Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

The End of the 00s: No One Would Have Blamed Her For Changing Her Mind, by Dan Shanoff

CINQUE TERRE"How cheap is cheap?"

That was my instantaneous, inane response in the single most pivotal moment of my decade.

I was sitting in an internet cafe in Florence, Italy. It was early August 2001. I had been trading emails with a woman with whom I went on a blind date three weeks earlier. We had hit it off, but a few days later, I was jetting off for my first trip to Europe–three weeks of touring by myself.

I liked this woman enough that I was sending her emails from the road. A lot of "wish you were here"–and I sincerely believed it. Not unlike Don and Betty Draper's Italian getaway, Europe was meant to be explored for the first time with someone with whom you had just had a couple of really good dates.

Halfway through the trip, I logged in and had an email from her: "How would you feel if I joined you in Italy?" it read. "I found a cheap flight."

And my first reply:

"How cheap is cheap?"

Oy. No one would have blamed her for changing her mind immediately, based on that response. Instead, she replied "Does it matter?" Recognizing my appalling mistake, I said of course it didn't. A day later, she was on a flight–yes, a cheap one–bound for Italy.

Looking back, we were both so glib about it–her with the offer, me with the acceptance. But we both felt like we had nothing to lose: She had never been to Italy; as she explained it later, if things didn't go well… well, she was still in Italy. I missed her and wanted to share my traveling experience.

Here is what I was struck by at the terminal in that internet cafe: What guts she had. Consider the freak-out potential of so many guys in New York at such an offer. Consider that she still barely knew me–she couldn't be sure how I would take it, let alone whether I was a decent traveling companion.

I accepted her offer not because I necessarily knew her, but because I wanted to know her–to know someone who would do something like that. To make your third date a trip to Italy to meet up for a few days, because you've never been… because it would be fun to be there with someone you've had two fun dates with already… because why not? It wasn't that I said yes–rather, how could I say no?

And so she joined me. Four days traveling in Italy–Venice, Cinque Terre, Milan–with someone you have only been out with on two dates previously is the equivalent of 100 dates in New York. I believe that was the exchange rate at the time.

Because of that, when she left–I still had a week to go on my trip–I knew I would marry her. We had known each other for less than three weeks, but in addition to all of her wonderful qualities–some I could instantly recognize, some I could only discover with time–I wanted to marry the person who asks, after two dates, if they can fly across the world.

Two years later–which felt like twice as long, thanks to the emotionally accelerating effect of the Italy trip–I asked her to marry me. Eight years after that third date in Italy, we have two beautiful children. I can only hope they grow up to be as fearless as their mom was that day.

I spent nearly the entire decade with her and all of my decade's most memorable moments–our wedding, our kids, even the best moments of my career–were made possible because of her.

At the core of why I love her is admiration for how she lives her life as a spouse, mom, lawyer and friend. And underlying all of that admiration is that lingering memory of how I felt at the moment she told me she found a cheap flight to join me in Italy.

How cheap is cheap? Thank God: Cheap enough.

Dan Shanoff is a Brooklyn-based writer and parent–that really narrows it down–and, for lack of a better phrase, "media industry consultant." He spent his decade morphing from MBA student to national sports columnist to dad. He has a site of his own, but also devoted an absurd amount of time over the past six months editing a project dedicated to covering a single college football player.

36 Comments / Post A Comment

Jetpacks (#2,220)

Who took off the Snark Guard and let this nice post on The Awl?

That was pretty sweet, Dan, you cheap bastard.

Sweetie (#519)

I was going to say something like, "Aw, this is sweet," until I clicked through and read his garbage about Boise State. Go back to Italy and stay there, you crazy person!

Well, that truce didn't last long.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

Exactly. In addition, Florida sucks!

