Before You Were Born

Stories from our parents' surprisingly romantic youth.

This is the story of how my father, Bob, a skinny nerd with thick glasses and commitment issues, convinced my mother, Paula, who couldn't have been less interested, to marry him.

Before You Were Born - Bob and Paula LindermanDad, how did you and Mom meet?

D: It was May 23, 1973. I was running an errand for my then-girlfriend in Harvard Square.

How long had you been dating this girl?

D: That's a good question. You have to understand, my relationships with women were... far more casual then. We were, more or less, casual. But she was living with me.

What happened that day?

D: It was 2:30 in the afternoon. I was twenty-one years old. Walking down the street, I looked to my right, into the window of a restaurant called the Pewter Pot. Through the window I saw a former... it would be hard to call her a girlfriend... let's just say, a relationship of mine.

That's diplomatic.

D: Fine, it was a hook-up. Anyway, I saw her having tea with a girl — your mom — and I was quite smitten. I walked in and I was immediately attracted to your mom. She was petite and blond and pretty, and obviously very intelligent. So I sat down, uninvited, and spent about an hour mooching cigarettes and talking, and trying to get her attention.

Wasn't it awkward to be sitting with your ex-girlfriend, trying to hit on her friend?

D: She wasn't my girlfriend! But yes, it was a little bit awkward.

M: I was having tea with my friend Rebecca. She looked up, obviously saw somebody she knew, and said something along the lines of, "Uh-oh, there's this guy I went out with, and I think he's coming in."

D: I'm sure she didn't say that.

M: Let's put it this way: She definitely didn't look up and start beckoning him to come in. She was more like, "Oh, there's Bob." But that didn't stop him. In he comes, and sits down. I think we did as much as we could without being overtly rude to encourage him to go on his way. We were cool. I don't mean cool like hip — I mean not all that warm. But he stayed.

What was your first impression of Dad? This guy wasn't even a prospect for you, right?

M: Oh God, no. He was the biggest dork I had ever seen. He was as tall as he is now, six feet, but he weighed probably 125 pounds.

Could you tell that Dad was flirting with you?

M: I had no idea.

Dad, did you try to get her phone number?

D: I did not. I walked out and I thought I had blown it. I didn't have much success with making a connection with your mom at that meeting, and I was kind of despondent. Still, I went home and told the girl I was living with that she had to move out. She asked why, and I said because I had met the woman I was going to marry.

Why did you take that risk?

D: Because it was the right thing to do. I was just smitten by the entire package. There are so many things that go into making up a very complicated relationship, and an enduring one, but I had a certainty. It took quite a while to convince your mom, but that certainty was real. I have never been one to talk about love casually. That's not my style at all. I'm very cautious about the concept of love.

Before You Were Born - Bob and Paula Linderman How did you know you'd find Mom again?

D: I didn't have much doubt that I'd find her again for several reasons. First of all, I'm a fairly determined guy. Plus I knew Rebecca, so I thought I could track your mom through her. What I didn't anticipate was that Rebecca wasn't exactly going to be forthcoming with your mom's phone number. She wasn't that easy to get ahold of.

M: She just wasn't returning your calls.

D: So I was despairing.

How did you find her?

D: My senior year, I was doing my thesis, and Mom was doing a teaching internship and wound up having an office right below mine.

M: It turned out that our departments were in the same small building.

D: Almost the first day of school in our senior year, we ran into each other. September of 1973. I was thrilled! Mom was less thrilled.

At this point, after the whole summer had gone by, was she still on your mind?

D: Oh yeah! I spent the whole summer thinking about her. I remember seeing her in the entryway of the brownstone as I was on my way up to my office and I remember saying, "Paula!" but I didn't ask her out right then. Later though, I was very persistent in asking her out, and she was equally persistent in saying no. She didn't agree to go out with me until October, but even then I had things to do before we actually started dating.

What did you have to do?

D: I had to break her up with her boyfriend.

There was a boyfriend?!

M: Well, there was more than one. I had started going out with a guy from Brooklyn over the summer who I really liked, and I was also going out with a guy at the Harvard Business School. Your dad had been asking me out and I had said no over and over. I kept giving him excuses. Eventually, he invited me out on a proper date, as opposed to a college-kid type of date. He was on a full scholarship and work study, and he was driving a cab to pay for his education, and he invited me out to dinner.

Commentarium (18 Comments)

Jul 13 10 - 12:24am

Aw. This was lovely and inspiring. Your parents are beautiful.

Jul 13 10 - 12:41am

Wonderful, another beautiful installment

Jul 13 10 - 2:10am

Great story! You should find out what happened to Jimmy

Jul 13 10 - 10:00am

Awww. This reminds me of how I got together with my fiance. He really fought for me and I'm so glad I finally came around.

Jul 13 10 - 10:08am

The photos are great!

Jul 13 10 - 1:05pm

This is so beautiful! Your parents are amazing.

Jul 13 10 - 3:25pm

Love, love, LOVE this new feature!

Jul 13 10 - 3:40pm

so what's the difference between the dad and a stalker?

Jul 13 10 - 4:01pm

This is a great story! I love how talking about these stories helps the children of these people know their parents better and better understand romance and relationships in general. Nice job, Nerve.

Jul 13 10 - 7:20pm

Am I the only one who doesn't find this romantic at all? Even if the relationship wasn't serious, breaking up with someone by kicking them out and telling them that you're going to marry someone else is kind of cold. At least give them time to find a new place? The guy kind of sounds like a dick...

Jul 13 10 - 10:20pm

loved this one. they remind me of my parents a bit.

Jul 14 10 - 12:42pm

i'm guessin a lot of these features gonna be similar...all "romantic", "cool", "sweet"...will any parents admit to their kids that they regret choosing their dad/mom, or that they just settled? don't think so.

Jul 14 10 - 1:55pm

Fascinating. Fun to find out the history of your friends.

Jul 14 10 - 8:00pm

Today we'd call it stalking.

Jul 14 10 - 10:38pm

I don't think that's true. I think there are a ton of girls who fall for tenacious guys. There's a lot of ground between "charmingly tenacious" and "creepily obsessive." The fear of looking creepily obsessive is probably the number one thing that keeps "nice guys" from getting into relationships. It's simple--don't be creepy, just put yourself out there.

Jul 15 10 - 9:37am

This is so weird. Basically her dad was a jerk to other women until he was a stalker. That's crazy.

Jul 16 10 - 1:36pm

LOVE this!!! And Dad wasn't a stalker...because he was successful!

Jul 19 10 - 6:15pm

Why do people keep calling the dad a stalker? As the mom said, he accepted the relationship on her terms and waited for her feelings to change. And, after spending a lot of time together, which the mom could have said no to, her feelings did change. That's not stalking.