All About Andrew (For Those Who Asked)

I started this post several times this past year because a lot of you have been asking questions about how my boyfriend Andrew and I met. I felt like maybe it wasn't that interesting, or that it was kind of pretentious to think anybody on the internet would be that interested in my love life. My dating relationships are not (and have never been) what this blog is about. However, enough of you have asked (repeatedly) for me to spill the tea, and now that our relationship has reached the one year mark today, it seems about time I tell it to you. Besides, I've always loved a good story about finding romance in unexpected places, and I'm certain I'm not alone in that. This is not the most well-written post you'll ever see on this blog. It's just candid story-telling, but I hope it satisfies! Sometimes writing, like love, doesn't need to be flashy. Also a PSA: I'm telling the story long-form so I've divided it up into various pieces so that you can jump to the part you're interested in, or find your place again if you've read half and want to finish it later. And if you don't want to read this post at all because it's boring, or triggering, or annoying, just don't read it! I sincerely don't care. This is just for the people who wanted the tea. And today (being our 1 year dating anniversary) seemed like the day! Here it goes.



photo credit for all photos: Katie Wilson


Prior To Andrew...

My social media community knows as well as anybody that I had been drastically single my whole life. The sheer number of blog posts I've written about singleness over the years are a testament to that. I had amazing friendships with the single guys in my life, went on dates, but never dated anybody in an extended way. During these years, I eventually learned how to love being a single woman. Genuinely. I cried a lot of tears. I drew flow charts of how to potentially find love, and Venn diagrams about why I hadn't. In regrettable moments I tried dating apps (I'm not a good candidate for those), made friends, traveled, did things and somewhere along the way reached a threshold wherein I knew that, praise God, I had at last earned my sea-legs. If I was never to be married I would be more than okay. That was a place of celebration for me. I had often wondered if I'd ever feel content with where and whom I was as a single girl. But there I was, twenty seven, single, and thriving. Maybe I hadn't stopped feeling the ache of wanting a life-companion, but I stopped mourning the lack of one. I was not waiting for it to happen. Things weren't on hold. I loved my life and if somebody wanted to join my life, then so be it. If not, I would continue in the way I'd established, seeking adventure and living it to the fullest. It was a plan I could live with, and love. Life was exceptionally satisfying.

At the start of 2019, I ran into my friend Christen, and a guy named Allen at my favorite coffee shop where I'd briefly escaped from my pastry chef duties to grab a round of coffee for the kitchen. "Rachel!" he shouted over the Saturday morning brunch crowd. He waved me over. "Did Christen talk to you?" He said he had somebody I needed to meet.
I didn't really know Allen. To me, Allen was just a cool worship pastor I'd met on a couple occasions, followed on Instagram, and acknowledged when I saw him in the coffee shop we both haunted. To this day I don't know why or how Allen had such a high opinion of me with so little data to work off. He wanted to set me up on a date with his friend Andrew: a "film guy." Allen talked him up loudly as I stood there in my flour-dusted chef coat and listened. Christen backed up everything Allen said.

"He's outgoing, and loves his family, super cool guy, charismatic...He's into filmmaking, he loves people..Seriously, one of the best dudes I know. He's Italian. He loves to eat, travel, play baseball..."
I felt like half the coffee shop was now in on the conversation so I laughed it off. "Okay, okay! Set something up! I'll meet him if he's interested."

To be honest, I wasn't sure about any of this. I told Allen to plan something if he really thought it was worth looking into, and I made a commitment not to stalk this Andrew guy on social media. I waited to hear further details, and when several months passed and I'd heard nothing, I figured Allen's friend had looked into the case and wasn't interested. Frankly, I forgot all about it and life continued much as it had the rest of my life as Rachel Heffington: the "amazing girl" everybody said everybody else ought to date. It was annoying at times, but I was used to it. Singleness became me, and it felt more natural with each passing month.

