Not a member? Sign up now
Before You Were Born: The Fifteen-Year Courtship
Stories from our parents' surprisingly romantic youth.
By Danielle Gibson
My mom always tells me to be friends with potential suitors first, and to get to know them. She speaks from experience: before marrying my dad, they were friends for fifteen years. I met up with them over the weekend to talk about putting in the time.
So you guys met in high school. What were you like back then?
M: Shy. I only had two friends. I sucked at sports, but I always got really high marks in academics. I was young, too; I started school in England when I was four, so I was only twelve when I started high school.
D: I went to an all-boys school until I transferred. It was not great. I was football player and a wrestler. I actually won third place all-Ontario — put that in the article.
When did you actually meet?
D: She doesn’t remember, but I first saw your mom at a field day when we were both in grade eight.
Gross. Dad hit on you when you were twelve-years old and he was fourteen?
M: No, we met when I was thirteen. And we were in the same grade. And I was mature. It was 1968.
Did you guys instantly connect?
M: Your dad was funny. And he didn’t care what other people thought about him; he was uninhibited and I liked that. And he was smart but in a kind of subversive way. And he
was a wrestler.
So he was a hottie with a body?
M: No. I mean, yes, but that’s not why I liked him.
Dad, what about Mom?
D: We were in a bunch of classes together. Your mother was cute as a button and had her own opinion — about everything. This made her very independent and to me very attractive. We became “combative friends” in that we would discuss and disagree about pretty much everything. I had been going out with many other girls — as you can well imagine — given my athletic prowess in a small town. Put that in.
Okay, I’ll make a note of your athlete skills. When did he first make a move?
M: He started by just offering to carry my books and walking me home from school. And then after a while he’d stay and have tea with me and my mom. And then we started meeting up to go roller-skating, or to the fair. Our first date was at the county fair, but I didn’t even think it was a date. I thought we were just friends.
D: It was on May 18, 1968. After offering to drive Jane and her third-wheel friend Lindsay home from the Rotary Club carnival — after dropping off Lindsay, I asked your mother to go out with me and she said yes and we went to the A&W for teen-burgers and root beer. I did not score.
I didn’t even ask! But Mom, it sounds like you still didn’t get it.
M: I always knew he liked me, and I liked him, but I was too young and independent to get involved with some guy from the small town that I could not wait to get away from. I wanted to escape and experience life.
D: Neither of us wanted to be tied down in a small town. We just remained really good friends.
So when you graduated high school, what happened?
M: I went to university, and he went off to work.
But you stayed in touch?
M: He ended up going to the same university as me, but was a year behind me, so I didn’t want anything to do with him. My small town days were behind me. I wanted to go out with older men.
D: I ended up buying some textbooks from you —
M: Yeah, but then you vanished and didn’t pay me.
Dad was older than you!
M: I was playing the field. That’s what university is for. You wouldn’t know!
Burn. Okay, so you were ignoring him. What made you guys reconnect?
M: We always wrote letters. I moved to Toronto for work after school for five years and then I moved to Calgary, but we always wrote letters to each other, to keep in touch. He was the only guy I did that with.
Pre-internet pen pals — quaint. What kind of letters?
M: They weren’t love letters, they were just updates on what we were doing with our lives. With our various other partners.
Okay, Mom, we get it. You were a player. So how long did the letters go on for?
M: For about five years. It was nice to feel like I still had a connection to someone back home. Like someone was missing me. And it wasn’t just letters — every year your dad would send me roses on my birthday and on Valentine’s Day.
D: We also met once when I was managing rock bands when she came home for Christmas. You are getting this so wrong.
M: I don’t remember that part!
D: Well, I looked very cool at the time.
The flowers have been pretty awkward when you were with one of your 500 boyfriends.
M: It was. I had to hide them.