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.