It had begun ordinarily enough. Back in 2007, I was flying home from a wedding in St. Petersburg/Tampa, Florida, home of the famed Salvator Dali museum and retirement mecca for Americans aged 65+. Weddings had become routine to me, particularly since I was not acquainted with either bride or groom, and I was attending purely out of the social obligation of being a plus one. Nonetheless, I enjoyed dolling up and looking pretty and dancing on the arm of a less than perfect man. Particularly in a ballroom flooded with light high atop a famed hotel, sunshine accompanying every movement of everyone in that narrow circle of sunset.
I sat in an exit seat, besides a fellow who was so tall his legs extended to the next row and so he looked awkwardly cramped, even with extra leg room. He seemed good-natured (and kind of cute), so we began talking. Apparently, he was also flying back from a buddy's wedding to the New York area. "But I live in LA," he added.
"So, are you some kind of consultant?" I wanted to know.
"Actually, I'm an actor."
"Really? What's your name?" I did a double-take. He had chiseled good looks, sort of statuesque, like a Greek god, but seemed too approachable to be an actor.
"Chan. Channing Tatum." What an odd name.
"Never heard of you. What have you been in?"
"Have you ever seen She's the Man with Amanda Bynes?" I hadn't.
So he began to explain the premise of the movie, working with Amanda Bynes ("she's a sweetheart") as well as details of life as an actor, like how they get health insurance (through an actor's union), and then we discussed fame, Tom Cruise, celebrities, "Anonimity is like air. You don't realize you've got it until you've lost it." The he began talking about how he broke into the industry. He used to play sports and after an injury, he was rather lost. Then he got into modeling, one thing led to another, and a path opened to the silver screen. Acting was just the beginning, though, as he told me of his plans to write and direct. In fact, he was already working a screenplay. Then I discussed my analagous plans of writing, the children's fantasy novel I was working on, my dream of being a writer. He believed in dreams, and told me I could succeed if I continued writing. We all could.
The flight attendant began the safety preamble, and we promptly turned off our cell phones. His was pink and glittering; I recall the rhinestones flickering as he sheepishly put it away. "It's my girlfriend's," he admitted. His face glowed as he spoke about meeting Jennie on a movie set, how they couldn't keep their eyes and hands off each other, how they couldn't help being together, the chemistry that was so intense when you knew you were meant to be with someone.
When inquired about my relationship, I replied it was serious and I was actually considering marrying the man. Channing looked at me quizzically for a moment.
"You don't seem to be that excited about it."
"Well, you know, it's a big committment, a lot of change, and I just wasn't sure exactly how everything was going to pan out. Where we would live; how we would make it work. So many details to be ironed out." I felt myself blushing.
"You just don't seem to be in love with him."
My perplexity must have showed in my face. Channing laughed. "When you are in love with someone, the whole world knows. You can't stop thinking about the other person. You can't stop talking about the other person. When you are in love, your eyes light up at the simple thought of them. Like me and Jennie."
He was right. Six years later, he and Jenna are probably one of Hollywood's happiest young couples.
Whenever I think of Channing Tatum, I don't think of one of the World's Sexiest Men, or critically acclaimed actor, or celebrity on the rise. I remember a kind fellow who told me the unadulterated truth about myself.
One I am still figuring out six years later.