This is part nineteen of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when I was living life as a divorced mom – a little while before I met Homey – but an important part of the story, nonetheless.
After New Years, the date of Markus’s return to Germany loomed. In some ways, I think that neither of us wanted to admit it. I wanted to keep on dating, having fun, and being doted upon. Markus wanted me to pray to get more definitive answers about our relationship.
I wasn’t sure what to do. The more I thought about “us” the more confused I got, which I took as a bit of an answer.
But let me backtrack for a second.
Around Christmas-time, Markus went to visit his brother in California. I was sad to see him go, but I also found out that my old childhood friends were going to be in town–visiting from Massachusetts and New York. They were twins and my neighbors growing up. We hung out a lot as teens, and had kept in touch (somewhat) over the years. It would be great to see them.
Markus knew I’d be visiting them, and I realized that he was feeling a little bit jealous.
“They are just my friends.” I explained.
“Look, you have girl-friends that you talk to all the time, and I don’t care.”
“Yes. I understand, but I just don’t know them.”
“Please. Don’t worry about anything. These guys are like brothers to me.”
He said okay, but he didn’t really mean it. He wanted to know every detail before hand. (“We’re going to a have brunch at a diner…at 10 AM“), and then, while I was hanging out, he was texting me again and again.
“Who keeps texting you?” Colin asked.
“Oh. This guy. My boyfriend.” As I said it, I noticed that I began to recoil at the word. Not a good sign. I have always hated the boyfriend/girlfriend monikers.
“He’s in California.”
“Wow…isn’t early for him right now?”
The phone kept buzzing me. I ignored a few texts, and next thing you know, he’s calling.
I didn’t answer the phone.
“Is he okay?” Doug questioned.
“Yeah. I think that he is kind of jealous of the idea of me going out with you two.” They started laughing. I could tell what they were thinking, too… – that I was being treated like a possession. This guy was being a turd… I felt judged, But at the same time, I agreed with them. This was stupid. What was his problem? I turned my phone off. It was too distracting. I’d call him later.
Markus wasn’t always “checking up on me.” Of course, most of the time, we were together, so he didn’t have to. But I was really annoyed. I had looked forward to going out to breakfast with Colin and Doug, and felt that the entire experience had been tainted by what amounted to a jealous and untrusting boyfriend.
While I missed Markus a little bit, for the most part I was happy enough without him. My brother came to town. We went to the movies, ate eleventy-billion Wawa hoagies, had all-night Monopoly competitions, and played at the batting cages. My daughters can’t get enough of their uncle, and I love hanging out with my siblings in a relaxed setting–laughing and having fun. Markus would try to call or text, but I’d explain, “I’m hanging out with my brothers.”
Between seeing Colin and Doug, and then my little brothers, I was feeling more and more like me. The me that I had always been, but had been systematically destroyed by Rusty. The me that I needed to re-find, but took a little bit of time because I was busy mending and trying to secure my footing as a newly divorced mom.
And the thing is, Markus was a big part of my “rediscovery.” I felt grateful to him.
After Markus made it back to PA, we tried to pick up where we left off. As I mentioned earlier, he went with my to my dad’s house. I picked him up, and we headed to Boston. On the drive up, he presented me with a gift. I opened up my package, and it was a tee-shirt from Hollister.
I was surprised, and I stifled a little chuckle.
I had never stepped foot into a Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, or the like, and was proud of that fact! I mean, I was a 27 year old woman, not a teeny-bopper. But Markus adored these all-american clothing stores.
“Thanks for the shirt.” I said.
“Put it on.” Markus remarked. I think he could sense my lack of delight.
“Um…Well I’m driving.” Which was true. The New Jersey Turnpike isn’t exactly the best place for a wardrobe change. Markus looked dejected, and I felt sad, so I quickly added, “I will when we stop to get gas.”
I could believe that I had agreed. First Markus couldn’t let me go to brunch with old friends. Now, he wanted to dress me! I quietly drove, listening to music, my music. (I had secretly formed strong opinions against Markus’ taste in music).
