Natasha and Dudley: An Unlikely Love Story
“One day you will leave me for him,” my boyfriend James stated matter-of-factly. Paranoia and low self-esteem are such unattractive qualities in a man. James’ comment when he met me at the office for lunch was typical, and after two years of listening, encouraging, and reassuring, I now opted for the “I acknowledge your fears—now suck it up” approach. I barely glanced up from my filing to see the man that sparked James’ remark. “No, I won’t.” I replied as I rolled my eyes. “Stop trying to marry me off to the first guy you see.” But, it wasn’t just any guy. It was Greg—tall, athletic, blue-eyed, blonde, Dudley-Do-Right-Greg. Greg and I both worked for the same ophthalmologist. He in the clinic and me at the front desk, but we traveled in very different circles. He was way out of my league, and besides, I was a jerk-magnet. Oh sure, a lot of women say that, but for me it was accurate. Married and divorced twice by age twenty-one, I was in love with the notion of being in love. Unfortunately, I was incapable of attracting anyone but a jerk. At least that’s what I thought until the summer of 1991.
Over lunch, James and I reviewed our annual plans for Memorial Day. I resented spending my lunch break with him when he popped up unannounced at the office, as he often did. I feigned interest in the vacation planning as he prattled on with the details. It was an unusual relationship we shared. He was much older and more stable than my ex-husbands. He had a job, which made him less of a bum than others, but he also had a mean streak and enjoyed talking down to me when given an audience. Other than that, he seemed to be crazy about me, which was a boost to my ego after the last vicious divorce. For James, I guess the attraction was telling people how young his girlfriend was. It certainly wasn’t how sweetly I treated him. I once told him during an argument that I could replace him in fifteen minutes. Then, I made a phone call and did just that. Of course, James and I made up. That’s what mean girls and jerks do. They belong together, like Boris and Natasha. Whatever the attraction, our time together was mostly pleasant, better than being alone, but not impassioned. Not love.
When I returned from lunch, Dr. Caperton met me at the door and asked if I had seen Greg. “No, he wasn’t in the cafeteria,” I answered. Dr. C, as we called him, smiled and asked “He’s looking good, right?”
“Ummm, I guess so,” I hesitantly replied to his bizarre question. Oh my God--does he have a thing for Greg? My confusion only grew as Dr. C’s comments about Greg continued all day. For no foreseeable reason, everything from Greg’s arm muscles to his haircut was subject to discussion. I noticed Dr. C’s comments were always directed to me, no one else. A fog of bewilderment hung over me all day. I couldn’t interpret what Dr. C’s possible ulterior motives might be. The peculiar afternoon finally ended. When I clocked out to go home and headed to the lobby, curiosity turned me around at the elevators and I back-tracked to Dr. C’s office. Shutting the door behind me, I waited for him to look up from his stack of files. I impatiently interrupted after only a few seconds and made my crucial query, “Why do you keep making comments to me about Greg?” Dr. C’s face melted into a Cheshire-cat grin. “Oh, no reason. Just making conversation,” he chuckled and rocked back in his over-stuffed brown leather chair. He stopped mid-chuckle, chair cocked back. The grin disappeared from his face as he asked soberly, “Why, are you interested in Greg?” I could feel scarlet creeping to the tops of my ears. My face was on fire. I backed away and fumbled behind me for the doorknob. I stammered, “M-me? No, no. Not m-me. I uh, I uh . . .” The Cheshire cat returned and realization finally washed over me. My stammering stopped, and I barely whispered, “Oh my gosh. HE likes ME.” Dr. C continued grinning and rocking but made no comment. He turned back to his charts, but I put my hand on top of them. Forget the charts. I needed to know for sure. Did Dudley-Do-Right have a thing for me? After a little pleading and prodding, I finally wrangled a confession out of Dr. C, and Greg’s secret was revealed. And what a secret it was. He did have a thing for me, but in addition to that shocking and wonderful news were two problems. We were both involved with other people and dating among employees was forbidden. Dr. C paved the way for our first date, but it wasn’t his medical office. He was an employee just like the rest of us. So everything had to be very covert, but first James had to go.
