When it comes to Ben, I have a staring problem. And if you were to ask him why, he might flash some Leo swagger and say it’s because he’s the handsomest guy around — and he’d be correct.
But there’s more to it.
Because when it comes to Ben, I am staring at — and marveling over — destiny.
Of all the places I could have met the man I will marry — seaside in Long Beach, at a museum in L.A., a geek expo in Silicon Valley or elsewhere within California’s state lines — I met Ben on the Internet.
He introduced himself one day in April 2005 through the social networking Web site Friendster. It was a short message that arrived out of the blue:
How are you Minal?
Just looking to make friends.
I hope that life is smiling upon you with thoughts of fun, friendship and fortune.
Too blessed to be stressed.
There was no pressure to respond to him, a stranger who lived 1,800 miles away, but I did, and the exchange was the first of several exchanges about life, relationships and family. They were friendly, honest and intriguing.
It’s extraordinary, I thought, to have such rapport with one person out of the billions on the Internet.
Two months later, Ben wrote to say that he was flying to Southern California to see about a freelance project. He also proposed that we meet for lunch and asked me to consider skipping work to spend the day hanging out with him.
I laughed, deemed him a crazy man and politely declined. I wasn’t ready for my pen pal to morph into a real-life friend, or, worse, a weird online guy. But upon his arrival to SoCal, Ben called and we compromised to meet for a drink in downtown Los Angeles.
Again, I wasn’t obliged to do so, but I did. And our encounter was a continuation of our online correspondences: friendly, honest and intriguing.
That first meeting wasn’t about hype, pretenses or even romance — just authenticity. And authenticity made those hours effortless.
It’s extraordinary, I thought that night, to reap such a pleasant time with one person out of the billions I could have met in other ways.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way: Ben and I eventually admitted to the other that we each went into that evening without expectations yet came out with a great sense of hope. That hope fueled our willingness to work on a long-distance relationship for more than a year. It aided us in overcoming personal obstacles, and even softened the blow of sacrificing home, job, friends and family to move halfway across the country. And with that same hope in my heart, I will marry him in November.
So, I don’t think I’ll ever stop staring at Ben. Not when my destiny looks so sweet.