Eventually, the tension was cut down when I arrived at the gas station, and put the tee-shirt on. I will admit that it fit nicely, and Markus seemed very happy.
“Wow! You look…Wow.” Markus remarked.
“Thanks.” I said, shyly.
Markus made a whistle noise.
I said, “Thanks…I really like the shirt.”
“Really?” he asked.
“Yeah. I do.” I could sense that Markus was feeling a little…mopey. “Is everything okay?” I asked.
“Markus…seriously. Is everything okay? You seem so quiet.”
“Well. I just didn’t know what you thought about the shirt. It seemed like you didn’t like it that much when you opened it up.” I could see that I hadn’t hidden my thoughts as well as I had hoped. But still, I protested.
“Well, you weren’t excited to put it on.”
“I know. But I was driving. I can’t change while I’m driving.”
“Yes. I know. But maybe if you were excited you would have pulled over to a rest station, at least.” I felt bad. I didn’t want to hurt Markus’ feelings. But I was also feeling a little annoyed. I didn’t understand his expectation. Ultimately, I realized that this was only the beginning of our trip, and it would be a long one if he was mad. While I could sense that some things were changing about my feelings for Markus, I also knew that I deeply cared for him, and didn’t want to hurt him.
“I’m sorry, Markus. I love the shirt. I have never had a shirt from Hollister before. And I really like the way it fits. I didn’t realize that it was important to you that I put it on right away. If I had, then I would have done it. But don’t worry. I love the shirt, and I love you.” He was pleased and peaceful.
The rest of the weekend in Boston was like a dream.
The thing with dreams…you wake up.
Markus and I knew that we were on a deadline. Markus became more serious about me and our relationship, and I kept telling him that I’d have things figured out by the time he had to go back to Germany. We both agreed that no decisions needed to be made. I wouldn’t be able to return with him to Germany anyways. With two kids, there would be a lot that had to be done before we made any big decisions.
For the next two months, things kept going like they did in Boston. My life felt like the pendulum of a grandfather clock swinging back and forth. I would get snatches of an “old, original me,” and I could see how the real Catania wasn’t not quite suited for a guy like Markus. Yet, I loved being with him. He made me feel secure. He was such a good guy.
One night, we went to a basketball game with a bunch of his German friends from work. I loved being around the German people! They were interesting, different, they spoke another language. I was fascinated by their idiosyncrasies. We joked around and had a great time. On the way into the game, Markus took me aside and admitted to me how happy he was that he could bring me along with his German friends.
“Thanks. I love it!” I responded, genuinely.
“I mean, so many of the other girls in the singles ward are nice, but they don’t really understand my culture.”
“Well, I have to admit, I don’t understand it, either. I wish I knew how to speak German.”
“That’s the thing, though. You want to understand.”
“Of course I do! One thing I can’t stand is that I can’t speak your native language. It always makes me feel distanced from you.”
“You don’t need to feel that way. Besides, you can learn to speak German.”
“I know. Thanks.”
“That’s the thing, Catania. I’ve always wanted to marry an American. But sometimes I’m…apprehensive…about it.”
“Well, my brother, as you know, married an American. But she doesn’t really accept anything about his German heritage. He never speaks in German. They have been married for ten years, but she still doesn’t know any German either. She says she will never leave California, and he hasn’t even taught his children to speak German.”
“I think that’s crazy. You know that, right. That is stupid. I can’t imagine it. If we were to get married, then I’d learn how to speak German.”
Markus was delighted. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was so accepting of his heritage or if it was because I said If we were to get married. (Fairly sure it was about 20% the former and 80% latter…or maybe it was more like 10% and 90%)…
When I said it, I couldn’t believe I was saying it, but I was open to the idea. And as the night wore on, I became more enchanted by the possibility of marrying Markus.
One more thing about the basketball game…
During half-time, the dancers came out to do their thing. They were cute, and men cheered. I noticed that Markus was looking down.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
“Are you looking for something?”
