My relationship with Olivia has never been traditional.
First — we met on Twitter, which means our early-on flirtations happened in full view of hundreds of other people. Now — a year on — those people tell us just how obvious it was we were made for each other. Nothing like crowd-sourcing your love life. Second, the vast majority of our first dates involved hockey. Going to Predators games, watching Predators games, going to parties hosted by people who sit near us at Predators games. The only exception was watching the State of the Union at a bar. Hot nerds in love.
But just when we were figuring out that this other person was who we wanted to spend all our time with, a once-mustachioed Canadian threw a wrench into our plans. I had to go to California to fulfill my lifelong dream of appearing as a contestant on Jeopardy.
That meant I had to spend several days in California just when Olivia and I were start to figure each other out. I was terrified that being away would scuttle whatever it was we had. It didn't. And Olivia never once asked how much money I won — I took that as a good sign.
Fast-forward to June. Olivia and I had been dating for six months or so, de facto living together for nearly as long, and those shows I taped back in January and February were about to air. There's no class on how to prepare for your 15 minutes of fame, and apparently, there's not one on how to be the girlfriend of a minor cult celebrity, either. And when you, like me, are a lifelong nerd who can generously be described as "geek hot," there's not a lot of life experience in how to deal with people saying how hot you are.
And in the Age of Google, someone like me, who has a fairly public online persona, is easy for people to find.
Did you know that the 11th Doctor Who is attractive? Did you know I look like him? Did you know people will seek you out if you look like the 11th Doctor Who and comment on blogs and send Twitter messages and Facebook friend requests and post their own blogs about how hot you are? I knew enough to win $54,000 on a game show — but I didn't know that.
Olivia, to her credit, was prepared for it. She told me in the run-up to my show airing that "there are going to be all these girls who are going to think you're hot." I should have listened to her. For my part, I was never tempted by these game-show watching 20-somethings who were swooning over me. I love Olivia — she who doesn't bat an eye when I say I want to take a drive to Cumberland City to see the giant smokestack and who doesn't think it's weird that I have a man-crush on a midlevel hockey player named Marcel Goc and who knows that without the bow tie, I'm just a messy-haired dork in a Royals T-shirt.
Still, I could tell it bothered her. No one, I suppose, wants to be the girl whose boyfriend left her for some Canadian hipster Jeopardy fan. I tried to reassure her she was, as the cliché goes, the only one for me. And deep down she knew it, but for those few days in June, it seemed like half the nerd world was pining for her boyfriend, and that wasn't easy on her. We got through it, of course. I never once went on a date with one of the many tweeters who said "ZOMG I saw you on J! You are soooo hot. Kbye. xoxoxox." Nor with the one person who accused me (seriously, I think) of being Illuminati.
But none of this answers the more obvious question about the very practical part of being on Jeopardy: the money. I went to the show when we just met; the show aired just as we were getting serious. Come September, my winnings had arrived, and my financial situation became stable for the first time, well, ever. I even had extra money. I decided, in a pique of grown-up-ed-ness, to buy a ring, and on a pleasant October Friday, took Olivia to Bells Bend Park and asked her to marry me.
When people see her ring, Olivia says "Thanks, Alex!" and we joke (it's a joke, isn't it, honey?) that we are going to name our first kid "Alex." Or "Trebek." We haven't decided.
Yes, I would have asked Olivia to marry me even without game show success — early on, I was sold when she said it was OK for me to grow a playoff "beard" — but even as Jeopardy success put a little strain on the romance, it also made it easier for me to pull the trigger. It certainly made it easier to write the check.
We'll be married soon, me and her, and I finally know the answer to the toughest question of all.
What is love?
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