I just discovered that this isn't actually on my blog here (originally posted on our little wedding site), and it should be. Susan's comments are in italics.
I first noticed Susan Mikkelsen when I decided it had been too long since I had participated in a ward choir. I’ve always enjoyed the musical talents I have and was grateful that my parents put me in cello and piano lessons. I’ve been singing in ward choirs since I was a priest, but when I arrived in DC I hadn’t sung in one since 2005. I decided it was time.Boy, did that end up being a good decision.
One of the first things I noticed was that our choir director (Susan, of course) was really good at her calling. I mean really good. I’ve had a lot of choir directors over the years in the various ward choirs I’ve sung in, and she was far and above the best. It was very impressive. But, she was too tall for me, and there were other girls I was interested in, so I didn’t really give dating her much thought. She was a great choir director, but that was all.
Here is where I admit that I honestly don’t remember Carl joining choir. I’m awful with names and almost as bad with faces. I might be okay with the music aspects, but I was never very good with the social aspects of choir. I’ve never been able to name every person in choir, even when it was down to a dozen. So, I guess Carl noticed me before I noticed him . . . but that’s because I’m oblivious.
Later that first semester my roommate, Russ, recruited me to sing in a stake choir last-minute since they were low on tenors. So I dragged myself out of bed the morning of to sing. I ended up sitting next to this nice gentleman named Kent. Turns out he’s Susan’s Dad. We had an enjoyable time singing and talking. I mentioned that his daughter was a fantastic choir director, and we both discovered that we were Yale University Alums. With that knowledge, we shared a bit of a knowing look when one of our stake presidency talked about when he and his wife had moved to New Haven, CT for grad school. Let’s face it, nobody moves to New Haven except to attend Yale.
My parents have always been wonderful about not setting me up. They simply won’t do that to me because I don’t want them to. So, it’s interesting when Dad comes home and tells me about someone, some guy, he’s met from my ward. It’s happened a few times, telling me he’s run into so-and-so at the temple. After Stake choir he told me about Carl. I wasn’t sure I knew who he was talking about. Some guy in my choir apparently. Anyway, Dad thought Carl was cool, but did not suggest in anyway that maybe I should be interested. After all, that kind of suggestion usually backfires.
The next thing that began to put Susan more on my radar was when she gave a talk. Honestly, I don’t remember much about it except that it was interesting enough to keep me awake and that it looked really practiced. Like, more practiced than general conference talks. Like, I went up to compliment her afterwards and asked, “did you practice that in a mirror?” “Yes,” was her sheepish reply. This again impressed me. Someone who takes that kind of time to practice their talk is definitely a quality person, someone dedicated to trying their best.I remember this compliment. Though, I was not sure at the time if it was a compliment. “Looking rehearsed” rarely is. I practiced in the mirror simply for something to look at, not to get used to staring faces or count how often I look up. Honestly. It was rehearsed mostly because I had to keep timing it. My talks always end up short. I think it’s a good 15 minutes and it’s 5. So, I time it, which means saying it out loud. It’s not a public speaking thing, it’s a fulfilling my assignment thing.
Right before I went home for Christmas break I noticed one day at church that Susan seemed a bit off. I asked her how she was doing. Apparently she was stressed about her upcoming yearly evaluation at her work. This struck me as odd, because if she put in half the effort she did for choir at her job, of course she would get a stellar review. I remember asking her about it later, and, to no surprise, she said it went fine.
Something my roommates and I had begun doing a few months later was a game night on Sundays, and Susan came to one of them. By this time I was dating somebody else, but I do remember that Susan was wearing a stunning red dress the first time she came. She looked so good that I felt a little bad—given that I was dating somebody else! Ok. This is where I finally noticed Carl and it wasn’t because of his compliments on the red dress. He was interesting to talk to—personable and impressively smart.
I had not been social in the ward for a while. A friend with a similar bent for being a homebody made a deal with me—we’d start attending some things together. First thing that came up was Russ inviting us for game night. So, we went. First time was okay, but the second time is when I really was having fun-sitting between Carl and a nice girl I sort of knew. I was having a blast talking to Carl . . . ‘till someone mentioned that the girl was Carl’s girlfriend. So, feeling a little disappointed, I tried to continue to behave like I was still having just as much fun. In fact, I came back the following week, just to prove to myself, and anyone who might be suspicious, that Carl was not the reason I was coming to game night. Of course that third time was the last time I ended up attending.
