The Moth: She Held My Hand

In August of 2015 I told the story of my first date with my wife at a Moth StorySLAM at The Bitter End. The theme of the night was Guts. 

I won the slam that night, but being the hyper-critical person that I am, I hear a lot of room for improvement in the story. It's not my best.

Frankly, I get annoyed at myself during the story for some of the choices I make. 

Still, it's about Elysha and me and our beginning, and, so here it is, in all its imperfection.

My first date advice: Tell stories.

TIME’s Eric Barker reported on what science says are most appropriate and beneficial topics of discussion on a first date.

My first date with my wife wasn’t a declared date. It was dinner at Chili’s before we attended a talent show at the school where we both worked. It would be months before we would officially begin dating, but that hour spent talking over fajitas and guacamole sewed the seeds of our mutual attraction.

In truth, I thought my wife was perfect long before we started dating. Too perfect, in fact. I thought she was utterly and forever unattainable. I loved her long before she loved me, but I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hell that I would ever date her.

You can’t imagine how often I still pinch myself when I see her sitting across from me, my wife and the mother of our children.

I told stories at that first dinner. I told her about my two near-death experiences, the armed robbery, my arrest and trial for a crime I did not commit, and my troubled, difficult childhood. I’m normally an excellent listener, but I remember talking a lot that night and sharing parts of my life in ways I never had before.

Maybe it’s because we weren’t on an official first date that I shared so much, so soon. I’m not sure.

Whatever the reason, it worked. Elysha and I had been colleagues for almost three years and friends for the previous two years, but that night at Chili’s was when things began to first change for us.

When asked about what first attracted her to me, it turns out that it wasn’t my devilish good looks, rapier wit, or undeniable sense of humor.

It was my stories.

She says that in listening to my stories, she came to realize that my life was so different than anything she had ever known before, and it was in the midst of that bit of storytelling that she began to see me as something more than just a friend.

I’ve been storytelling on the stage for three years now. I first took the stage at a Moth StorySLAM in July of 2011. In the short period of time since that first performance, storytelling has changed my life. I have found something I love and something I do well. I have met new and amazing people, and I am proud to call many of them my friends. My stories have been heard by millions of people around the country on the radio and podcasts.

But it turns out that long before my success with The Moth and the launch of Speak Up, storytelling helped me win over the smartest, finniest, prettiest girl I know. A girl who I thought was out of my league.

Eric Barker of TIME advises (based upon his review of the research) to talk about travel on a first date and avoid discussions about movies. He suggests leaning toward controversial topics and sharing a secret if possible. He points out that an even balance between talking and listening is ideal. He recommends asking your date if he or she likes the taste of beer if you hope to get lucky that night.

Me? I say to tell stories.

I used this strategy once in my life, and it resulted in one of the happiest days of my life.