Four years ago yesterday, I went on a first date with Darren. Over time, we turned into the type that doesn’t go all out for anniversaries and other landmark occasions. In fact, in college our celebrations involved Darren slapping a makeshift “Congratulations” sign to the back wall of his frat room and having one of his 21-year-old brothers fetch us a five-dollar bottle of champagne from the corner store. We’d pour the entire thing into two plastic cups and toast to whatever it was that we were celebrating: an anniversary, Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or most likely the completion of a rigorous course or exam. (Hey, we don’t need an excuse to pop open a bottle of bargain bubbly.)
THE YEAR THAT SHALL NOT BE MENTIONED
Actually, for our first anniversary we did something slightly more special than lolling in a frat room, catching a buzz. We flew to Los Angeles to watch the University of Oregon Ducks play (and lose horribly to) the University of Southern California football team. Our guys were practically booed off the field. I even covered my Duck shirt with a nappy (neutral) sweatshirt at half time to avoid snide comments from the USC students surrounding us. Darren spent his life savings on a trendy hotel that he wasn’t even old enough to check in to, so he called a friend (another of-age fraternity brother) to masquerade as him and sneak us in. Sleek and pretentious, the hotel adorned fashionable furnishings and amenities, including a roof deck with a bar (which we weren’t old enough to order from) and a pool. The deck looked over the putrid downtown area. And we loved it.
Herds of college kids tailgated for hours before the game started at 7:30pm. Not thinking, I swiped a sun-soaked chicken wing from a table underneath an Oregon banner and gnawed at it until I hit bone. (Note to self: When a piece of chicken has been parked in the southern-California sun for a good five hours, take a step back and think about how much you really want it. Because eating it? Is not a good idea.) I spent the rest of the night on the frozen bathroom floor, clinging to the toilet for dear life. My face and hands shook ferociously while sweat gushed down my temples and the back of my neck.
Anniversary or not, we never did anything like that again. So our last few milestones have been unfussy. Last night, we went through the list:
One year anniversary: The year that shall not be mentioned.
Two-year anniversary: Red Ox, Theta Chi’s annual drink-yourself-stupid-and-roll-around-in-the-mud shindig falls on the same day, so Darren drags me to the weekend-long function. It takes place somewhere in the musty woods, three hours from campus. (A girl’s dream come true.)
Three-year anniversary: Our first November in San Francisco. I suggest dinner at Orson, a new restaurant in SoMa, about which I’d written a story for The Guardian. The chef remembers me and concocts my favorite salad for us: a parmesan cheese and lettuce mixture of some sort. The food is all the rage, but Darren’s not impressed. Pop rocks (yes, the candy) jump around in his mouth while he chews, and a fat dollop of parmesan-cheese-flavored pudding lounges on top of his bed of greens. I find it beyond brilliant (not to mention mouth watering), but when it comes to salad, Darren is most happy with romaine lettuce, sliced tomato, and a few croutons smeared with Ranch dressing.
Four-year anniversary: Darren comes home to find me wrapped in a ball, sleeping on the couch. I’m wearing jeans and an old sweatshirt with “Massachusetts” printed in block letters across the chest. Sex and the City plays on the flat screen. He tells me he thought I’d be “all gussied up” by now, since it’s almost 8:30pm. I cake some bronzer and mascara on top of my already made-up face and throw on a charming dress, tights, boots, and a sweater. We take a taxi to A16, a hot Italian eatery in The Marina. Diners around us sip wine, but I order a Bellini and Darren chooses an authentic beer. We nibble on mozzarella burrata with olive oil, sea salt and crostini, and then we treat ourselves to Prosciutto San Daniele (aged 14 months). For dinner I order the Bianca pizza (with mozzarella, grana padano, chiles, garlic, green olives, basil, olive oil), and Darren indulges in the Roasted Sonoma duck meatballs with braised treviso and house-made mosto. Mmm-Mmm.
Tonight the date continues – because we have years worth of leftovers.