How They Met: Love Across a Crowded Room

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"Sometimes, You've Just Got to Say, "What the Hell'"

The subject line of my first e-mail the next morning read: "The Stud You Met at Vallone's." The body: "I enjoyed talking to you last night, but I wasn't finished." The electronic signature: "Richard Daly."

Unbelievable. I had moved 1,000 miles and picked out a guy with my former hometown's most famous name. "I love what you've done with the Windy City," I e-mailed back.

He asked about my weekend plans, and I invited him to join my friends and me for dinner. We went to a fancy-pants restaurant with entrées that sizewise would not even qualify as appetizers for this tall Texan. Rick was a great sport and kept us in stitches with his running commentary. But at 31, he was five years my junior and thus did not meet my inflexible husband criteria. Never mind that I was having the best date of my life. I told Rick I wasn't interested in pursuing a relationship.

After a week steeped in regret over my rash decision, I e-mailed a sheepish mea culpa. "Sometimes, you've just got to say, 'What the hell,'" I wrote.

"My friends are giving a party tonight," Rick wrote back, showing a spontaneity that I clearly lacked. "I'll pick you up at 7." When we walked into the packed room later that evening, Rick was greeted with gleeful shouts of "Big Bird" and "Ricky D!" My date proved to be a bon vivant and a conversationalist who could put Dale Carnegie to shame.

After that Rick and I talked on the phone daily and went out every Friday and Saturday night, as well as once during the week. I was determined to take it slow, both emotionally and physically (another part of the grand plan), and Rick not only accepted this but seemed to appreciate it. "You are the best person I know," he said after a dozen dates and no sleepovers. And, for the first time in my life, I thought the same thing about him.

Rick was also the consummate man's man and, as we spent more and more time together, my previously Palm-piloted life began to get a lot less predictable. Our Saturdays often began at 4 A.M. with him sailing his boat 60 miles southeast into the Gulf of Mexico. The first time he took me out, I puked off the stern as dolphins jumped at the bow. Eventually I got my sea legs and even started to bait my own hook. I also learned to dove hunt, although to this day I've never actually bagged one. I even tried my hand at Texas hold 'em poker but leaned too far back in my swivel chair, flipped over and put my head through the wall.

A year after I spotted him across the room, Rick proposed. Six months later, we were married. At our rehearsal dinner, Rick regaled the guests with the story of how we met-his version, which has me knocking over chairs, crawling over tables and body-slamming waiters to introduce myself.

We will soon celebrate our third wedding anniversary and are planning to have children-we already have a chocolate Labrador. My mom claims the pooch will trigger my maternal instincts and help me get pregnant. But then what does she know?

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, May 2006.


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