Valentine’s Day Guest columnist Jacqueline Chen Valencia: He Followed Me, But I Found Him

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Jacqueline Chen Valencia is a recovering New Yorker who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her husband of four years, Manny, daughter Sofia, almost three years old, and mom Diane. They have three chihuahuas — Loki, Fifi and Snickers – and enjoy hiking, swimming, travel and art. Jacqueline, a marketing/communications professional, serves as senior vice president of Marketing at Amedisys, the nation’s leading healthcare at home company.

Dear Sofia,

I had no idea about Jersey guys until I met the man who would become your father.
I lived in New York City by way of New York University for undergrad. I was, like most 20-something New Yorkers, too cool to date smart men, preferring DJs or men in fashion. I was also too cool to spend time in New Jersey, which to me (having only seen it from the New Jersey Turnpike) seemed to be the armpit of America.

One night, though, my attitude faced the threat known as change. My girlfriends and I were invited to a “white party” — you know, the kind where everything is supposd to be white –on a rooftop near Gramercy Park to celebrate the birthday of some guy from Amsterdam.

It was a crazy party, with at least 100 people there, all dressed in white and dancing under white tents. Best party I’ve ever gone to, complete with awesome music. Then “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige came on. I left my group of girls at the bar to hit the dance floor. This guy came right up and started dancing with me. Great dancer, too. We talked a little small talk between songs.
After that night I gave him precisely no further thought.

Still, I saw him again at another party, and again at a dinner. I kept seeing him at the same events I was attending. And we got to know each other better. One night, he finally confessed — after the white party he had tracked me through my friends to see where I was going to be hanging out each weekend, and found ways to show up. And, it turned out, he lived only three blocks away from me in the East Village.

We became fast friends for a year. Then I helped him through a break-up and he helped me through one too. Long phone calls giving each other advice on how to cope with crumbling relationships (I actually tried at some points to help him win back his girlfriend’s affections).

The weekend my live-in boyfriend moved out, the man who would become your father invited me to stay at his place. He offered to let me sleep on his couch. He ordered in dinner, rented some movies and the next day booked a manicure and pedicure for me. I began to think I could get used to this kind of treatment.

On Valentine’s Day we went out for our first “date.” We hit Apizz on the Lower East Side and had a great time. He talked to me about growing up in New Jersey, and introduced me to Limoncello. He was no DJ or fashionista, but here’s what he was: smart, ambitious, well educated, well traveled — and he could always make me laugh. He came from a great family, had great hair and even danced great.

No one else needed to apply for the job — I was falling for him.

Three years after that first date on the Lower East Side, we became engaged. A year later we got married. And a year after that, you were born.

And in case you ever doubt it, here’s proof that miracles really do happen. Somewhere in there, your father even convinced me to move to New Jersey.

P.S. — The birthday boy from Amsterdam is now your “Uncle” JJ.

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