In early June I traveled to Pittsburgh for a wedding. And full disclosure: I was no conquering, adventurous career woman on the day of the wedding. I was only a tired, dispirited girl who didn't like Pittsburgh, was cranky, and had safety-pinned her strapless bra to her halter-back sundress to keep it from showing during the Cupid Shuffle. I remember sitting on a bench on the hillside at the park, avoiding the wedding reception below as long as I could. Who did I know in Pittsburgh? Literally no one but the bride, her family, and the few members of the wedding party who would be tied up all day. I was tired of showing up to these things alone, and being reminded in a forceful way by the attending festivities that I was very single. I wept a little weep (but not too much, because eyeliner), recorded a damp complaint for a friend via the Marco Polo app, and trailed down the hillside like a tear to join the festivities.
It wasn't about being alone, really. I was just weary, and lonely, and convinced I'd never find love. In spite of all the perverse feelings, I managed to enjoy myself by amusing my table-mates with absurd stories. My one recollection of them is that they were all engineers, one looked like a stuffed owl, and another had a massive cleft in his chin. There was a lot of talk about the Pittsburgh cookie table, possibly because I spent the entire evening sampling cookies instead of dancing. My soggy humor followed me back to my Air Bnb where I got stuck in my safety-pinned bra-dress-combo. Starving despite the excess consumption of cookies, I had ordered a pizza. I vaguely wondered if I'd need to ask the pizza guy to help me out of my dress, or if it would give way with some extra tugging. In my gloomy state of mind, I reflected that the pizza guy undressing me would probably be the peak of my love life. Eventually, the safety pins bent and I wriggled out of the stupid summer dress, crawled into sweats, and ate my pizza in peace. It was a low point for my emotional state, but a great pizza.

Maybe the pizza conjured this Italian guy from the misty distance at which he'd stayed. Or could it have been the Italian food emporium, Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., which I visited while in the only part of Pittsburgh I liked: the Strip District. Whatever caused it (fate, destiny, a horse?) Monday after the wedding found me in much higher spirits, exploring DC by myself on foot. DC is my favorite big city, and there isn't much wrong that a visit there can't put right. Even love lives apparently? While I explored the city, my phone pinged. I opened it to an Instagram message from a guy named Andrew Lauto:
 "Hi Rachel! I'm Andrew! I'm Allen's friend! How are you doing today?"
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it all began with a slide into the DM's six months after first hearing about the guy. What a time to be alive.





 Meeting Andrew....

The thing I'd always hated about dating apps is that this person you're showing up to dinner for could be someone completely different than they say they are, and you'd never know. Because your only experience of that person is who they appear to be via the information they offer, and the information you and your personal FBI agent  sister collect. So one huge thing Andrew had going for him was the fact that he had told me nothing about himself yet, and my friends had told me lots of things. 
At this point, I felt happy and confident about accepting Andrew's offer to take me out to dinner. He seemed pretty cool, Allen's recommendation alone meant he deserved a chance, and what did I have to lose? We texted for a few days before setting a date to get tacos at an oceanfront spot and walk on the boardwalk. I came up with this plan for the sole reason of having something to do if conversation lagged, or having a quieter and more private atmosphere if things were going great. I highly recommend this escape hatch, though turns out I didn't need it. 
I arrived at the taco place way, way earlier than I needed to; long enough that the nerves kicked in and I started to wonder if I'd look, act, and be the way he was expecting, or if he'd find me disappointing. And how tall was he? I didn't know any of the people in his Facebook photos, so there was no point of reference. I hoped he wasn't short. Not that there's anything wrong with being short, but I like to wear heels. What if this was super, super awkward?
But before I had a chance to chicken out, Andrew texted that he was pulling into the parking lot, and the inevitable happened: we met. My chief memory of the moment of meeting is recognizing he had a great smile, and thinking he looked fully as relieved as I felt.

Our taco date lasted four or five hours and we talked the entire time. It wasn't love at first sight (for either of us!), but I dizzily drove away that night with three distinct impressions:

- he was completely genuine and dazzlingly candid
- I found him attractive
- I wanted to see him again







Dating Andrew....