Sweetie (#519)


kneetoe (#1,881)

I vote for Boise State entering the SEC for a period of, say, two years. They can have the schedule my Vols typically play: start with Florida (preferably on the road) and work their way past Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, and LSU. After winning those they can play for the SEC title (maybe Alabama again). Make it through undefeated and you're guaranteed a title shot. Meanwhile, meh.

Sweetie (#519)

Boise State wouldn't have a healthy player left at the end of an SEC season.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

The SEC argument is bullshit. The question isn't whether the WAC is as good as the SEC (which it's not) but why Boise State doesn't get a shot when presumably if they were in a marginally less shitty conference like the ACC or Big 10 they'd have a shot.

toadvine (#1,698)

No, it's not even a valid premise. Boise State deserves nothing, which is what it gets. Get Boise State to adopt Fresno State's anyone, anywhere, anytime scheduling and then we'll talk. But the home games on the blue field against joke teams kill the argument. Yeah, sure, Oregon, whatever.

In my romantic history the word "cheap" has only been paired with "slut", "date" and "wine".

Better luck next life.

sunnyciegos (#551)

Cinque Terre is one of the most romantic places in the world. Lucky bastard.

Evan Hilbert (#2,724)

You could make a shitload of money selling this story to Dan Brown. Assuming, of course, that the two of you defeated some evil faction of adroit clergymen.

riotnrrd (#840)

Make it an evil faction of android clergymen, and I'd read it.

brad (#1,678)

adroit clergymen was teh name of my first band.

then we switched to the bleakened future of disaffected monkeys.

i don't remember playing any music though. in fact, i can't.

josh_speed (#97)

Needs more limoncello. But delightful.

oudemia (#177)

I am making some *right now.* Well, *right now* it is sort of making itself. But earlier there was peeling and chopping.

Cajun Boy (#132)

I have never wanted to cuddle with Dan Shanoff more than I do right now.

lbf (#2,343)

it only makes sense if his wife is there too though.

Moff (#28)

Yeah, this made me happy.

HiredGoons (#603)

I kept waiting for it to go terribly, terribly wrong.

And it didn't!

What does that say about me? I'd probably rather not know.

katiebakes (#32)

It says that this decade has made Jets fans out of all of us.

It says that this year has made Bry-heads out of all of us.

kneetoe (#1,881)

There's always next decade.

(Crawling back under my rock now.)

sailor (#396)

Charming, but one in a million in terms of relationships.

rj77 (#210)

Yeah. This will never happen to me.

Maevemealone (#968)

I'd ask if you had a brother, but inevitably, if you did, he'd be some deadbeat scofflaw who would ask me to pay for his cheap ticket to Italy, without me. I liked this story a lot.

Jetpacks (#2,220)

After some thought, Dan, this story needs a little spice. Please rework with some clumsy first-time sex, followed by how you two finally found your rhythm and proceeded to fuck like monkeys for a week. Which is when you REALLY knew this was the woman for you.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Nice piece, Dan, but it's clearly fiction. Everyone knows your most pivotal moment of the decade was the first time you looked into Tebow's eyes.

metoometoo (#230)

My best friend went to London with a guy she had just started dating, under similar circumstances. The relationship accelerating effect of that trip caused her to spend over a year with a crappy boyfriend who was completely wrong for her.

But *this* story made me cry a little bit in front of my coworkers. Yet again.

dorothy (#1,694)

I love this so much! I also went on a third date to Italy with someone. (Granted, we'd been vague friends/acquaintance before.) Readers, I moved in with him.

what if tim tebow is reading this right now?

zav (#2,840)

I mean, it's nice about the marriage and all but don't leave us hanging – how cheap was the ticket?

WanderingAramean (#2,877)

Just imagine being the brother of that amazing woman and being tasked with helping her find that cheap ticket to make the trip. Or the phone call a couple days later from dad saying "You sent your sister where? Do we even know this guy's name?"

I'm glad we were able to find that fare and that she made the trip. Good to have you in the family.

joe (#2,899)


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