The moment I knew: ‘I pledged I would go to mass for 30 days to understand what I was feeling’

After years of friendship, Josie still wasn’t sure whether she was into Chris. So she struck a deal with God

I was 18 when I first met Chris at a church youth group. Although we came from the same ethno-religious group, Chris wasn’t strictly religious. For him, youth group was a way to socialise with people from our community.

I never really paid him any attention but one night after youth group he walked me to my car. He was trying to get to know me – he told me later that he had noticed me playing Scrabble at our camp and that was the kind of life he wanted with someone. I summed my interests up for him very clearly: pizza, ice-cream and making lists. He must have liked that answer because suddenly it felt like he was everywhere.

In those early days, I think he tried really hard to show me he was a gentleman. I am very independent and his being extra attentive annoyed me. One day at a group lunch he offered to pour me water. I snapped and told him I could pour my own. Another woman at the table thought it was cute and said, “I’d love some water,” but I just found it irritating.

He would text me a lot, too. We would chat and I thought we were being friendly, but then it felt like he wasn’t going away, so I stopped responding. I panicked because I realised it meant he might have liked me, and I wasn’t looking for a relationship.

Over the next few years we hung out together in group situations and when we volunteered. He asked me out twice and I said no. We went through a lot of attempts by our friends to set us up. It was not stalky behaviour, but he tried really hard – always trying to invite me out, always offering to drive me when we went out as a group. But I was a little nervous because, in my culture, dating has to lead towards marriage and that seemed really intimidating.

I used to tell my sisters that Chris was really annoying. I loved chatting to him but his affection for me felt like something I couldn’t deal with. And then one day, after about seven years of us knowing one another, he texted me saying that even though he’d had so much fun with me over the years, he had now reached a point where he found it way too hard just being my friend.

Josie and Chris lost contact – until they saw each other again at a New Year’s Eve party.
Josie and Chris lost contact – until they saw each other again at a New Year’s Eve party Photograph: Supplied

He pretty much cut contact after that. I was miserable, lonely and confused, because I felt that I had lost my best friend. I remember crying in my sister’s room, saying, “I don’t like him,” while she gently and sarcastically said, “Well, maybe you do.”

Sometime after that, I saw him at a New Year’s Eve party. He told me I looked beautiful and it got me thinking. The night before I had gone out with someone who did not compliment my outfit.

I turned to my faith. I pledged that I would go to mass every day for 30 days to try to understand what I was feeling, and I did a novena (a short prayer said once a day for nine days for a special intention) to Saint Anthony, who is considered a miracle worker and the patron saint of lost things. On the last day of my mass commitment, Chris turned up somewhere when I was with my cousin Anthony. On the last day of my novena, he texted me to meet up.

I took it as a sign. We went out to Vivid – a light festival in Sydney – for our first date. I didn’t put any effort into how I looked. I just didn’t care.

It was the perfect date. He knew that I liked markets and art and food trucks, and it was all there. At one point, I was in the middle of a conversation with him and he sat down really close beside me. I stumbled on my words a bit, and I got awkward and shy, and that was the moment I knew.

‘When I got back from America, I told him I changed my mind’: Josie on deciding to marry Chris.
‘When I got back from America, I told him I changed my mind’: Josie on deciding to marry Chris Photograph: Supplied

We dated for a year and I kept telling him I did not want to get married until I was 30 but then I went to America with my best friend and, when I got back, I told him I had changed my mind.

We had to change our wedding date three times because of Covid restrictions but we finally got married in November last year.

Our whole relationship has been a lesson in patience. I eventually found out his middle name was Anthony. Even though I still think he’s annoying, I now understand that he is annoying in the best possible way.


As told to Sarah Ayoub

The GuardianTramp

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