Right on Time


Courting disaster—that’s what my occasional dates were like. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, and Dad’s simplistic answer wasn’t much help—at the time.

I could hardly keep my voice steady as I said good night to Ben. Tears were already streaming down my face as I shut the door and flopped down on the living room floor.

I was glad everyone had gone to bed; that way I wouldn’t have to tell them about the prom or why I was crying.

I should have known it would be horrible, since I hadn’t even been my date’s first choice. He had wanted to take Amy, my best friend, but she was already going with Chad. So Ben had done the next best thing—he’d asked me and suggested we double.

It was an awkward situation from the moment we all climbed into Ben’s old station wagon. I don’t think he said anything to me as we drove to the restaurant; he was too busy staring at Amy in the rearview mirror. She didn’t notice. She was too entranced by Chad—star basketball player, student body vice-president, and the most popular guy in school—to notice anything. It was driving Ben crazy.

That’s why he forgot to help me with my chair at the restaurant. He tried to pull out Amy’s chair and bumped into Chad. In the confusion, he must have forgotten about me because he just turned and sat down.

All through dinner Ben played “Name That Tune” with the background music, and I tried to hide my anger. I knew he was feeling as miserable as I was, but why did he have to take it out on me? I didn’t want him to fall in love with me; I just wanted him to treat me like a human being.

I don’t know how we made it through the rest of the evening. At the school neither of us was very anxious to dance, so we had our pictures taken first. Even that didn’t go smoothly. Ben was too tall to stand next to the wicker chair where I was to sit, so we had to trade places. I think we both wanted to die.

Since neither of us wanted to dance the slow dances, we used his height and my shortness as an excuse to sit them out. “Just one more hour,” I thought as I watched his eyes follow Amy around the room. For the first time in my life I was grateful for my curfew.

An hour later, I walked into my living room and dropped onto the floor. All I could think, over and over, was, “What’s wrong with me?” I hardly ever dated and when I did, it always seemed to go like this.

Suddenly the living room light blinked on and I sat up. I must have looked pretty pathetic, lying there in my taffeta dress with mascara smeared all over my face. Dad suppressed a smile.

“So it wasn’t the best date you’ve ever been on, huh?” he said.

“Not even close. But some things never change,” I mumbled, straightening my dress.

He kind of chuckled as he sat down beside me. I couldn’t stand it any more—I had to ask.

“What’s wrong with me, anyway?”

He looked up. “There’s nothing wrong with you, why?”

“Then what’s wrong with the guys?”

He shook his head. “Heck, I’m a guy and I don’t even know.”

I had expected something a little more profound. Why doesn’t he at least say, “Sorry you’re such a social misfit,” and get it over with? I thought. But he just sat there. I gave up.

“Thanks, Dad,” I said weakly as I stood up and headed towards my bedroom. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. He couldn’t possibly understand how I felt.

“Christie,” he called after me, “don’t make yourself miserable over something you can’t control. You know, sometimes you just have to be patient and things get better.”

I didn’t answer. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. More than anything, I wanted to believe that if I said the right thing or looked a certain way, the guys would beg for a date with me. I just had to figure out what I was doing wrong.

Then one night I read a scripture that reminded me of my dad’s words: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). It said there was a time to cry, a time to laugh—and even a time to love.

Maybe I’ve been rushing things a little, I thought. One thing was certain: more than I wanted a boyfriend, I wanted to be happy and feel good about myself again.

I only had two dates the rest of the year, and one of them was a girls’ choice. But when I started to feel depressed, I reminded myself that it wouldn’t last forever. I filled up my time with school, Church, and my family and tried to be patient.

Nothing changed—until after graduation. I don’t know how it happened—maybe it was because I met hundreds of new people at college. All I know is that I had dates. Not tons, but enough. I dated regularly for three years, served a mission—and then I met Sam.

On my wedding day, as I knelt at the altar and looked into Sam’s eyes, I knew that everything was right—the right person, the right time, and the right place.

Like my dad had said, there was never anything “wrong” with me in the first place. I didn’t need to change; what I really needed was time.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Paul Mann