I’ve never been good at sales. My brother is quite the schmoozer; not only could he sell ice to eskimos, but they’d name their firstborn after him, and send him a tin of Christmas cookies every year. I know some theorize such skills must run in families, but if so, that particular gene sequence certainly skipped over me entirely. He once tried to convince me I was better at it than I give myself credit for because I have “the gift of gab,” but being able to spin a good yarn as a storyteller and convincing folks to buy what you’re peddling, well... they’re not the same thing.
For me, it’s about manipulation — I can smell it from a mile away, can pick up the barest suggestion of it lurking between the lines in context, and never had the stomach for pushing it on others. That kind of smarminess just disagrees with my constitution altogether. Independence has always been incredibly important to me, so twisting anyone else’s will to meet my interests doesn’t sit well with my core values, which include the strong belief in maintaining everyone’s basic right to make their own decisions.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a decent enough teacher, trainer, manager, director — I can lead by example, motivate others, share, assist, educate, guide, counsel, and persuade; still... not the same thing. The only way I’ve ever been able to “make the sale” is when it’s not even so much a transaction, and more a crusade — when I so passionately believe in an ideal, bringing it to others is not merely shifting their viewpoint to parallel my own, but rather, improving their lives for the better. After all, the first sale you ever have to make is to yourself... otherwise, no one can ignore the putrid whiff of fetid funk you’re shoveling.
But this story isn’t about how badly I suck at commerce. This is the tale of the low-key long game campaign of a very laidback speculator that once convinced me to sell myself — on the most important, life-changing deal I ever made. You know him as Minion; our son and our critters know him as Papa; this is how he became my best friend, my companion, my confidant, my lover, my partner, my fiancé, my husband, the father of my beautiful bouncing baby boy, and the best thing that ever happened to me.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before I knew Minion had a crush on me from the first day we met. As a general rule, I’ve been fairly perceptive about the interest of others, but in my life, those instant attractions often haven’t amounted to much, so at the time, I didn’t value his with too much weight, either. He’s admitted to it since, but whereas in most cases, prior results had been less than positive — since the number of suitors I’ve inspired to become stalkers seems disproportionate to my genuine sex appeal — with Minion, it was different.
Initially, I assumed that difference would mean he was no threat to me. I imagined he was too reserved, and I figured that would prevent him from ever making a move, meaning I wouldn’t have to worry about anything happening between us. While I am very outspoken, outgoing and demonstrative, in the past I had always sought out a man who was even more so.
I know what I want in life, I generally go for it, and I usually get it. In those days, I thought “my type” was the sort who knows what he wants, and goes for it, too. So if what he happens to want is me, well then, that’s a pretty good match, now, isn’t it? As it turns out, though, there are many different ways of “going for it.”
That first encounter was a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Our mutual friend James had convinced me to play DM for a round, though I hadn’t even participated as a player in over 30 years at that point. But, DMing prevented me from having to invest the bandwidth to invent a backstory and calculate a character’s capacity within an established group dynamic, so I agreed to wing it.
I listened attentively to the unfolding storyline, following along as the details played out before us, and began concocting a plan, so that by the time James turned the setting over to me, I was able to improvise what had popped into my head to throw out at the adventurers. Minion was smitten. He’s since told me if he’d known I’d conjured that whole scene off the cuff, he’d have been even more impressed.
His infatuation was somewhat double-edged, though; while he found me attractive, he was as much if not more enticed by the black and tie-dyed T-shirt I was wearing with a rainbow silhouette of Chewbacca made out to be reminiscent of an iconic Bob Marley image. While he was enchanted by my speaking voice, he was more taken with my talent for playing a vampiric characterization. And, while he was enthralled by my discernible intellect, he was even more compelled by my familiar association with nerd culture.
Though my focus was on another character in that setting, I felt his eyes on me, and I had the thought to maybe later do a little deeper digging into “the new guy.” It was a long night, though, and by the end of it, I found Minion outside with his then housemate Derek, the two of them commiserating about their divorce war stories over a cigarette. I said my goodnights as I passed through their cloud of smoke, and put any thought of further investigation out of my mind.
