I fell for him dressed as Courtney Love

It was a blip of a moment in an overly air-conditioned bedroom.

Joe was wearing a souvenir alien T-shirt from Area 51. I was wearing his heaviest red sweater. We both had our glasses on, which doesn’t happen often because Joe hates wearing his glasses. He says they make him dizzy.

I was about to embark on a solo road trip from Sarasota, Florida. to Bandon Beach, Oregon, which Joe ever so delicately suggested I return from.

Stubborn, fiercely independent, and at times straight-up flighty, I couldn’t promise him that. At least not in the beginning.

The first time we met, I was standing by the Pac-Man Bubble Bobble game at a bar in St. Pete, drinking Miller Lite and making good on a dare by pole dance around a fat oak beam.

When he asked me about myself, I told him how my family had installed a corn-burning furnace in the basement of their Western New York home, and how when it burned, the whole house smelled like Orville Redenbacher’s.

The second time we met, I told him I was outta here, that I was moving to Oregon or Idaho or Montana. I told him I was writing a book about a girl who spends her days righting ordinary wrongs, who makes a living on a ranch and sleeps in a hayloft that smells like manure and maple syrup.

“I have to live it if I want to write it,” I said nonchalantly.

We were at a birthday party in Sarasota, at a bar with a punching bag. I was dressed as Courtney Love – pink baby doll dress, combat boots, mascara smudges, the whole getup. The theme was “high school flashback,” and I was never so happy to resurrect the 90s. A 1993 graduate of an all-boys Jesuit high school in Tampa, Joe was wearing a too-tiny suit and tie that made him look like Ben Stiller.

I told him I was reading a memoir by Mary Karr that was written like none other I’d read before. He asked me if my novel would be a memoir and I replied that it was pompous to write a memoir at the age of 25.

“Not that what I’m writing isn’t mostly true anway,” I conceded.

I was chugging too many Miller Lites, filming the party for my roommate Zac, confessing on camera in a slurred lisp that I was fed-up with doing his dishes.

Joe drove me home that night in his blue Honda Accord. Unlike most of the cars that belonged to people I knew, his was immaculate.

We went back to our friends, Max and Meredith’s house – a beach cottage – where we drank some more, played games and ate leftover pasta from the fridge. Joe heated up a bowl of bow tie macaroni with red sauce, and in between rounds of (was it Taboo?) he offered me several spoonfuls, which I found comforting.

As we sat there on the steps leading into Max and Meredith’s 10-by-10 living room, our knees touched. Joe was still dressed in his Jesuit uniform. I was still dressed as Courtney Love. Spooning noodles out of his bowl and into my mouth, it was as if I had slopped off his plate for years. When he walked outside to have a cigarette, I stumbled out of the living room with my roommate and left. It was late and I was tired.

The third time I saw him we were on an actual date. At the urging of my roommate, who had observed our Lady and the Tramp pasta moment, I went ahead and asked Max for Joe’s phone number.

“Tell me he’s not one of those too-nice, sappy guys,” I said.

“No, but he’s not an asshole either if that’s what you’re asking,” Max replied.

For four days his number sat untouched. Written on a Post-It note and stuck to a cardboard-box-night stand by my bed, I agonized over making the first move. I was nervous. Feeling sheepish. Feeling like perhaps I drank too much that night, or that I had left coldly without saying goodbye.

When I finally called, he answered on the second ring. He knew right away who I was and why I was calling. He fired off date plans like a semi-automatic weapon, as I joked that simply willing your phone to dial on its own never works.

“Lucky for you, you picked up on the second ring,” I said. “I probably would have hung up on the third.”

This phone call was huge for me. I was still hellbent on moving to Oregon, or Idaho, or Montana. But if the way we shared pasta was any indication of things to come, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, all of it would scarcely measure up.

However, none of these moments were as compelling as the one I mentioned earlier that came two months later, a week before my Jack Kerouac-ian gallivant across the country.

We were lying on his bed – Joe in his souvenir alien T-shirt, me in his heaviest red sweater, and the pug curled up like a Roman snail beside us. He was questioning my blind love for the Dakotas. I was romanticizing The Badlands.

Reaching around my side, he kissed me somewhere near my armpit and said, “If your body were the United States, this would be South Dakota.”

Though not in agreement, I let him go on.

Next, he kissed my elbow. Called it Iowa. Then my wrist. Called it Missouri. My spine – Oregon. And on it went. Lazily, languidly, and with no regard for geographic accuracy, he mapped out my road trip with kisses.

When he finally reached my lips, our glasses clanked together like timpani drums. He didn’t say it, but I knew. In that overly air-conditioned bedroom, in that heavy red sweater, in our similarly prescribed eyeglasses, his lips were home.

PS. Joe proposed last week. I said yes.


  1. Peter Acker says

    I was waiting for the part where he was dressed as Courtney Love!! Again Heidi, you blow me away with your writing!

  2. Joe says

    What can I say? I guess I have thing for girls who dress like Courtney Love. In fairness, however, you looked better hat night than Courtney Love looked at the Oscars.

  3. Mom says

    Yep..ya did it again Heidi…..you have your mama sitting here wiping happy tears off my cheeks. You know I am a sucker when it comes to the adventures of the lady and the tramp. A real life romance that reads better than any sappy novel. Anyone that sees the two of you together can tell that even when sharing mundane tasks you compliment each other without even trying. I am so happy you both found each other and I am so looking forward to the life long journeys of my daughter Heidi & soon to be son-in-law Joe.

  4. Caroline says

    now your 3rd sister needs to meet this lucky man 😉
    So looking forward to seeing you both soon – I am beyond happy for you!

  5. Ro Mario says

    Since I am a woman of great memory I distintally remember driving down Seneca St coming home with Chinese takeout when you told me the story of the roadmap night. Shortly after the “I” changed to “we” and I knew! Love you and am so happy for you. See you soon:)

  6. RicciMedia says

    Doesn’t this mean you have to change the name of this thing to ‘while my fiance was sleepoing.”

  7. C.Flower says

    I’ve got some plans for the name – However, ‘While my fiance was sleeping sounds too … uptight or something.

  8. Meg Biram says

    Ok Ricci totally beat me to the punch, but I was just thinking you’d have to change the name of your blog now…or maybe you can just wait to use the word husband…?

  9. Cat says

    Ok, seriously this is the cutest thing ever. YOU should be writing “Modern Love”. And by the way, your little post of Modern Love illustrations freaked me out a bit because I used to know the guy who does the illustrations. Anyways, love you writing!!!

  10. Angel says

    Wow. There should be a disclaimer on that story. “Do not read if you are engaged, think you might be engaged, in love, might fall in love, have an excess of estrogen in your system, watch chic flicks when you are sick, think that true love exists, or are prone to any type of weepiness.” Belated congrats. That is simply an awesome and really “real” story. I had to suck up the tears since I am at work. Bravo.


  11. says

    Oh, but this is brilliant by the way:

    “When he finally reached my lips, our glasses clanked together like timpani drums. He didn’t say it, but I knew. In that overly air-conditioned bedroom, in that heavy red sweater, in our similarly prescribed eyeglasses, his lips were home.”

    I want to hug you. Weird, I know. Your writing makes me want to dance or jump up and down…or something.

    Thank you.

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