People say that to be a good blogger you need to share. To be honest. To be open. I do share quite a bit on the blog, about our fears and insecurities about navigating this new life. I have also shared on the blog and on Escape the Predictable Life about how we made the decision to quit our lives and choose this one as a new one. I have even spoken a bit about how to be a couple on the road, and have mentioned a few of our fights.
But, one thing I have not spoken about is our past, our long ago past. Our families, our relationship. After all, we did not simply choose suddenly in 2012 to live this life of perpetual, albeit currently stalled, nomads. It was a decision that was over 16 years in the making, perhaps even more.
People who meet us in person often say we are a great couple. That we compliment each other well, and that it is great that we want the same things out of life. It was not always this way though. I thought I would share some of our earlier stories, to give you an idea of who we really are. To share. To be honest. To be open.
Way Back When We Were Skinny
Eric was a lanky 6’4” and 165 pounds when we met back in 1997 at Rutgers University. He was quite cocky back then. Told me he thought of being a model, with his blonde hair and blue eyes, coupled with broad shoulders. He fancied himself a bit of a dancer, hanging out at the music clubs in New Brunswick, New Jersey, wearing plaid pants and Spam branded t-shirts. He spiked his hair a bit, had his ears pierced, and wore a nipple ring. He was quite the catch.
I also used to be smaller, a lot smaller, and was little more than 120 pounds when we met. It was the nineties, so my wardrobe was simply atrocious, still wearing high waisted pants and denim shirts. I look back at the early seasons of Friends and remembered my misguided attempt at The Rachel. Was it wavy? Was it straight? It did not know. I wore awful dark lip liner with lighter colored lip stick on my lips, as was the style the time. I was entirely insecure, and always worried about whether people liked me or would accept me. I partied way too much and did stupid stuff like walk home drunk from the bars at 2 am, alone. Kids, don’t do this at home.
Unlike other people we knew in college, we both took an interesting road to Rutgers. Due to family issues, I took a year off after high school, started community college part time my second year out, and transferred to Rutgers when most of my high school friends were juniors. I had been living on my own since before I turned 18. I had a bed, furniture, and possessions, and I worked in retail and the restaurant business to pay for this life. When I started at RU, I could not afford to live in the dorms, and got an apartment on Plum Street, just across from the Plum Street Pub.
Eric also started at community college, living at home with mom and dad. He also worked his way through school, and at RU was working for a computer company called CyberMax. When he transferred to Rutgers, he also skipped the dorms and moved in with his sister and her roommates, before moving out on his own with two roommates named Nick.
Living with the Nicks was the first time Eric was on his own, away from family. Whereas I had been on my own for a few years, and went through the growing pains of bouncing checks, paying rent late, running up credit card debt, attempting to pay it off. Eric was just getting to that stage when we first met.
The Disputed Story of How We Met
I was a little bit of a groupie for a local cover band. I was that pathetic. This was no idealized story of me bar tending at the Whiskey a Go Go, hanging out with the next big band. In fact, the band had a few members in it who I worked with at a Chili’s. I supported them by going to a few gigs, including one in the basement of a party at Rutgers. I met one of the Nick’s standing near the keg, and he hit on me. I did not show interest. Instead, I sang along to Crazy Train, and enjoyed the night with my friends.
Shortly after, I was hanging at my local bar, the Knight Club (for the Scarlet Knights, the Rutgers mascot). I see Nick and we say hello. He introduces me to his roommate, Eric. We hit it off, or so I thought. He gave me his Cybermax business card, thinking he was quite cool because he was a college student with a business card. I flirted because I always had a thing for tall guys with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Now, Eric’s side of the story, to this day, is that I asked him to hold my drink while I went to the bathroom, and that is always a clear sign that the girl is not interested, so he left. Even now, after knowing me all these years, he refuses to admit that I would NEVER ask someone, let alone a strange guy, to hold my drink. I would have always taken my well-earned and well-paid for beverage with me to the bathroom, like any other glass girl would.
Regardless of the he said, she said (aka, I am right and he is wrong), he left me at the bar and I felt snubbed. For months after, we would run into each other on a regular basis at the Knight Club. We would say hello, be cordial, talk about classes and work, but nothing progressed beyond that.
Give Me Two Weeks To Prove to You…
After months of being cordial, one night in May, we started chatting a little more. I may have been slightly intoxicated, and a guy I had just stopped dating walked into the bar. I was, honestly, trying to make him jealous by talking with Eric and one of the Nicks, another tall, blonde guy. I may have said something along the lines of “all men are scum” referring to this less than gentlemanly ex of mine. Eric, in a smooth as silk delivery, responded “Give me two weeks to prove to you that not all men are scum.”
Then, he back peddled, realized we were heading into final exams, and he asked if the two weeks could start after finals. An interesting concept considering, as I learned later, Eric did not really spend a lot of time studying, and did not focus on his grades. Regardless, I took him up on his offer, and as the joke goes, over 16 years later, I am still waiting for him to prove to me that not all men are scum.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.