I admit it (kind of proudly). Before I met Jamie I was a bit of a womanizer. I used to say that I wanted my epitaph to read:
“A leader of men, a chaser of women.”
I had gone out with some wacky, wonderful women before Jamie but I thought each of them had fatal flaws. To be fair, a number of them may have been under the mistaken impression that I also had a fatal flaw or two. However, if any of them had thought that, it would have exposed yet another of their fatal flaws. A Catch 22, to be sure.
Many of you reading this know the story of how Jamie and I met, but I love the story and never tire of telling it. (In order not to be thought of as having a fatal flaw, Jamie merely smiles in a wooden, Stepford Wives kind of way each time I tell it and pretends she still enjoys it.)
So at the risk of boring good friends, here is the story of how Jamie and I met:
I am a fanatic about my teeth. I get them cleaned every three months. I was always scheduled with the same hygienist, Denise, and during each teeth cleaning session she never failed to ask about my dates for the last three months. She always got in trouble with the dentist because we laughed so much and so loud and had such a good time.
After each cleaning I’d go to the front desk, pay whatever money was due, and schedule my next appointment. I never paid much attention to who I was paying.
Then one quarter I sat down across the table from this incredibly beautiful woman. The most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I must have her, I thought.
“Are you new here?” I asked.
“No, Mr. deYong,” she replied. “You’ve been paying me every three months for the last four years.
Impossible, I thought. I could not have overlooked this incredible beauty for four years. Just not possible.
I found out that the stunning woman’s name was Jamie.
I went home determined to ask her out. But how? I couldn’t just walk back into the dentist’s office and bluntly ask. She surely had a list of suitors a mile long and I reasoned that if I waited for my next appointment — three long months away — she would be swept away by one of the Newport Beach dental practice’s numerous wealthy patients.
Then my excuse arrived in the mail — my dental insurance statement. One of the many idiosyncrasies I got from my father is that I hate to owe money. So I ripped open the insurance envelope and discovered that my insurance company had paid every cent I owed my dentist. But I’m a creative guy and I figured I could use this insurance as an excuse to go back into the dental office.
After a few days, I worked up my courage and walked into the dentist’s office. There was Jamie, the object of my desire, sitting at the front desk with Denise, my hygienist, deep in conversation.
Of course, I was not about to ask her out in front of her friend. Getting rejected is bad enough. Getting rejected in front of someone else would have been even more painful.
So when Jamie said, “How can I help you, Mr. deYong,” I said, “Well, I hate owing money and I haven’t received anything from my dental insurance, so I just wanted to make sure my payments are up to date.”
Jamie looked me up in the computer and said, “No, sir. You’re all paid up.”
We did a little small talk for a few seconds and then I realized it was time for me to go because I had no excuse to stay and Denise did not look as if she was going to leave the front office. So I left.
But I stood down the hall at the door to the elevator and thought, No way. I’m here and I’m not leaving without asking her out. So I waited a few minutes, assuming that Denise would soon go back to work and I would be able to ask Jamie out without a witness.
Tick-tick-tick. A few minutes passed, enough that I felt safe, and I walked back into the dental office.
That damn Denise was still sitting there gabbing away. Why the woman wasn’t cleaning someone’s teeth and generating some income for her employer is a mystery to me. She was clearly a slacker intent on ruining my life. Or at least my weekend.
They looked at me and Jamie said, “How can I help you now, Mr. deYong?”
I had not planned on this so I didn’t really have an answer.
“Uhhhhhh,” I cleverly remarked. “Do you validate parking?”
Jamie stamped my parking ticket and I left the office and walked back down to the elevator.
But I am not a quitter. I stood there at the elevator getting my nerve back up. After giving that damn Denise plenty of time to go back to work, I walked back into the dental office again.
She was still there gabbing with Jamie as if it were part of her job and she’d get in trouble for not doing it to the best of her ability.
Neither Jamie nor I remember what excuse I came up with this time, but once again I left without asking her out.
I ended up going into that office four times and leaving without asking four times. And I lay my failure at the feet of that damn Denise and her unwillingness to do the job for which her employer was paying her a pretty penny. Had she been my employee, her slothfulness would have been grounds for immediate termination.
Well, it turns out that as soon as I walked out of the office the first time, Denise turned to Jamie and said, “I think he’s here to ask you out.”
“Oh, no,” Jamie replied. “Mr deYong wouldn’t ask me out.”
Needless to say, each time I returned Denise became more insistent that my purpose was to ask Jamie out.
That being the case, one would have thought she could have excused herself to make the process easier for me. But no, she seemed to take great delight in extending my torture.
It gets worse.
After my fourth unsuccessful visit to the dental office, I went home. I thought, No, this is stupid. Call the dental office and ask Jamie out over the phone. At least that damn Denise will be out of the loop.
So I called.
“Hi, Jamie. This is Jim. I was just wondering if you’d like to go to lunch on Friday.”
There was silence on the other end of the line. Finally Jamie blurted out, “I’ll have to ask Denise if it’s ok.”
Damn that woman. Damn her to hell. Must she interfere again?
Let’s bring this novel to its long overdue conclusion.
Jamie called me back and said, “I can’t go to lunch, but I could go to dinner.”
We went to dinner. We both say it was the best first date we’d ever had. That was 22 years ago tonight. And I have yet to find a fatal flaw in the woman. She’s perfect.
Oh, by the way, there was a very logical reason that she had to ask Denise if she could go to lunch with me. Turns out the dental practice was closed every Friday afternoon. Jamie and Denise had just started a little business on the side and had made a commitment to each other to work on that business every Friday afternoon. Coincidentally, I had asked her to go to lunch on a Friday. She didn’t want to go back on her word to Denise, so she said, “I’ll have to ask Denise if it’s ok.”
And the rest is history.
Oh, by the way, five years later Denise was Jamie’s matron of honor at our wedding.
Love you, ‘Nisey.