There was an awkward period of time when, for the life of me, I couldn’t define the nature of the relationship between me and my future husband.
We met when we were both graduate students in New York City. We were in a singing group, and soon started spending a lot of time together outside of rehearsal. At first we hung out with a group of singers. Eventually, we started doing things on our own.
“So are you dating?” my sisters would ask me on the phone.
“I’m really not sure,” I would reply.
I was getting some seriously mixed signals.
“You have the hands of a pianist,” he remarked one day.
I instantly understood that he was trying to flatter me. I imagined all of the things he was surely thinking…Your hands are so elegant! Your fingers are so long and tapered!
As he was obviously trying to find a pretext for paying me a compliment, I obligingly gave him the opening.
“Really? You think?…What do pianists’ hands look like?”
“Well, they have really chunky fingers,” he replied promptly and earnestly.
It never ends well when my husband and I discuss how the nature of our relationship was eventually clarified, but the resolution once again involved my hand. As I remember it, one day we were walking down Broadway, about to cross 113th St., when he held out his hand for me to hold. I took it, and that was that. From that moment, we both knew that we weren’t just really good friends who happened to take note of each other’s physical traits…We were dating.
My husband remembers it differently. One day he had the nerve to imply that I had made the first move.
“What?!” I protested, “You’re the one who grabbed my hand! Remember?”
“It was icy. I was just holding out my hand to help you down off the sidewalk,” he replied, “And then I was really happy, because you kept holding my hand.”
I had to resist a very strong urge to throw something at him.
That was seventeen winters ago. We were married a year later. We still argue about things. We still walk hand in chunky hand.