Here's the thing: single Rachel had given a lot of thought to what she was looking for in a man. After all, with very few dates to pop my bubble, there was a lot of time (years) to fabricate exactly the kind of guy I envisioned myself with. God had been doing a work in my heart the whole year prior while He gave me so much growth in satisfaction with my single life: if/when a guy did come along, my evaluation criteria would not include all the hundreds of small details that composed the Imaginary Boyfriend. As long as he had the vital pieces, I planned to give him a chance. To me, those vital things looked something like this:
- loves Jesus
- is excited about life
- loves family
- is a people person
- is trustworthy and humble
- has a good sense of humor
- is intelligent
- not a pick eater and enjoys food

'"If he has those things, I'm sold." That's what I told myself anyway. And then Andrew came along and he had all of those things...while the rest of his characteristics, hobbies, likes and dislikes were completely off the wall. In every expected way, Andrew and I were opposite to the picture each of us had for the one we would fall in love with.
I want to make that clear to anybody who meets someone and thinks, "But they're not who I pictured myself with."
"Not who you pictured yourself with" isn't a reason to not give someone a chance.
I have a lot more to say on this subject but that's for another post (at least). Suffice it to say, a baseball-obsessed, outgoing city-boy from Buffalo, NY was not the person I imagined myself falling love with, just as an adventurous, whimsical, fiercely-independent food-writer-nanny combo from Virginia is not who Andrew imagined himself with. Andrew and I both initially struggled a little to reconcile the differences in our personalities - the very things that we now love about each other were things that seemed (at first) chasms between us. He didn't like to read? I didn't like sports? How was this ever going to work? Yet, when it came to the list that mattered...we were lockstep. And there were a hundred other amazing qualities Andrew possessed that I had never considered wanting or needing.

Later on I learned to recognize that the concept I held for that idealized life-partner was nothing short of a quieter, masculine version of my own self. I'm not going to lie: it was a pretty self-centered checklist that took into account everything I wanted, and very little I needed. I wonder sometimes just what a mess it would have been to try to date someone as spontaneous, visionary, idealistic, and afraid of missing out (FOMO for lyfe) as myself. I have a lot of hypotheses about that and none of them are well-balanced and successful.
I'm bothering to tell you this, because I know I entered our relationship with a lot of vague (but hyper-focused) expectations of what falling in love should look like. It would have been helpful to me to read somebody's story whose narrative wasn't, "We met in a serendipitous moment, our dating relationship was all golden hour enchantment, and every day we wake up enjoying a level of unscripted banter not even the Gilmore Girls have reached."

My story was more common than that, simpler than that, harder than that, more complicated than that, all at the same time. Falling in love was a process for both of us, and it didn't look much like the movies tell you. Not only were dating, but we were learning who the other person was in general. This wasn't a slow friendship that blazed into love; this was, "Wait, I'm not single anymore? I'm dating a stranger?"
 I also don't want it to sound like I didn't truly fall in love with him over the first few months of dating. I did (happily!) but it was not a seamless road, leaving the security of the singleness I knew so well and opening myself up to the risk of love. Andrew was easing back into the dating scene after a really bad heartbreak; I had never dated anyone before and was bad new at everything. I hate being new at things.

This looked so different than I had expected (and I mostly liked the difference) but I was afraid of the fact I liked the difference. Was that okay? I wanted to discern God's voice in the midst of a heart that was crushing hard on this guy. What if my heart overrode my spirit and I ended up choosing Andrew without hearing God's voice on it? And, being the FOMO-ridden girl that I am, I had a lot of work to do to push past that insane idea society feeds us of "soulmates." I don't know a lot about love yet, but I do know that most of the time (all of the time?) real soulmates are built over time, not found ready-made. I have so much to say about this, experience hard-won, but that's another thing for another post. I tried to Christianize my fear by pretending I was searching to be in the center of God's will for me and this relationship. Deep down I knew I was just plain old scared of this. I could tell, because my mental hamster wheel sounded like this:
What if I fall hard, and he wants out? No guy I've liked has every liked me back. Why would this be any different? I should run away before we get attached. But I don't want to run. But I'm scared to stay. What if this isn't right? What if I let my heart choose him before I know everything, and something comes up? But I really like him. But I'm afraid to choose him. Is there a way to do this risk-free? Is there a scenario where I'm 100% certain of success and not heartbreak?
It was easier being single. Single didn't scare me anymore, and I sometimes peered over the edge of this new relationship, back toward the Comfort Zone of singleness. And yet, in the panic-fog of not knowing what lay ahead, the one assurance I had is that running from this man was the wrong choice. I might live to regret having stayed, but I surely would regret not having stayed.
God, in His great kindness and experience with FOMO humans (hello, nation of Israel) led me to wise friends - the older women whose friendships have shaped my life in so many ways. He also led me to sermons on the very things I struggled with, to books, and to conversations with others that helped in so many ways to reveal to me the fact that my panic was much less grounded in the situation of Andrew, and much more grounded in my own heart. I grew more certain than ever that the will of God is less a place, and more a posture of the heart. If this was the wrong way, He'd show us both, as we sat at His feet together and individually. Look, I knew that if I was going to play chicken and run from this love because I was afraid of losing it, I'd be taking me (and my fears) with me. The thing I'd leave behind me wasn't the fear, it was Andrew. And I knew that Andrew was worth far, far more to me than my comfort zone and preconceived notions...