“Okay…I just hope that everything is alright…you’d tell me if something is wrong, right?” I wasn’t convinced.
He looked at me, and then explained, “Just tell me when the dancers are done.”
“Okay,” I said, confused.
“What’s going on? Why are you so worried about the dancers? Is that why you won’t look up?”
“It’s just that…they’re very…un-modest. And…well, when I went on my mission, I got in the habit of looking down at my shoes in situations like this. If you want to serve a good mission, especially in Southern France, you spend a lot of time looking at your shoes,” he said, with a laugh.
“Yeah…I see.” And I did. I was amazed. I remembered Rusty. He would stare at every woman – from waitresses to cheerleaders to some of the young women at church – and I could tell that he was mentally undressing them. I was so used to it, so conditioned, I had never made the realization that a good guy does not do that.
***A quick break…Do you hear me, women! A good guy, a guy who respects you, respects himself, respects his priesthood, and respects all daughters of God doesn’t mentally undress women–even if they are nearly undressed themselves; even if they don’t understand their value and worth.***
I never understood this fact before. I had never noticed that some men don’t ogle the women in every beer commercial, in the mall when you pass Victoria’s Secret. I didn’t realize that there was enough maturation and self-control in some men to look down at their shoes.
I realized that I wanted to marry a man like Markus. Even if we didn’t really have certain things in common — matters of taste, mostly. I knew that I wanted to marry a man who really honored the covenants he had made with God. I knew that he would be a good husband, a good father. I dreamed of this life that seemed possible. I’d move to Germany and live in Europe, with a man who was obsessed with me. What could be better than that???
While I knew that a part of me wanted to marry Markus, there was another side of me that I couldn’t convince.
Markus’ ringtone for his phone often alternated between “I am Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, “Careless Whispers” by Wham, and “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. Originally, I thought it was hilarious…then I realized that he was, in no way, being ironic.
But that seemed stupid. Who cares what kind of music he likes? I mean, he’s a good guy. I’d have a good life with him!
One night, we went to a singles dance, and it was beat. Markus loved dancing, and I thought it was fine, but there was a group of people who had decided to leave the lame dance and go watch an SNL special. Obviously, I opted for SNL.
“You don’t want to keep dancing?”
“Not particularly. I’m tired. And the music is horrible.” (Plus, dancing with Markus was a little rough at times, he was really precise, but not quite passionate…sometimes I didn’t mind, but when the option between dancing and SNL special with a bunch of other people came up, I thought it would be nice to watch something funny).
When we got to the apartment, we all realized that the SNL special would be on Sunday, not Saturday, so one girl turned on Arrested Development. I had never seen the show. This was back when it was still airing on TV, and she had the first two seasons on DVD. Seriously, the night changed my life. I still remember watching Tobias Funke, “Well…you look like a Pirate! I should say so…Look at the blouse, sir.” And I realized that Lindsay had already mentioned she had a blouse just like it, and I knew that it had to be her blouse, and later it was her blouse, and I realized that this was the most genius thing I’d ever seen, better than every SNL episode put together. Better than Seinfeld, or any other comedy. Arrested Development was it.
We watched four episodes, and Markus was sleeping. Finally he asked to go home.
“I need to buy this TV show.”
“You liked that?” he asked.
“I need it.” I continued.
“It was so stupid.”
I went out and bought the first two seasons of Arrested Development. I was dismayed to find that the second to last ever episode would be airing later on that month. But at least I had the DVD’s. At least I had been shown the light.
I tried to get Markus to watch it, but he kept insisting that we watch Notting Hill (which is a movie that I basically detest, with the exception of Hugh Grant’s flat-mate).
But this was stupid. I thought that his opinion of Arrested Development shouldn’t matter. I knew that was only a matter of taste. And we had so many other things in common. And most of all, I knew that if we were to get married, he’d be able to take care of my needs. He’d love me. I’d love him. And we’d be able to be happy…but I couldn’t get these little differences out of my head.