Then there was the Halloween party later that year. I wasn’t planning on going, as I had a date for that night, but James harassed me so much, I dropped in for a quick appearance, and brought the date along. Minion showed up a little later as Papa Legba, and I instantly forgot all about my date.
To be fair, physicality doesn’t usually do much to turn my head; it pretty much has to be accompanied by some other factor of intrigue. But, if you happen to be sporting the muscular bare arms and strong physique of a former accomplished athlete under a slick leather vest, a painted bald Santeria skull, and the serpent knobbed talisman of a 6-foot cobra walking staff in a sea of ordinary zombies, mundane mummies, and predictable werewolves and vampires, you just might capture my attention. Add to that your ability to hold up your end of the conversation when I make a beeline to find out the story behind this costume, and you, the brilliant student of history, wow me with your knowledge and humor, well... my date might just be going home alone.
I wouldn’t say that moment put Minion back on my radar, but it did make me at least conflicted about having so easily dismissed him, as there was clearly more to him than I’d initially assessed. But, smoking was a big dealbreaker for me, so that door would have to remain closed. Although, I did find myself pleased to notice, at the next bad movie night gathering, when I wrangled a spot by him on a shared giant ottoman, because he was the one member of that group whose company I most enjoyed, that he didn’t reek like an ashtray, and I suddenly found myself questioning my resolve about “dealbreaking” criteria.
On one of the somewhat routine weekend afternoons I was hanging out with James and his wife in their basement for no reason other than because James had talked me into it, and it was less boring than sitting home alone — back when my life included time for such things — James suddenly suggested we should get more friends to come over. James and his wife were incredibly social creatures — still are, I suppose, though they’re not in our lives anymore, but sharing that common ground was what initially drew me to them. James went through a rundown of folks he could bug to come watch him paint miniatures and talk about nerdy things, throwing out those he knew whose schedules wouldn’t permit.
When I suggested Minion, James scoffed, claiming he’s such a homebody, he never gets out of the house just to chill — he only comes over for major social events. I laughed, promised I could reel Minion in, then texted him what we were doing, and he responded he’d join us in 10 minutes. A shocked James couldn’t fathom what black magic I had worked, lamenting Minion never jumped at his offers, but I pointed out the blatantly obvious factor that Minion didn’t have a crush on James.
Then, fate stepped in. Derek got serious with his girlfriend (who later became his wife), so they needed their privacy in Derek’s house, while my then housemate needed at least a quarter of each year to be tenant-free in order to get a tax write-off for her rental income. Because Minion and I needed new accommodations at the same time, we decided to share living space, as splitting costs between us would be more economical for both of us, affording us the option to live in a much nicer space than if we each went solo — one that could allow for my menagerie of pets, including the possibility of large dogs in the future.
So we began looking, together, for a suitable place to call home. During that process, we discovered a lot in common, and I came to enjoy his casual company. He was smart, funny, sweet, good-looking, good-natured, and easy-going... it was becoming increasingly harder to not be naturally drawn into the orbit of his charm.
As Minion often stopped over on his way home from work before we headed out together to view whatever showing appointments I’d set up, the timing worked out for me to make him dinner. On the first of those occasions, I’d prepared a meal from the materials I had available to me — whatever groceries I’d bought for myself that week — when it suddenly occurred to me with some alarm my menu choice might not have been the most culturally sensitive. Minion’s quick response in his best Gone With the Wind style Southern accent endeared me to his lighthearted, slightly twisted wit: “Well Ma’am, I may be the whitest colored man most folks know, but I shore do loves me some fried chicken.”
From that point on, all the meals I made for him were my best downhome Southern country dishes... fried pork chops with stewed apples, collard greens, and Texas toast; beans & rice with sausage, okra and cornbread; BBQ ribs with mac & cheese, cole slaw and biscuits; chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, honey glazed carrots and black eyed peas with bacon. Minion later told me my cooking was one of the reasons he fell harder for me, though I haven’t done much of it since we moved in together. We’re both foodies, but Minion is the gourmand, and he has taken complete control of our kitchen.
