A Love Story from Yemen

This is the most touching thing you’ll read this Valentine’s Day. No, not this blog. This. Seriously, if you have 10 minutes, read this amazing story about the love between two mentally disabled people. Their story is so beautiful.

And here is the most hilarious thing you’ll read this Valentine’s Day. Again, not this blog. But this blog about how annoying couples are. (And dude, they really are. There is this couple I know and they kiss each other every time the other says something adorable, funny, or remotely intelligible.)

The story of Mr.YemenEm and I is also pretty good. And here it is:

In late summer of 2010, I would say that I had mentally given up on dating in DC, as so many other Washington women have at some point. DC’s (straight) dating scene is totally weird. There are like a million smart, pretty, stylish, accomplished women in DC and like seven or eight counterparts in the male form. DC is a semi-attractive geeky guy’s paradise because these fours and fives can land a lady who is way out of their league and she’ll probably be fine settling because she hasn’t seen much better around the District. But then she’ll take a trip somewhere, say Seattle, or even back to her Midwestern town and realize there are indeed a plethora of hot guys who don’t namedrop a first-term congressman from Delaware and act surprised when you don’t know who he is.

I digress. One night I was out at a bar with a friend and she was like “Oh, my middle school boyfriend just moved to town and is coming out to meet us.” So in walks this cute guy and we just briefly chatted that night, but I soon left to go dancing with another friend. Two hours later this friend was making out with a guy on the dancefloor as I miserably talked to his 7-foot tall, dull friend about video games or oxygen or something boring.  I darted out the door when Sleepy Sasquatch was in the bathroom and walked home with a familar feeling of defeat. “Well, there goes another night that reinforces I will not meet a guy I like in this town.” Little did I know, I had already met my future husband that night. (How sitcom was that line?)

The next night, Mr.YemenEm and I were both hanging out in the same group and we all ended up walking around Adam’s Morgan, a neighborhood in DC with a busy strip of bars. Once I realized that several people in our group had never been to the DC institution that is Dan’s Café, I forced them to all go inside the boarded up shack and drink whiskey from a ketchup squeeze bottle. (Yes, that is what Dan’s specializes in. That, and a great juke box, surly bartenders, and the smelliest bathroom this side of the Mason Dixon). A night that starts with having whiskey squirted into your mouth can only end one of two ways, and luckily mine ended the better way. Our group eventually ended up at Bourbon, one of my favorite bars, and Mr.YemenEm told me how he moved to DC for Foreign Service Officer training with the State Department. He said he’d find out in a few days where he was being posted for two years and his top choices were Yemen and Panama. I told him he’d better hope for Panama because if he moved to Yemen he wouldn’t have sex for two years (admittedly, I was a little drunk at this point). To which he replied “Well, I don’t think that’s necessarily true.” To which I replied, aggressively, “It is! Who will you have sex with? If you’re lucky, there’s another cute American. So maybe. But you’re probably not having sex with Yemenis.” Then he’s like “You seem much more concerned with my sex life than I am.” And that’s when I told myself to be cool and it hit me “Hey, I like this guy! He’s smart and sexy.” Then he went to the bathroom and our friends told me he liked me, and I’m sure they did the same when I went to the bathroom (see, the skills you learned in middle school come in handy). Anyways, there were more drinks, a hookah bar, hours of conversation, and then him borrowing one of my favorite books to read (Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic “The Handmaid’s Tale”) a surefire sign a guy wants to see you over the course of the next few weeks, unless he’s some sort of heartless book thief or a religious nut who collects subversive literature to burn at his fringe church’s monthly book bonfires.

We went out a few nights later. By that time, he found out he was being posted to Yemen, which was good news because since he already spoke Spanish fluently he would have been on a plane to Panana in a few weeks time if had gotten his Latin America pick. Instead, he stayed in DC for eight months to learn Arabic. So we dated during that time, with both of us at first assuming things would end when he moved to Yemen in May. But somewhere between great dinners, quiet nights in with his two kitties, going to bars in DC, seeing some plays, and going on hikes, we realized we were in love and didn’t want things to end. That was a happy night when we both said “I love you,” followed by a less happy night when he clarified that he didn’t want to do long distance and asked if I’d move to Yemen. I couldn’t believe he was asking me to move to a country I knew little about except for from that one Friend’s episode. I told him that was a crazy thing to be asking and that I loved my life in DC and couldn’t give that up. We broke up. I moped, pulled it together and went to yoga the following evening. When I walked out of the class, deep in a funk no tree pose could remedy, I saw him sitting on the bench outside. I literally tripped over my feet and fell down a few stairs and then was like “What are you doing here?” And he goes “The 7:00 class.” And I’m like “Really?” and he’s like “No. Obviously I’m here to see you. I don’t want to break up.” So then we decided that I’d visit him in Yemen in August, a few months after he arrived, and “keep an open mind” that maybe, just maybe, I could move to the dusty, foreign country that was beginning to take a more clear shape in my mind.

