Twenty Years Together: Announcing Our Twentieth Vanniversary.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

As of today, my wife and I have been married for twenty years. Over those twenty years, I have spoken to everyone who was at our wedding, and I am pleased to report that everyone is shocked, shocked, that we have made it this far.

They are correct to be shocked. We teetered on the edge of divorce for the first two years. Our origin story is somewhat legendary: We met in a Star Wars chat room on CompuServe, back in the days when Oprah devoted entire shows to warning you about how everyone online was a serial killer and only the most sweatily desperate losers resorted to computerized dating.

Yet the thing is, Gini and I weren’t dating.

We were debating.

Because we spent five years merrily arguing over Star Wars, politics, and religion, all without a hint of romance. I was impressed by her sharp wit and her incisive insights; she adored my terrible puns. We debated in a forum, of course, so we were one of a group of regulars, but occasionally we’d dig down into a days-long thread.

But she was married. And I was engaged. So romance? I’d say it was not an option, but honestly, it wasn’t even a concept.

Gini was just a good online friend. In a day when even having an online friend marked you as a hopeless social outcast. Yet I was glad to have her in my camp.

But then my fiancee (rightfully!) dumped me, and Gini was getting a divorce, and when I discovered she was flirting heavily with another man, and I sent her this email:

Dear Gini:

Don’t you realize the reason I’ve never flirted with you once is because I’ve been half a heartbeat away from falling in love with you?

Her response was perhaps the most Gini thing I’ve ever heard:

I’m very flattered, but before I continue and potentially embarrass myself, answer one question:

Were you drunk when you wrote this?

I was not. And so we tumbled into love, and it turned out that an online romance – however tumultuous – was not the same as actually living together, and so when we actually married we had to learn how to deal with a spouse you couldn’t simply log off from.

That process involved a lot of evolution on both of our parts. Gini actually fell out of love with me, and we spent four months in limbo as we decided whether we could make this work.

Lemme tell you: when your wife finally says “I love you” to you after four months of absence, you never take those words for granted again.

And today?


We keep patting ourselves down to verify: Is it really this good? But it is. She’s my favorite person, and I’m hers. We still have knock-down fights once about twice a year – nobody’s perfect – but when we do, they’re progressive, decisive, leading to a conclusion. The rest of the time it’s constant check-ins, small negotiations, buoyed by a lot of courtesy.

But that’s not enough.

For a marriage that’s lasted twenty years?

You need adventure.

Which is why, in October, Gini and I will be taking our van and driving on an ten-day, aimless, meandering down to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons to see what living out of a van is like. After all, we’ve been fervent attendees of the Cleveland RV show for years, where they pack 800 different RVs into the cavernous IX center and let you exhaust your calves walking up three steps and down three steps into hundreds of RVs.

We’ve fantasized about retiring and going on the road; now’s the time to see whether we can do it, packed into miniature form.

We specifically have no plans, nor will we make any. William Least Heat-Moon discussed the concept of quoz – those wild, surprising vistas that open themselves up to you when you have no agenda and just slip down whatever back roads please you.

We honor our twentieth anniversary with a search for great quoz.

And we will do so in discomfort; we will be travelling in an ancient panel van that was designed to haul lumber, so we’re getting a mattress to sleep in an unheated vehicle with no bathroom and maaaaaybe a camper stove if we can borrow one… but isn’t that the thrill of it? To see how we survive in a new environment?

It’ll be ten days. But time stretches on the road. And we’ll have our dog, and we’ll have things go wrong, but they will be new things to go wrong and isn’t that the point of a living breathing relationship?

It may be wretched. It may be life-changing. It may be, as is so frequent, both at once.

But it’ll be something we do together.

Big Nature, here we come.

Happy Vanniversary, Gini. I love you.

(And I totally wasn’t drunk.)


  1. Gayle
    Sep 19, 2019

    I am admittedly shocked (and very happy) you two made it. At one point during those bad years, you called me and we talked about how alone you felt, and that marriage meant you shouldn’t feel that way anymore. I tried and failed to tell you that you were putting too much pressure on your wife to be something she couldn’t be. I thought, they’re not going to get past this. I’ve never been so thrilled to be wrong.

    Frank and I lived in a pop up camper for a whole summer and part of the fall. It isn’t easy, but it definitely showed us that we could do it. 🙂

  2. Anonymous Alex
    Sep 19, 2019

    Well of course congratulations on the milestone. But also every time you talk about your relationship it makes me feel all warm and squishy (in a good way): y’all are adorable.

    Enjoy your van voyage!


  3. andysocial
    Sep 21, 2019

    Congratulations on the milestone, and good luck on the RV trial. As long as you have internet access, it’s all good, right? 🙂

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