The prospect of touring upcoming houses around the Twin Cities in Minion’s mid 90s Volvo wagon with no A/C became a lot less unpleasant once I learned Minion had apparently already quit smoking. He’d converted to vaping as a cessation tool (which he later also staggered out) because he knew I didn’t smoke, and as we were going to be sharing space, he figured a smoke-free environment would be more desirable. I’d been willing to room with a smoker because he didn’t have the kind of habit that made the stench precede his entry into every room, and knowing he only ever smoked outside meant I could reasonably avoid the side effects... but having him give it up completely was just one more obstacle removed from between us.
I knew then I had to pump the brakes. If nothing about Minion appealed to me, we’d never have to discuss how sharing space was going to work, as there wouldn’t be any risk involved. But by the time we’d become so relaxed with each other, one of the casual getting to know ya conversations shared on the road in those few weeks included insight into his sexual preferences — which conveniently coincided with mine (I can honestly attest this was not an intentional maneuver, as it came up organically through a natural flow) — I calculated we were overdue for a serious talk.
Our house hunt already included very specific parameters — two levels, with each of us on our own floor, and two bathrooms, so we each had our own private area; we could share a kitchen, and common space, but I insisted on separate retreats we could escape to whenever we might need them. I let him know I knew he had a crush on me, but he was going to have to find himself a girlfriend — I even offered to help, if he wanted, since I was sure he’d be a great catch for some lucky lady, but I was not about to get involved in another codependent cohabitational relationship of convenience. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, with nothing else to show for it, besides the memories, the misery, the XP pts, and the solemn self-assurance — never again.
Not that it did any good. Minion had heard the horror stories — he knew what I’d been through. He knows what the after-effects of abuse look like. He knows recovery requires time to heal. But he also knew, he wasn’t those people who had damaged me. Minion never set out to ignore my boundaries. And he never did.
But he also wasn’t going to go running off to “get himself a girlfriend” just because I ridiculously made doing so an unreasonable requirement of our living situation. Minion has never been the kind of man who needs to be with someone just for the sake of not being alone. In fact, one could say, he’s exactly the kind of man who knows what he wants, and is patient enough to wait for it to come to him.
Minion never tried to break down my walls. He never pushed. Never demanded. Never asked anything of me. He was gentle. Accommodating. Kind. Safe. Exactly the opposite of everything that had ever gotten close to me in my life. He wasn’t trying, but all the same, my walls began to crumble anyway.
Minion was easy to talk to. Easy to be around. Easy to just let my hair down and be myself with. Being myself helped me to remember who I am, and how much I like being me. In time, I recognized, that kind of ease was a comfort I had been missing in my life for far too long.
There was no second guessing with Minion. No unnecessary apologies, no pathetic excuses, no backpedaling, no double-talk. No crazy gaslit moments that made me wonder who the hell I even was anymore, and what in the blue truck I was doing in this *#>@%3&* up three-ring circus.
There was quiet. There was stillness. There was calm.
I could hear myself think, I could feel the power of my own voice. I could speak my mind. I could be heard.
I was capable. I was strong. I was true to myself.
I was respected. I was valued. I was loved.
I began to realize I wanted that... maybe even more than I had ever wanted anything else. I became comfortable thinking of Minion as a very good friend. He moved up quickly through my social ranks, and in less time than I had the presence of mind to effectively adjust to, I soon found there was no one in my life whose company I wanted to keep more, and I couldn’t imagine a day of my life without him in it.
Once, when I was headed off to one of James’ regular weeknight D&D sessions, after working all day with no time to prepare a dish to share, Minion offered to bake brownies for me to take, so I wouldn’t have to pick up a grocery made stand-in. They were a hit; when a player asked if they were homemade, I admitted they were, but confessed I hadn’t baked them. He seemed confused, so I clarified, “My Minion made them,” then lost it at his dumbfounded reply, “You have a MINION???”
