senior year

Ye, Can We Get Married at the Mall by Malia Griggs

Senior year of college, right before Christmas break, I went on one of the lamer dates of my (extremely vibrant) dating career. The boy – let’s call him “he” and “him – was a polite, nervous fellow in my science course. We had coffee first, which was fine, and in our ensuing texts, he hinted he was planning a "special” activity for us that Sunday. And then he dropped a “<3.”

Well, if you’re going to make a promise like that, with the inclusion of a less-than-3, I sort of assume this means…a surprise trip to play mini-golf? A home-cooked meal? A hike to some hidden waterfall, followed by heavy petting? JK (Rowling!). I eagerly speculated about our Sunday date. Our Sun-date.

Around 1, he picked me up in his beige Camry and announced he would be taking me to a very exotic location: the mall.

“I have to get some Christmas shopping done,” he said, turning down the heat on the dashboard. “That ok?”

Sure, okay, yeah. The mall. Absolutely, right? Maybe it would be a throwback to a Sweet Valley Twins book, and we’d hold hands and wear sweaters and eat Auntie Anne’s pretzels and joke about kitschy Christmas fare and how commercial the holiday is. I could’ve been down for that. 

But, no. We went to the mall to seriously shop for his family. He took me to stores like Express and held up different $40 waffle-knit shirts and asked, “Which one do you think my brother would like better?” (to which I thought, oh, you have a brother?) We wandered into Williams & Sonoma and picked out a spatula for his mother. It was pulse-pounding stuff.

Around 3, my energy waned, and I said I needed to get back for, uhh, vague dinner plans. We drove back to my apartment. I invited him to hang out because the “date”-or-whatever felt too abrupt. He proceeded to stretch out on my living room couch, cross his arms and close his eyes. By “stretch out,” I mean his body covered the entire sofa, so I sunk into the giant dish chair across the room and listened to him talk about “Lord of the Rings” for the next two hours. When I caught myself dozing, I not-so-subtly texted “SOS” to my roommates, and they mercifully trooped in with their laptops and homework to break up the conversation.

At 5, I mentioned my dinner plans again and walked him to the back door. He hugged me, paused, looked at me, then hugged me a second time. Gravely, he said, “Winter break comes too soon.”

I think I was supposed to look more emotional than I did, or maybe I should have suggested we keep in touch over the hiatus, but instead, I nodded and said, “Yes. Yes, it always does.” Before he could profess any sort of affection for me (or call me out for being an emotionless zombie), I quickly said, “Bye!MerryChristmas!” and shut the door.

Smooth Operator Malia.

Epilogue: We’re married now.