Before You Were Born: The Two-Week Courtship

Stories from our parents' surprisingly romantic youth: Sometimes it's best to just jump in with both feet.

By Rachel R. White

My mom and dad started dating in the early '80s. Dad spent the '70s driving around Chicago in a black van painted with flames, then went out West with nothing but his motorcycle, friends — and, judging by a photo I found from that time period, a decent amount of marijuana. Meanwhile, Mom was putting herself through nursing school and had a reputation as a party girl. She'd borrow her roommates' dresses and hem them shorter before a night out dancing — but she'd only do a false hem, and afterward return them to the closet, roommate none the wiser.

When Dad was struck by a car on his motorcycle, he decided to "clean up" and go to forestry school. One of the only forestry programs in the country was located in the same small town where Mom lived. Dad noticed Mom around town, but when they finally had their first date, a whirlwind would follow.

So, Dad, despite your wild past — painting your teenage bedroom black, doing hallucinogens out west — you were suddenly shy about hitting on Mom?

Dad: I had moved to go to school, and after nearly dying in a motorcycle accident I was bent on getting my life together. I wasn't partying as much anymore. But I would see your mom around, and I knew this was the girl I wanted to go out with. Yet, when it came to talking to her, all of a sudden, I was a weenie-boy. I just admired her from afar. 

Mom: We first met at a wedding.

D: The first time we met, she sat close to me and kissed me on the cheek, but she had this boyfriend around. I was happy nevertheless and told my sister, "She was smoochin' on me!" My sister just said, "Oh, she kisses everyone like that, even the guy who sells bagels from a cart at two a.m.!"

M: I liked your dad and was flirting with him, but my old boyfriend was there. We just had chance meetings from then. Later, I saw him in the grocery store. I asked about Christmas trees, then invited him to a New Year's Eve party, but I was engaged to that same boyfriend by then.

D: I didn't go. I remember saying to my sister that I really liked this girl — why would I go to the party she and her fiance were throwing?

So, Mom, who was this guy you were engaged to?

M: He was an artist and photographer. He was very cerebral and it felt stable, but sort of conservative or cold. He wasn't one to dance or party. We had intellectual conversations, but we didn't really laugh. One of our major problems was that he was very insecure — I was outgoing and a big flirt, and his insecurity about that just made it worse. At a party, if I knew he was watching me, I would really put on a show.

So what happened?

M: We got into a fight one night. Our fights were more like debates, very democratic, taking turns. I finally said, "This isn't working, I'm done." I didn't give him back the ring — but that night he came over and took it off my finger while I was sleeping! That was the only time I'd seen him angry or dramatic. Later, he apologized and said he wanted to stay together but, really, it wasn't working. After that, I vowed to stop dating guys just because they seemed like stable husband material or had a good job. I decided to just go with my heart and instincts. 

From family dinners where everyone's had a little too much wine, I know that at one point, Dad sort of slept with one of your friends. What happened?

M: It was November, ten months after I invited him to the New Year's party, but by then I had broken off the engagement. I walked into Cherry Street, a disco, and there was my friend, dancing with your dad. I thought, "Wait, I'm supposed to be dancing with him!" So, I asked him to dance, and he was a great dancer, and really witty. Afterward, I gave him a little kiss on the cheek, tore off a deposit slip from my checkbook with my phone number and address on it, handed it to him and said, "Call me."

D: I thought, "Oh man, this chick is a professional." I called and called and she was busy, every time. I figured she was blowing me off.

So, how did the first date finally happen?

M: He was a little younger than me. He was a student, and I was busy with a new job. I had all these excuses, but then he stopped calling. So, I called him up and invited him to my office Christmas party, but since that seemed so formal for a first date, I had him over first.

D: She invited me to her apartment and made dinner. We spent the entire night together on the couch just talking. I had to tear myself away! She begged me to stay, but I had a rule about not sleeping with people I liked on the first date.

M: [Laughs] I did not beg him to stay. And that rule only lasted for the first date.

So you guys got pretty hot and heavy after that?

M: Before this, I always knew deep down my relationships weren't going to work out, because guys would stay over and I'd think "I wish he'd just go home now." Even with my fiance, it felt like he was a guest, and I had to be on my best behavior. But when I woke up with your dad, I thought, "Oh, you can stay forever." I was just comfortable. I could be goofy and relax. He made me laugh so much, and we had great conversations. I knew he could handle my crazy family, and it would just be okay. He was gregarious and outgoing like me. He would fit in with everyone I knew.

