanted, but instead found what I needed.
Seventeen years later, I can’t imagine it any other way.
David Fong writes for the Troy Daily News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.