So he left for Yemen in May. But he was evacuated one month later because of uprisings. So suddenly he was back with me in DC for the whole summer, which we spent eating, traveling around the area, and generally having a blast. During that time we decided we wanted to get married. I think Mr.YemenEm first broached it by saying that if I ended up coming to Yemen with him, we’d have to “sign a few papers.” “Sure,” I said, “I know that if I moved overseas there would be paperwork….oh, you mean…what do you mean? Like, um, marriage papers?” I never actually pictured myself being married, but as I told my friends until they told me to stop being so annoying “When you know, you know.” Mr.YemenEm proposed at Bourbon a few days before he went back to Yemen in August 2011. By that time, the situation was too dangerous in Yemen, so they weren’t allowing anyone to bring spouses so we were just going to do long distance after all. Shortly after he got back to Yemen, we realized that if we were married, the government would give me a monthly payment for having to be separated from my spouse. They call it “separation maintenance allowance.” So we decided it would be financially prudent (least romantic term ever) to get married right then and he got a few day of leave to “tie up loose ends” as he called it. The only problem was, I had a road trip planned with my best friend out West. We were going to start in Las Vegas and drive to Sun Valley, Idaho for a friend’s wedding. Mr.YemenEm was like “Well where will you be on Saturday?” The answer: Vegas. So he flew to Vegas, and we got married in a cheesy chapel.

Screen Shot 2013-02-14 at 12.31.31 PM
This is the actual chapel we got married in. It bills itself as the classiest on “chapel row.” This is likely a lie.

One of the most fun parts of this weekend was that my grandpa lives in Vegas, and he thought he was coming to meet my fiance and me for dinner (at 5pm. That’s a trick you could only play on the early bird special crowd) and once he arrived we told him that we were getting married and he was coming to our wedding. (My cousin, who was dating my best friend at the time, also flew out. And so did one of my other best friends, who lives in LA). So we all piled in a limo, Mr.YemenEm and I got married by a bleached-blond large-breasted women with a button on her top missing. The ceremony involved more mentions of “peaks and valleys” than was appropriate for a lady with such a big, fake rack. Afterwards, we all went to Bouchon in the Venetian for a fabulous dinner. It was a total whirlwind, and Mr.YemenEm left at 4am the morning after our wedding to go back to Yemen. I continued on what was surely the best honeymoon without one’s spouse with my bestie, LJo. We saw the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, the most haunted hostel ever, and attended the beautiful wedding of our good friends in Sun Valley. There was only one thing missing.

The open road somewhere out West. Photo taken by LJo
The open road somewhere out West. Photo taken by LJo

In Sept. 2011, family members weren’t allowed to be in Yemen. But that soon changed, and a job in the embassy opened up that sounded like it might be a good fit for me. I was still hesitant to leave my wonderful, comfortable, and fun life in DC, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided it was an adventure, it was just short term, I’d get to be with my husband, so why not just do it? Who gets to even see this part of the world, let alone live here? So I quit my job, explained I was moving to Yemen (YemenMom cried) and I said goodbye to my awesome friends, and my beloved apartment. That was maybe the saddest part – leaving that beautiful, cozy place where I cooked so much, had so many fun get-togethers with friends, played so many rounds of Catchphrase, and had so many memories.

Meanwhile, Mr.YemenEm and I were planning a “real” wedding for and that took up lots and lots of time. We got married (again) in Aug. 2012 in Traverse City, Mich. outside at a vineyard that overlooks Grand Traverse Bay. Since we were already technically wed, we had our good friend, who is definitely not ordained, perform the ceremony and it was perfect. Our reception was in a cool old barn, and the whole weekend was so much fun. And a few days later we were on a plane to Yemen – Mr.YemenEm coming back for the last nine months of his tour, and me, traveling to the Middle East for the very first time.

We’ve been married now either for a year-and-a-half or for six months, depending on which wedding you count. And it’s been pretty great. Life in DC was extremely fun, filled great food, loving friends, and a bit of adventure. Life in Yemen is little less fun, but certainly still has its share of adventures. (Sadly, Yemen is severly lacking in the “great food” category). But, most importantly, I have lots of love. Which is even more satisfying than a great meal. (Unless it’s the Spicy Noodle Soup from DC Noodles or anything covered in melted cheese from from Lauriol Plaza).

And that, my dears, is my Valentine’s Day story.

To finding love, even if it takes you somewhere you’d never thought you’d be.

YemenEm

This could be us on our second wedding day. Or it could be a generic greeting card.
This could be us on our second wedding day. Or it could be a generic greeting card.

8 thoughts on “A Love Story from Yemen

  1. So glad you shared this story…I was wondering what the Vegas wedding picture on FB was all about. What did your mom say when she found out you were getting married in Vegas?

  2. Meant to comment on this. Loved this post, thanks for the shout-outs! Best honeymoon ever, my future forever boo will be jealous our honeymoon isn’t my first. We’ll have to send *him* (yes, he is deserving of the two asterisks) and KB on their own ‘moon someday.

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