D: I couldn't believe she was interested in me. It was a high that lasted for months. She was so gorgeous and smart and accomplished. I was just smitten.

M: He went home for Christmas, but he bought me the most beautiful Christmas tree and an ornament with the inscription "Our first Christmas together."

D: When I came back, we decided to throw a New Year's Eve party to announce our engagement.

Commentarium (28 Comments)

Oct 04 11 - 12:36am

That was awesome. They seem incredibly cool, down to earth and genuine.

Oct 08 11 - 9:41am

They are all of those things! I know them. The author did a tremendous job capturing their essence in this interview! Bravo!

Oct 04 11 - 12:52am


Oct 04 11 - 5:26pm

second that

Oct 04 11 - 4:21am

find a guy who can dance. very good advice. great story

Oct 04 11 - 7:56am

I love this series! So often we see our parents as perpetually old, or in that "marriage rut", and it's hard to see them as young, horny people just like ourselves. It's so nice to be able to read these conversations with somebody's parents, even if it's not our own.

Oct 04 11 - 9:54am


Oct 04 11 - 11:04am

it takes a lot of balls to put the ring on the town slut, im glad it worked out for you brah

Oct 04 11 - 12:41pm

Actually I was thinking that it takes a lot more guts to marry a pothead who banged your friend.

Oct 04 11 - 5:30pm

And, actually, she was in no way the town slut.

Oct 04 11 - 11:11am

That wouldn't be Rachel /Rabbit/ White? No wonder you grew up to give good advice and measured opinions, with parents who so clearly know how to love each other!

Oct 04 11 - 12:36pm

My marriage was under similar circumstances as far as the time line goes. Every one said the same thing when we fist said we were getting married and then they found out that we met at an orgy party and shit really hit the fan. We have been going strong for 9 years, so I love seeing these stories. Congratulations to you and your awesome parents.

Oct 04 11 - 1:53pm

Love, love, love this. Entertaining and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

Oct 04 11 - 1:56pm
Duana Welch

Rachel, of all your articles, this is my favorite. Thank you --and your folks--for putting your and their hearts out there. Way to go.

Oct 04 11 - 2:00pm

Loving the love!

Oct 04 11 - 5:29pm

From the sister who said "we'll see about that", I love the way things have worked out, Debbie and Mark have figured out the secret to marital success, recognizing that the good days incredibly outnumber the not so good.

Oct 04 11 - 6:57pm
Joan d

Love the story, rachael, and love your parents, too.

Oct 04 11 - 8:14pm

this was lovely

Oct 06 11 - 4:41am
a different rachel

this was amazing! almost everyone i know has a fractured family, and wasn't given a very good example of this kind of lasting love. it's nice to read about, and i wish it didn't sound like such a fantasy. thanks for sharing!

Oct 06 11 - 4:42am
a different rachel

also, they look really great, i think even better in the recent photo. :)

Oct 06 11 - 12:02pm

Holy mackerel, you look JUST LIKE your mom!

Oct 06 11 - 5:07pm

Dad's jawline, Mom's eyes. Tendency toward psychedelia and sexual open-ness-- no idea where that came from.

Oct 07 11 - 4:01pm
T Paine

Really lovely story. Love the fact that they still dance together after all these years. Thanks for sharing. You have awesome parents.

Oct 08 11 - 6:28pm

I loved this. Humour, mutual respect, and moxy--this pair has it all. I also enjoy this feature for the fact that it's the children interviewing the parents.

Oct 10 11 - 2:39pm

This was a great article. I know the both of them and they are wonderful people and still full of love and passion.

Oct 11 11 - 5:17pm

It was always a pleasure to be around your parents they bring joy where ever they go. This is a great story. Thanks for sharing.

Oct 11 11 - 6:40pm

great story and oh so true. you did a great job, Randy and I are proud of you.

Nov 10 11 - 10:53pm

Rachel has written a beautiful love story. Mark came home for Christmas and I immediately knew he was in love after just two weeks with Debbie. When he called New Years morning to announce his marriage, I asked "are you still drunk?". But I knew it was for real. And it seemed just normal to meet my daughter inlaw to be the night before the wedding. I saw the look of love on Mark's face when he showed me the pictures of Debbie with the babies in the nursery. That was enough for his mom.