I first met TheBear in Chicago of 2003. I was 20 and had just unceremoniously been denied entrance to my friend’s 21st birthday party, so I was at the bar next to the celebration. Feeling especially entitled, I tapped TheBear on the shoulder and asked if he would move, so that I could order a drink at the bar. He obliged, bought my drink, and then asked for my phone number. We soon realized that we went to the same undergrad university… only he had graduated ten years earlier. We parted ways that night with hopes of a date, but for whatever reason it never happened.
THE FIRST DATE
Four years later, I was living in London when TheBear contacted me. He said he was consulting on an oil project in Russia and I told him I was living in London. He asked if I would meet him at St. Pancreas train station on Saturday to go to Paris for the night. Obviously (?) I said yes, since this didn’t at all seem like the plot from Taken. In my mind, I was being whisked away by an older international man (who maybe drowned baby otters, but the jury was still out). Once we met up, I realized I was with a college football player whose international travel experience maxed out on the Small World ride in Disneyland.
After our train arrived in Paris, we checked into the hotel and got ready for a little sight-seeing. That’s when I found out that TheBear is megaphone loud – in all aspects of his persona and demeanor. His personality is raucous, his voice is booming, his stature is 6’5”, his gestures are wild, and his clothes are deafeningly American. For our bus tour of Paris, he wore a Chicago Bears jersey, tapered jeans, running shoes, and wrap around sunglasses.
At first I was horrified, since I usually feign not-American. I soon realized I would have a much better time if I went with the “when with TheBear” motto rather than the “when in Rome” motto. I joined in with him in unabashed tourism, introducing ourselves to anyone who looked American, and buying McFlurries as we walked home from dinner that night. The day was a blast and one of my most memorable.
But, since he is a moth and I am a bug zapper, I of course would do something to ruin it. Back at the hotel that evening, we start messing around. Not wanting to tell him I was actually dating someone in London, I told him that I was Catholic and was saving myself (so this was a double, or even a triple depth lie). Anyway, he shared that he was too was Catholic and something about blah blah blah with the right person some day. Whatever, dude. Then, he showed me his giant patron saint medal that I had failed to notice beneath his undershirt. In retrospect, this is the foreshadowing that I missed.
In the morning, we got ready for the day and headed down to concierge to ask for a breakfast recommendation. Then, he asked where we could attend Mass in English. CATHOLIC MASS. I had maybe been to Mass once in my life and all I remembered was that they don’t give you any hints about what to say. It’s like being in a play rehearsal, but when you call out “Line!” the nuns just glare at you. After breakfast I walked like a guilty inmate to my sentencing. For the next hour, TheBear was shouting out all the creeds and prayers and I was mumbling unintelligible syllables like Rain Man. The gig was up. Amen!