I went home for the summer, then broke up with my girlfriend, and then got back together with her. When I got back into town she was up in Philadelphia for medical school, but we’d alternate coming down/going up ever other weekend. She was down the weekend that my ward had our opening social BBQ at Bishop Bryan’s house, so we went to that. While there my girlfriend and I sat next to, and talked with, Susan. I don’t remember how exactly it came up, but Susan mentioned that it had been some time since she had been on a date. My girlfriend and I both thought the amount of time mentioned since her last date was atrocious. What is wrong with guys? So we spent a good part of our drive to another party that night discussing who we could try to set Susan up with.
However, eventually we broke and I broke up again over general conference weekend. Stake Conference was a few weeks later and I remember Susan sitting behind me and us talking for a bit. She was sad that I had broken up, which I thought was very gracious of her, but I remember thinking “Oh yeah, Susan needs to go on dates, because she’s awesome.” Well, as a newly single guy, I knew how to solve that problem!
Carl makes me out as more generous than I really am. I doubt I said I was sad. I probably said I was sorry to hear that. There’s a difference. A subtle difference perhaps, but it’s not the same. It’s always sad when two great people aren’t together anymore. Of course, it did all work out to my benefit.
So I finally worked up the courage and walked up to Susan after ward choir on October 25th. “Susan, could I get your number? I would like to ask you out.”
As I recall, Carl asked for my number. Then, after a short pause he said he would like to call me . . . which meant that he would use the phone number to ask me on a date, not to get updates on what time choir would rehearse before church.
“Hey Carl,” comes Rachel Rawlinson’s voice, “come sing with us.” So there I am, with half the ward choir waiting on me and watching me as I punch Susan’s number into my phone.Half the ward choir is Carl speak for 5 people. He was going to sing in a quartet and there were one or two others who hadn’t left yet.
For some reason I really wanted to do this right. I know that you have a 48-72 hour window to call a girl after you get her number. I had yet, I believe, in my life to actually follow this rule. But I have a problem.
Next weekend is Halloween.
That means there’s a large LDS single’s dance on Friday night, so can’t go out that night. Saturday is Halloween, not exactly a great day for a first date. However, I really felt that this was important, so I called up Susan and asked if we could go to lunch on Saturday.I got home from Choir quite happy. Nice guy says he’ll call. Carl seems like the type who actually will call, rather than those who might ask for a phone number they never use. What do guys do with those? Keep score of how many phone numbers they can get, but forget the girls associated with the numbers? Sorry. Back to the point. I of course told my roommates and a few friends that a guy had asked for my number, but refused to tell them who. I thoughthe would call, but if I had others also hoping, I’d feel even more let down if he didn’t follow through. Also, some of these folks are biased on my behalf and I didn’t want them making Carl out to be a jerk because he didn’t call me. So, when he did call I was simply delighted. Ok, delighted and excited.
Thursday morning I woke up when my roommate’s alarm goes off at o-dark-hundred and in a flash of inspiration I had two thoughts simultaneously before falling back asleep. First, I’m really looking forward to my date on Saturday with Susan. Second, I should be a bucket list for the Halloween dance.
The dance rolls around. When I was creating my bucket list costume my roommate Steve suggested that I put as one of the items “Get Kissed By a Girl at a Halloween Dance,” because that would be funny, and wouldn't actually get me kisses.
The moment I walked into the barn, I kid you not, Jana Erwin walks up to me and has a picture of us taken while she is kissing me. I’m surprised that it actually worked.
Then Mazel kisses me.
Then . . . well, let’s just say that randomly written last-minute part of the costume was working a little to successfully.
I try not to be awkward, but end up in a small group of people that included Susan. I’m really nervous at this point—more so than I’ve been for a while about a girl. It’s been years since I’ve pursued a girl that wasn’t already at least moderately interested in me, so I feel like I’m re-learning the ropes. And girls are still walking up to and kissing me in front of this girl that I would very much like to make a good impression on! Susan is wearing a nice blue dress with a long yellow wig. A very long yellow wig. I ask her if she’s Goldilocks . . .
D’oh! I feel dumb. Of course I should have gotten that one.
That's not quite how I remember it. I ran into Carl and was trying really hard not to be awkward. I’m going to see him the next day, it’s kinda dark up in the overlook section of the barn the dance was in and noisy enough that you have to shout. When he called me Golilocks I was really disappointed. Silly perhaps, but it mattered to me. I grew up with costumes and characters. Most pictures of me growing up are in costume and I have a very large collection of fairy tales. Also, year after year I dress up and folks can’t figure out what I am. I go as a Southern Bell and get called Little Bo Peep. I go as Marie Antoinette complete with large white wig and guilloteen line and get called Anne Boylen. This year I purposefully went as something obvious and here the guy I have a date with thinks my Rupunzel outfit is Golidlocks. Yeah, I felt let down. However, I had no moral ground to stand on, I suppose, since I haven’t a clue what a bucket list is. I’m also slightly discomfitted because on the front of his costume is a bullet saying he’d like to get kissed at a Halloween dance before he dies. That makes me a bit uncomfortable. Either he’s interested in me and wants me to kiss him before our first date (never gonna happen), or he’s a bit of a rover, which is unappealing. He did make up for it though. Later in the evening we ended up dancing in the same circle of folks. I made a point of saying good bye before I left the dance and confirmed that I’d see him tomorrow. I didn’t really think he’d forgotten, but I wasn’t sure what else to say. Anyway, he says he’ll see me on Saturday and then he reaches out and lightly caresses my arm before I walk away. I grin and suppress giggles all the way to the car.
