She loved me first for my storytelling

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I’ve been working on a story for The Moth about the beginning of my relationship with my wife and some of the more uncharacteristically awkward and foolish decisions that I made in those early days. It’s been fun to talk about and relive some of those moments together when we first fell in love. We’ve laughed about my naivety, debated the exact order of events, and recalled details that had long been forgotten.

I’ve also learned a few new things about the beginning of our relationship, including one detail that shocked me.

Before we even began dating, Elysha and I decided to go to our school’s talent show together. I was performing a comedy act with a student, and several of Elysha’s students were in the show as well. Before the show, we stopped for dinner at a nearby Chilli’s. During the course of that meal, we began talking about my past, and by the time we were splitting the check, I had told Elysha about many of the challenges and difficulties that I have experienced in my life.

My two near-death experiences

The robbery

My arrest and trial for a crime I did not commit

My evil stepfather

My period of homeless

These were stories that I did not normally talk about with people, especially with girls who I liked but thought were out of my league. I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time, and the last thing I wanted to do was talk about some of the more traumatic moments of my life. But for reasons I don’t understand or remember, those stories came pouring forth from me that night, and Elysha listened with earnestness and empathy.

In talking with Elysha about the early stages of our relationship and this evening in particular, she told me that it was during that dinner at Chilli’s when she first started to like me.

“Why?” I asked. I had always assumed that she first started liking me because of my teaching and the way I connected with children.

"No,” she said. “It was your storytelling. That’s what I liked first.”

Not my rugged good looks

Not my wit and charm

Not my skill and expertise as an educator

Not my intellect and erudition

Not my ability to post up and rebound the ball despite my lack of size

She liked my storytelling first.

As a novelist and a storyteller for The Moth and similar organizations, I like this. While I’m sure that my rugged good looks and post-up moves helped in fanning the flames of love, it was my ability to tell a story, and probably the stories themselves, that she loved first.
I love that.

I was describing the story that I was preparing for The Moth to a longtime friend and colleague yesterday, and she told me that before Elysha and I had even begun officially dating, Elysha had pulled her and another friend into an empty classroom one afternoon and declared that she was falling in love with me. “I am going to marry Matthew Dicks,” she told these two girls.

I love that, too. And I hadn’t known about that moment either until now.

May I suggest that if you are married, you spend an evening talking about the early days of your relationship with your spouse? Discuss the timeline of events, the specific details, and be sure to ask your spouse what he or she loved about you first.

The answers may surprise you.

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