Several months ago, I wrote a couple of posts – here and here – about men who restored my faith in, well, men. In those posts, I explained that I’ve had doubts in the past about men’s innate ability to love… like truly, madly, deeply (great movie, by the way) love. L.O.V.E. Oddly, these doubts have never extended to random, select men in my life, such as my dad or my husband or my Papi or Stanley Tucci.
Anyway, despite the revelations that prompted the posts earlier this year, I’ve been having a little crisis lately where my doubts have come creeping back in. It’s completely unfair. It’s heartless of me (there’s irony for you). There’s no reason for such a judgment.
This all was weighing on me until earlier today. Then… I remembered Dominick. Ah, Dominick, my romance from my last two summers of high school and the first man to ask me to marry him.
If my best friend or my sister or my mom read this, they’ll shake their heads in that way we women do when we’re feeling simultaneously exasperated and nostalgic. But they’ll hopefully also remember what an amazing young man Dominick was back then.
Dominick lived not far from Yonkers, I lived in southwestern Connecticut, and we met at the Jersey Shore. We hung out in a large group of kids from around the tri-state area who had gravitated toward each other upon arrival at the beach and who were relatively inseparable for the brief time we all spent at the Shore each summer.
Somehow, among all of these kids and all of the fun and craziness and distractions, Dominick was interested in me. Me! And boy did I like him. He was tall and lanky with the most beautiful smile and a sweet, tender blue-eyed gaze that simply emanated kindness. It was that kindness, that genuine consideration for others, that drew me to him. He was athletic and fun and a teenager through and through, but he also was sweet and gentle and caring beyond words. I was crushy beyond crushy. Serious puppy love. I was distraught when it was time to return home and beside-myself-excited when we returned to the Shore the next summer to find him and the rest of our crew already there and looking for us.
What I forgot about Dominick until this morning was that he asked me to marry him. It wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t a “Someday I’m going to marry you.” It was an honest-to-goodness proposal of marriage. True, there was no ring involved, and the question was asked by phone, but he really did ask me to marry him when I was 17 and he was 18 (or was he 19?).
Why, you may ask, would this simple act by a boy – because he really was more boy than man still – restore my faith in men? There are a few reasons. First, more than the proposal itself, the memory of Dominick reminded me of what a beautiful soul that boy was, how selfless and thoughtful. Second, despite your initial thoughts about why a boy would propose marriage – yes, I can read your mind – there was no underlying motivation of the get-in-your-pants nature driving this. Dominick proposed to me in winter, when we weren’t at the Shore. He lived at least an hour from me, and I wasn’t allowed to drive out of state to visit or meet up with him, so I pretty much never saw him aside from the week or two we would spend near Seaside Heights. So proposal or no proposal, he wasn’t gettin’ any. And… my family wasn’t scheduled to go back to the Shore the following summer. Finally, when I told Dominick I couldn’t marry him because I wanted to go to college, he offered to come with me and support me in whatever dream I wanted to pursue.
Dominick and I stayed in touch here and there until I left for college, and then we fell out of touch for good. For years, I kept a photo of him in my wallet (remember when we used to do that sort of thing?). When I was sad or lonely or stressed, I would look at his sweet face and would feel a sense of calm knowing someone so kind-hearted was out there in the world. Then, at some point the photo disappeared. Years later, my mother saw Dominick in a magazine article featuring his wife, who apparently is brilliant, and we were simply thrilled to see him looking well and happy.
So now it’s midnight, and tomorrow the world is supposed to end, according to several misinterpretations of the Mayan calendar. And if the world truly does end, at least I can feel some sense of relief that my faith in men has yet again been restored thanks to that boy who long ago offered to follow me anywhere, who told me he wanted to spend his life with me, and who made me feel truly, madly, deeply loved.