Minion had originally jokingly adopted the nickname for himself, imagining that’s what the animals in our house would call him if they could speak, since I was their “Mama,” so they naturally loved me, but he figured they just saw him as a furless butler. Minion is quite domestic by nature, feels rewarded by caring for pets, and his love language is acts of service, which, as it turns out, extends to people, too... those he likes, that is. Being very independent by nature myself, this was hard for me to know what to do with at first.
I couldn’t go anywhere in the house without him offering to help me somehow. He bussed my dishes like an actor seeking a tip. If I got up from the couch to get a drink, he’d have me sit down, so he could go get it. He’d walk me upstairs at night to tuck me into bed. At some point, I barked at him, “How did I ever manage to get to be 39 years old without having you around to wait on me hand and foot?”
But my softer, more sensitive side knew that wasn’t fair. This is who Minion is. This is what brings him joy. Who am I to take that from him? I knew I had to try and get used to his ways, somehow, if I was going to make this work without losing my mind. So, I made a game of it. I tried out the pet name he’d given himself, and put it to use. When I’d ask him for anything, “Minion, would you...?,” his response was always the same... “Yes, Mama,” he’d nod, with just a touch of a Southern drawl. He’d say it with such a twinkle, showing those adorable dimples, at times it was impossible not to blush.
The day I came home and told Minion our D&D social circle now referred to him as Minion, he was amused. From that point on, it stuck. Funny thing... I used to roll my eyes at being a middle aged woman who’d get “tucked in” to bed every night, but now, it’s such a comforting familiar routine, so ingrained in who we are together, I almost can’t get to sleep without it.
Eventually, I figured out Minion wasn’t going to be putting any effort into finding himself a girlfriend. In fact, it almost seemed like, if it were up to him, he’d never even bother to leave the house, as long as we were there together. I knew that meant I was going to have to evaluate what he wanted for our future, as well as how I felt about that. I knew I didn’t want to get stuck in a bad situation, but this really didn’t feel like it was headed in that direction. I didn’t want to lead him on, but I also noticed, coincidentally, I hadn’t been doing any dating since we moved in together, either. I had someone I enjoyed coming home to so much, I hadn’t been looking for anything else.
When I introduced Minion to my family, they were nuts about him, and practically adopted him immediately. I’d been in a few relationships that were no good for my mental and emotional well-being, so my folks were beside themselves to see someone close to me who was not only good to me, but possibly even for me. It was immensely frustrating for me, though, to hear them repeatedly thanking Minion for everything he had done to bring their girl back to them.
Sure, it’s true some questionable choices had resulted in the version of me they’d previously known disappearing from anything once resembling any semblance of who I used to be — that had been a natural defense mechanism from a no-win situation. But the unthawing of the frozen bonds that encapsulated me — allowing me to return to myself — could not be attributed to the presence in my life of any man. It was a result of escaping that prison, and Minion had just been the one who was there to revel in the joy of that experience with me, and, from his perspective, to benefit from it.
My Mom, ever the meddling sort, kept dropping hints she thought we should be together. She often made note of how much like my Dad Minion is, and how much he has in common with many of my brothers. I had to explain to her — multiple times — we were not involved, only housemates.
When asked about that, I’ve since been told, Minion would only admit that he wanted more for us, but that he could be patient. He’d been married once before, and I never had, but I’d turned down 9 marriage proposals. Marriage wasn’t even on the radar for me when moved in together, and, by that point in my life, I’d suspected it probably never would be.
I remember sitting in my parents’ living room one Sunday afternoon dinner at their house, asking my Mom while trying to fight back tears, if watching me as I was growing up, she’d ever imagined I’d end up over 40 with no husband and no children. She told me that wouldn’t have been what she would have pictured or wanted for my life, but looking back on who I’ve always been since I was little, it was no surprise to her.