James’ paranoid premonition became a reality that day. I dumped him as soon as I arrived home. Greg might be a Dudley, but I was not a sweet, kind Nell. She would have stayed true to her guy. I’m a Natasha and Natashas cut their losses. They end holding pattern relationships and make room for the next sucker--I mean guy. Dudley-Do-Rights are slow movers, and I nearly lost my sanity waiting for him to sort out his “loose ends.” I couldn’t fault Dudley for being a good guy. Neither could I blame the girlfriend. Once you find a Dudley, you don’t want to throw him back in the pond.
The official courtship began with our first date on July 23rd. We talked for hours after St. Mark’s restaurant closed and afterwards saw each other as often as possible. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for us to discover that Dr. C was lousy at keeping secrets. The very person responsible for bringing us together blew our cover. At an office football party one night, he told a few people that Greg and I were dating. I spent the next morning misleading our co-workers into believing Greg and I went out once, but things just didn’t click for us. We told Dr. C that we stopped seeing each other and spent the next week talking him out of reconciling us. From that point forward, we told no one about our relationship.
One night as I was house-sitting for a friend, Greg stopped by for dinner. It was yet another Dudley-Do-Right flawless date. He was a perfect gentleman. Greg was kind and soft-spoken. He joked easily but never in manner that was rude or showy. He was always great company. The evening passed too quickly and suddenly it was midnight. I hated to see him go, but Greg needed to hit the road for the long drive home. He hugged me, and as we parted he pulled me close again. “We’ve only dated a few weeks, Wendy, but what would you say if I asked you to marry me?” He buried his face in my hair as though he couldn’t bear to see my reaction. Without a second’s pause I hear, “What would you say if I said yes?” What! Who said that? Oh no, was that me? No, no, no, I can’t get married again. This isn’t how things are supposed to happen. Dudley-Do-Right always wins the affections of sweet, kind-hearted Nell. He never hooks up with Natasha! She’s Boris Badenov’s girl. This is all wrong. We are doomed from the get-go. How do you unaccept a marriage proposal? Dudley interrupted my mental meltdown and spoke. Well, I saw his lips move, but it took awhile for the words to register. Actually, it wasn’t his words that pulled me back into reality; it was his demeanor. He was so calm, so happy, so sure. It was infectious. The voices in my head silenced, we sealed the deal with a kiss.
The next morning, Greg invited Dr. C to lunch in the cafeteria. Dr. C arrived and by his puzzled expression was surprised to see me seated next to Greg. Dr. C slid onto the bench facing us and Greg began apologetically, “We feel terrible about lying to you, but you told so many people, and we just weren’t ready—”
“Ha, I knew it! I knew you were perfect for each other,” Dr. C interrupted. He crossed his hands behind his head and reclined back, proud of his matchmaking skills.
“Wait, that’s not all. Wendy and I are getting married.”
Dr. C’s jaw dropped as his hands fell into his lap. I think I was supposed to say something here, but I couldn’t stop beaming as I stared at Dr. C. His shock registered so plainly on his expressive face, and things were only going to intensify. He stuttered and tried to comment, “Wow, I—”
“Wait, that’s not all. We’re getting married next week,” Greg added. Dr. C’s stuttering resumed.
“Wait, there’s more. We would like you to be the best man. What do you say?”
“I say I should charge big bucks for my matchmaking services,” he beamed as that infamous grin returned to his face. Lunch concluded with hugs and handshakes. We had our best man, now we needed to know if we would still have jobs.
Fortunately, the lead doctor was a bit of a romantic himself. “I’m impressed that you kept your personal and professional lives separated and private,” Dr. Maida explained. “You make a great couple, and I hope both of you will stay on staff.” After a slight pause he added, “You know, it’s hard to keep a secret around here.”
On August 28th, about a month after the first date, Natasha married her Dudley. The wedding took place in my best friend’s living room, while her dogs barked incessantly from the bedroom. We exchanged vows we wrote ourselves. It was nothing like my big, church wedding or quirky paddle-boat wedding. Everything was small and personal. Dudley even asked my dad for my hand in marriage. No one else ever had.
Although my family and most of my friends were negative about my quick, third marriage, my initial doubts never resurfaced. Eventually, Dudley-Do-Right gained everyone’s favor. Considering my track record, few people gave us more than a year. I felt that was more than generous and didn’t fault the nay-sayers. Still, it does put a smirky little grin on my face every time I look at a calendar and do the math. I don’t know about happily ever after, but eighteen years isn’t a bad start.