After the success of the Hollister shirt (in Boston), Markus kept insisting that we go shopping together.
Now, I’m not going to lie, I like shopping for myself (when I have money to spend). I don’t mind shopping with my sister or another girl. Honestly, though, the idea of shopping with Markus seemed foreign to me. But I was open since he wanted to go so badly. We went to King of Prussia mall. I preferred department stores (sales!) and H&M. I didn’t mind checking the standard stores like Banana Republic, Gap, and Express. It was even fun to peek into a Forever 21 to see what kind of crazy trendy thing I could buy for CHEAP. However, I wasn’t sold at all on Abercrombie and Fitch or Hollister. I guess they were okay, but it wasn’t my thing.
Markus was obsessed with these “all-American” stores.
“It’s basically American Eagle, but more expensive.” I said.
“They are so cool. You just have to go with me.”
“But, those stores feel so…high school…to me.”
“Just give it a try.”
As Markus was trying to convince me to go to Abercrombie, we ran into one of Markus’s friends from work–Johannes. Johannes was classically German. Black turtleneck. Black pants. Euro-loooking black rimmed glasses. He looked like Dieter from Sprockets (SNL skit starring Mike Myers). Markus had recently convinced Johannes to go to Abercrombie, where Johannes had bought some kind of shirt. Johannes was carrying an Abercrombie bag when we ran into him.
“Doing some shopping?” Markus asked, while pointing at the bag with a grin.
“Actually, no. I’m making a return.”
“The shirt I bought last week is defective.”
“That’s too bad. We’ll go with you.” Markus offered.
So we schlepped over to Abercrombie where Johannes explained to the clerk that his shirt was defective. She pointed him to the rack where similar shirts were hanging. We went with him to look for a replacement.
“Look at this!” Johannes exclaimed. “Another defective shirt.”
“What?” Markus asked.
“Show me.” I chimed in. And Johannes showed us that the shirt was worn, even threadbare, in places. He was about to take the second defective shirt to the sales clerk, when I looked at the others.
“Wait, Johannes…that’s how they are.”
“Look.” and I showed him the shirts.
“They’re all defective?” he asked, incredulous.
“Well no. They’re fine. That’s the way they’re supposed to be. Look.” I pointed to a hat that was frayed, some jeans that had holes.
“Who would pay this much for a defective shirt?” Johannes asked, and went to get his money back.
Markus laughed at the seemingly naive opinion of Johannes. I laughed in agreement with Johannes, but tried to pass it off as if I agreed with Markus by nodding my head. While Johannes explained to the clerk that he needed his money back, Markus led me to the women’s clothes, and insisted on buying another shirt for me. I hesitated at first, “No, Markus, you don’t have to.”
He insisted. And I let him buy the shirt, and I realized, I really didn’t like this. I didn’t like the store, and I didn’t like having some dude dress me.
And yet, what’s the big deal, right? So he likes Abercrombie? So he can’t laugh at the same things I do? So he has crappy taste in music. He still is a good guy. We had common goals–having a strong family, living a gospel-centered life, serving missions, etc. We had so much of the important stuff in common. I knew that if I wanted to, I could be happy with a guy like this. It would be better than what I had experienced before.
My mind swirled back and forth. I prayed to know if I should marry him (the answer was always, no…not yet). I prayed if I should keep dating him (the answer was yes, this is good for you). Then I’d pray again, “If it’s good for me to date him, then why not marry him?”
The answer would be, “don’t worry. Don’t rush it. You’ll figure things out soon enough.”
I was reluctant to let this chance–what I feared might by my only chance–slip away. I prayed that one day it would be right for me to marry Markus. I reasoned with God, “he’ll make a great husband,”
But the answer that came back was, “Yes. He will make a great husband. But wait. Just date him. Keep enjoying this time. Learn.
So, I tried my best to enjoy a time that I knew would be coming to a sharp end…In only a couple of weeks Markus would be going back to Germany. Then what would I do?