Currently With Andrew....

We've now been dating a year. Each month that has passed has brought a deeper love and friendship than the one before. I know that's cliche to say, but I mean it. I'm happy we didn't start our relationship in a blaze of glory that flickered down into coals over time. I'm happy we started with an ember, and put in the work of adding tinder and kindling and larger pieces of wood, trusting it to build a solid fire, until now we find ourselves tending this wonderful hearth-fire that just feels like home.

One of my chief joys in this relationship has been the process of stock-piling memories and experiences with the guy who has become my best friend. Andrew is nothing like the imaginary boyfriend I once held in regard. He is so different and so much better than that guy. The imaginary boyfriend couldn't make a whole room laugh. The imaginary boyfriend couldn't beat me in Jeopardy, or explain things I don't understand about sports with great patience. The imaginary boyfriend was not half as romantic or affirmative as Andrew is. The imaginary boyfriend didn't have thriving friendships that reached all the way back to kindergarten and before. He didn't know obscure facts about classic films, or have such a huge collection of graphic tees that he hasn't run out of new ones the entire duration of our relationship. The imaginary boyfriend didn't kiss my forehead, or let me teach him how to cook, or send me memes, or agree to a future corgi. The imaginary boyfriend wasn't this unabashedly wholesome and honest and genuine. The imaginary boyfriend didn't love pizza as much as I do, or ice cream. He for sure didn't do Mickey Mouse impressions for my little brother, or bond with my Granddaddy over baseball and Tides games. (The imaginary boyfriend also didn't think farts were funny, or even use the word "farts" but hey, I can give up that one piece of the moral high ground if I must ;).

Andrew has, and does, and is all of these things and a thousand more. And I just love him, is all.

The End



I know this is an intolerably long and mushy post, and I honestly never imagined I'd be the girl who would use space on her blog to write about her dating relationships and how great this guy is. But you asked! (No, like literally 132 of you voted "write about it" vs. seven, including Allen Who Set Us Up, who said "no," so the ayes have it and the motion carries.) I hope that those of you who did request the story find it worthwhile. I hope that you are encouraged by it, even challenged by it. And more than anything I hope that you won't run away from the things that scare you, strictly because they scare you. Give the surprising people a try. Give the surprising situations a try. Don't assume you know what you know exactly what you need and want, because sometimes you simply weren't aware that a given option existed! Anyhow. Just be glad I didn't spam you with a thousand photos of us. The words are enough. Thank you for reading, and if you need a shot of sour after all that sugar, I prefer all natural apple cider vinegar mixed with water. Settles the stomach or something.

4 comments

  1. Love this! Thank you for doing this :)

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  3. Thank you for sharing! This was amazing. I read a lot of your posts on singleness over the years and it is such a joy to read this post now! I very much identify with the concept of being with someone who is different from who you originally pictured for yourself. My husband and I comment a lot on the fact that we would have never clicked on each other’s profiles if we had been online dating. There were a great many things we never knew we wanted or needed which we found in the other. Like you, it was the core list of “musts” (like values and character) that were met 100%, not all the things that were preferences.

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  4. This was fantastic to read! Not just because it's such a fun and heartwarming and wholesome and just all-round darned good story but because you wrote it so well. Wishing you all the best as you get to know each other even better!

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