I was in my senior year at USC. My UCLA boyfriend of two years — I’ll call him the Bruin — had graduated and moved to the Midwest to start medical school. We planned to get engaged the following summer, but I was already pining away. I decided to miss a few days of classes so I could fly back and see him. We had a good time, but there was something that didn’t feel quite right. He seemed a bit distant, which made me feel insecure about our once-solid relationship.
Back on campus, I ran into a cute guy — I’ll call him the Trojan — who was in one of my classes. He helped me catch up on the classwork I missed. As we talked, I felt a connection. But when I found out he had gone to the same high school as the Bruin, I blurted out that my soon-to-be fiancé had also gone there. The Trojan, who had wanted to ask me out, realized I was off-limits.
Meanwhile, the everyday phone calls with the Bruin weren’t going that well. Maybe absence was making the heart grow less fond. I also suspected that another woman was involved. I became uncertain about our romantic status, so I did what a friend suggested: go after the Trojan.
Emboldened, I told a friend of his that I was interested in going out with him — and then wondered whether the Trojan would even waste his time calling an almost-engaged girl. When the Trojan found out, he told his friends I must be nuts. Yet he was intrigued, so he asked me out.
And the dilemma began.
I had a great time with him.
He was a USC football fanatic, so our first date was watching the annual USC vs. UCLA football game on TV at my parents’ home in Los Angeles. And although I sat at one end of the sofa and he sat at the other, there were some good vibes going on. (It also helped that USC won that year because we gave each other a very nice “Fight On” hug and celebratory kiss.) Later he impressed me by playing some great jazz on the piano. We started to date, but I still had feelings for the Bruin. And apparently, he for me.
When the Bruin visited for winter break, things became really awkward.
I would go out for lunch with the Trojan and see a movie that evening with the Bruin. Later I would talk with one guy on the phone at 11 p.m. and the other at midnight. Then, I had to juggle how to spend time with both of them the next day. (I was too self-absorbed to realize that although they were aware of each other, I was the perfect definition of a two-timer.)
Time passed. I graduated and became a teacher. The Trojan moved on to law school and the Bruin was still in the Midwest. The Trojan and I were basically exclusive, and the Bruin was dating someone else. But we just couldn’t give up our long-distance phone calls. They kept us way too connected, so I decided to see a therapist.
(I must add here that my concerned and not-so-subtle parents weighed in by saying, “Therapy could take too long. Why pay someone when we can tell you for free that you’re not getting any younger!” Make a decision or you’ll be sorry, they said. I rolled my eyes and tuned out.)
Things got resolved — or so I thought — when the Trojan encouraged me to go to Europe with my girlfriends on my summer break, as he would be focused on studying for the bar exam. The Bruin called me just before I left, and we finally broke things off completely. I felt sad but also relieved. While in Europe, I totally pined for my Trojan. I had no desire to go clubbing at night with my girlfriends, who were all on the prowl — and they actually told me I was a real dud.
As I reflected on all that had transpired, I couldn’t wait to get back to my Trojan. When I did return, I was proud and excited about my newfound emotional maturity: I was finally ready to commit.
But suddenly, he wasn’t. I panicked. How could he have fallen out of love with me so quickly? What about all those love letters he’d sent me? Maybe he just couldn’t trust me anymore because of my flighty past?
So there we were. It was midnight and we were sitting in his ’65 Mustang parked outside my parents’ home, discussing what the future held for us.
When the M-word came up, he became very quiet. And even in the dark, I could see a somber look on his face. I just knew he was going to tell me it was over. I waited for the “I don’t think this is going to work” line.
He began: “The enormity of a marriage commitment and not knowing the bar results yet are giving me a big reality check.”
Well, that sounded like the end to me. I began to feel a sense of panic about losing him. And I could image my parents telling me, “We told you so.”
Then, he reached for me and said, “But I still want to marry you — and I don’t want to wait.”
We called my parents and told them the good news. They were very groggy and very happy. That was 48 years ago, and to this day my now 101-year-old father and 98-year-old mother are very relieved at how it all turned out.
The author is a fourth-generation Angeleno with two daughters.
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