When she could see her answer upset me, she explained, “Honey, you’ve always been so incredibly independent... You’ve had friends, and gotten close to people, but you never established any of the kinds of relationships that carry you throughout life, because that was never what you needed... you always wanted everything your way... Finding someone who just naturally fit perfectly into the world you created around you was always going to be a tall order.”
But Minion had filled that order, in ways I couldn’t even have conceived of before him. We had made a nice home together — we shared the same taste in color, in scheme, in theme, and style; we enjoyed entertaining friends and family, or spending time together, just the two of us, when we didn’t feel like going anywhere... we considered each other good company. It was easy for us to be ourselves with one another. We were comfortable, and content.
When you’re young, in love, and considering next steps, people around you will often tell you to slow down, take your time, make sure you know what you’re doing. When you’re older, when you’ve been through it, when you know what to avoid, in some respects, it’s possibly even more imperative to be sure you still know what you’re doing. But you don’t have the same luxury of time you once did.
So, one day I just got frank with Minion, and asked him where he saw things going between us. I could tell I’d caught him off-guard. Being a feminist, I wasn’t opposed to the idea of the woman doing the asking, but that wasn’t what I was getting at then. I just wanted to know if we were only complacently spinning our wheels until something better came along, or if there was an end goal in sight.
If something better was supposed to come along, I knew neither he nor I were out looking for it, nor even making ourselves available to the possibilities. But if we were going to need to be — if this was only a temporary distraction, I didn’t want to miss out on potential opportunities. I didn’t have the time left for just testing the waters anymore. For that matter, to a lesser extent, neither did he.
I’d never felt the pressure of a ticking biological clock, because my sense of fulfillment wasn’t contingent on whether or not I procreated. But now there was someone that countdown might be more relevant to. Minion was already a father, though not having his child in his daily life was a source of great loss for him. If he had any thoughts of me filling that void, well... biology only lasts so long, and for me, time was running out.
Looking back, I’m sure I was already in love with Minion by then, but I wasn’t fully aware of it yet. In that moment, I was still just thinking practically, and crunching the numbers, the way I do. I wasn’t ready at that time to make a lifelong commitment, because I wanted to be certain if we went there, it was what he wanted, and not just what he’d agreed to go along with. So I made sure he understood what was at stake by waiting — what he might be giving up, that is — and settled myself for trying to remain patient, hoping by the time he came around, it wouldn’t have been long enough that I would have given up.
That June, we traveled together to my brother’s Vegas wedding. I later learned Minion had found time in that visit to take aside my eldest sibling — the only living man who shares my genetic code — to ask for his blessing on our union. My brother was happy to oblige, saying, “As long as you make my sister happy, I couldn’t be more thrilled, and I wish you both all the best in life.”
In August, we attended the wedding of my nephew, the son of my youngest brother. I secretly wondered if Minion would catch “wedding fever” as the summer coupling season winded down. He didn’t. He’s since confessed he was heavily influenced by being with me for both of those events so significant to my family in such a short span, but that only made him determined to slow down, to make sure he’d allowed time for the “fever” to pass, so he could be confident the decision was his alone, and not one of mass hysteria.
Then September turned into October, kicking off autumn in St. Paul, my favorite time of year. We’d shared a home at that point for just over 12 months, and heading into the holiday season for the second time around caused me to assess our time together up to that point. I came to appreciate, as we savored our second Halloween, our 2nd Thanksgiving, our 2nd Christmas, just as easily, as smoothly, as naturally, as comfortably, and as beautifully as the year before, that THIS was our lives. And, I realized, too... I liked it. This could ALWAYS be our lives, and that would be just fine by me. I don’t know if his mind was working the same way, but shortly after New Year’s, he decided to make it official.
One mid-January Friday morning, I woke up early, and, not wanting my movement on the upstairs level to disturb his rest where he slept downstairs, I stayed in bed and turned on the TV, keeping the volume low, until he came up a few hours later. When he learned I’d been awake for several hours, not moving because I didn’t want to wake him, he felt bad, and imagined I must be hungry, so he offered to make me breakfast in bed.