Her ride is leaving, so I make sure to tell her I’m looking forward to our lunch the next day. I also make sure to touch her arm. I’m still nervous as all can be.
Next day, we meet at the Silver Diner, she walks up, looks great, and gives me a hug at the very beginning before we even went inside to eat. I remember it was a really good hug.Of course I give Carl a hug. I’m not sure he’s actually interested in me as girlfriend material. It seems logical to me that dating is to find a spouse, but I’ve long been aware that not everyone shares that view. Some folks date simply for the social aspect. Not being a social creature myself, that has always baffled me. But, Carl’s sociable, so maybe he’s just being nice . . . or pitying me for not having been on a date for 18 months. I’d driven to the diner and, while stopped at a red light, seen Carl walking up toward the restaurant. I notice we match- we’re both wearing blue. I park and wait a few minutes in the car. He's the host, so he should be there before me. I see him, smile and hug . . . that's simply how I great people I like and aren't co-workers.
We talked. We ate. We discussed how neither of us is very fond of the LDS Hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” though our reasons are quite different.
This was my best date ever up to that point. My date had interesting things to talk about the entire time. That to me has always been the most important part of the date—discussion. Carl is really good at that, so I was quite impressed.
As she drops me off, I invited her to come to the get-together some of us are having that night. We’re going to go to a haunted corn maze and watch a scary movie. She hates haunted corn mazes and scary movies. But she comes anyway.
Carl mentioned the corn maze about three times, so I gathered he really wanted me to come. I’d had such a great time and he seemed interested, so I agreed to come. I don’t think I mentioned just how very much I hate being scared. I’m not a screamer. I’m a huddle in a ball and silently shake kind of girl—not as fun for a date. But, I wanted to show my interest, so I agreed to come. As for the movie, I lobbied long and hard for something not scary. When it was starting most of the seating . . . sorry, all three of the chairs were taken. So. I plopped right down on the floor. The film started and Carl walked across the crowd so he could sit by me. His leg brushed mine. Not sure if it was intentional or not, I stayed very still so he wouldn't move it away.
I think at this point there’s beginning to be relationship tension (like sexual tension, but about a relationship) between us. The corn maze is understaffed—there was one guy with a fake chain saw in the entire thing—and Corpse Bride isn’t actually that scary. But Susan and I are touching legs the entire movie.
I had a great time. The next day is Sunday. A few friends tell me I’m positively beaming. I just tell them I had a wonderful date with Carl. What makes it even better, Carl sought me out and sat next to me in Sacrament meeting. I sit on the front row, so this is in sight of everyone . . . and besides, who else actually likes to sit on the front row? I'm not sure how much attention I paid during church because I remember wondering if his leg was going to press up against mine again.
That next week we email each other back and forth. We’re going to a Shakespeare in a Box party that Friday, and Susan invites me to come to her father’s concert that Saturday. I invite her over to dinner before the party on Friday.
At the Shakespeare in a Box party there’s more relationship tension. We go back to my place, and I finally work up the courage (after cooking her dinner and hanging out with her for several hours) to hold her hand. She really enjoys it, and despite the fact that my apartment has no couch we also cuddle, her on a lawn chair, and me on a regular chair.
The next day we go to her Dad’s concert, so now I’m sitting next to her, but in the presence of her Mom (who I’ve only briefly met) and sister and brother-in-law (who I’ve not met at all). That’s a very different beast than holding her hand in the privacy of my apartment. Before I can work up the courage to hold her hand, she grabs mine. Her excuse? “I was really looking forward to it!”
Well, I had been looking forward to that all day. Also, Carl was sitting next to the aisle, not next to a family member. And besides, my sister, who was sitting closest to me, would be a big fan of hand holding, so I wasn’t worried what she’d think. Then Carl wasn’t holding my hand. I waited through a movement or two and finally just grabbed his hand. He assured me on our walk back from Strathmore that it was not too forward and I’m welcome to hold his hand anytime I wanted.
And that is how Susan and I first met and began dating.