I agreed, but suggested he make it quick, since I was hoping to watch one of our favorite shows (I’d inducted him into my compulsion for RuPaul’s Drag Race) before we both went to work. (Back then we were both working nights, offset by a couple hours on either side.)
Twenty minutes went by, then 25; after that, I gathered this was apparently not going to be such a quick breakfast after all. I called to him in the kitchen; he reported back he was almost done, he’d be right there. He’s a great cook, but I’d been expecting cereal, or oatmeal, in 5 minutes or so, nothing fancy.
When he finally came in, he brought pancakes. He gave me a tray with a pretty perennial, plucked from our garden, and a short stack of oatmeal flapjacks. The top one seemed a bit mangled. Trying not to laugh, so as not to hurt his feelings, I noted, “Looks like this one has a hole in it.”
Minion nodded, and pointed out, “Yeah... kinda looks like a ring, doesn’t it?” As I was trying, a bit addled at the thought, to turn my head and squint to see it, or sort out the significance of my pancake being shaped like a ring, he took my hand in his, and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. I don’t even think I answered him, I just cried, and threw myself on him. (I’m pretty sure he took that for yes.)
When we told my family, they were thrilled, though a bit surprised and confused. They hadn’t even known we were an item. Well, most of them, anyway. But, they were right, though... we hadn’t been, previously.
One of my brothers said we’d always acted so much like an “old married couple,” he’d just assumed we’d been dating on the sly the whole time, just choosing not to tell anyone in case it didn’t work out. Funny, when I thought about that, we actually had sort of always been like that together... we were just two old souls who’d fallen into a comfortable routine with each other, and fit like a worn out glove... it was a fair comparison.
But we hadn’t ever even really dated. We went from being just housemates, to engaged. When I tried to explain how that happened, as I told the story of our pet names endearing us to each other, I was suddenly struck with the thunderbolt realization that, “HOLY CRAP! WE’RE BUTTERCUP AND WESTLEY!”
‘...That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying, “Yes, Mama,” what he really meant was,
“I love you.” And even more amazing was the day she realized, she truly loved him back.’
As it turned out, “my type” wasn’t really “my type” after all. But I feel so very blessed I didn’t hold on so tightly to that misconception that I let my heart’s desire slip through my fingers. I can’t even imagine where I’d be today without my Minion.
There was a time when I couldn’t envision life without the frenzy of a new adventure around every corner, and a constant frantic pace. But if I had ever slowed down long enough to breathe for a moment, I’d have felt in my bones, that was never what I really wanted. The stillness, the quiet, the peace of our existence, this is what I have sighed for. This is what his love has given me. And it is enough for both of us.
On October 25th, 2015, before a small gathering of our closest cohorts, I married Minion under a fiery tinted old oak tree on the back lawn of an 18th century country farmhouse, just 200 yards from the backdrop of the Mississippi River, in a modest, fantasy fairytale themed wedding. I was Minion’s Princess Bride; he was my Dread Pirate Captain. (That was an easy sell for Minion... what nerd doesn’t want to be a pirate???)
Guests witnessed as their favorite fairytale themed characters, but, you know... we’re nerds, so... there were a handful of peeps in Renfest gear, and at least three “Doctor Whos.” (I was just grateful we didn’t have any Stormtroopers! XD) My uncle catered his award winning BBQ, my Mom made potato salad, pasta salad, and baked beans, our cake was a castle with dragons, and my nephew DJed a collection of 400 love songs I’d painstakingly selected over the nine months and nine days it took us to throw the event together.
Minion and I are not spring chickens, and we’re realistic about the ups and downs of life, so we’ve never expected “Happily Ever After.” But we eagerly look forward to every moment of our future together, in our castle of bliss, which we, the consummate nerd couple, have aptly titled, “Misfit Manor.” Our home now includes 2 giant dogs, and a nearly 3-yr-old Firebird.
Love is never going to make everything perfect. But when you have love, every new day together — even the simplest ones — can be an adventure. And the rest, as they say, is history.
LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 17 - Topic: NEGATIVE REVERSE
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