Tag Archives: Relationships

A Modest Proposal

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with Heidi.  I looked up from brushing my teeth to find her standing in the doorway of my bathroom clad only in toe-nail polish and holding a bottle of my favorite beer.

Love, it seems to me, is fraught with perilous events, things over which we feel we have very little control, but are somehow propelled toward, which is why I think men try so hard to avoid it.  I learned this first-hand when I became engaged to Heidi some 14 years ago.  My decision to become engaged was actually brought on by a “discussion” that occurred the night before I proposed.  Heidi and I don’t have fights; we have “discussions”—and the discourse to which I refer was our first since I started seeing her.

Our discussion revolved around her insistence that I buy a dresser.  Being a bachelor at the time, I saw absolutely no need for a dresser.  I was perfectly happy with my system for storing clothes: when I ran out of hangers I piled them “neatly” on the floor next to my bed—unless I was hosting company, in which case I stuffed them in my closet.  For some reason, this arrangement bothered her, and she applied some convincing logic, explaining that “you can’t live this way”.  Now while I didn’t really buy her reasoning, I did decide that in the interest of domestic tranquility I should look into buying a dresser, and promised to do so the next day.

The next day at lunch I was scouring furniture stores feeling completely ill-equipped, which must have been obvious to the astute in my proximity because at one point a nice lady wearing too much perfume approached me and asked whether I needed help.

“I’m looking for a dresser.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“I’m not sure.”

“I mean what style suits you?  What sort of décor do you have now?”

“I have a small, one bedroom apartment, so something not too big I suppose.”

“I mean your current furnishings.  Contemporary?”  Pause.  “Metro modern?”  Nothing.  “Vintage casual perhaps?”

I continued to stare at her, my mind devoid of any data whatsoever.

“Sir?”

“Thank you.  I’m just looking for now.”

Clearly out of my element, I punted.  I turned and headed back to my car as I began to invent excuses about why I didn’t get a dresser, racking my brain for a suitable, believable alibi that would absolve my neglect of this critical problem of my improperly stowed clean attire.

And then it struck me: what I needed was a surrogate gift.  Some token of my sincerity, which I could present as a down payment on my good intention.  As I walked toward my car I spotted a jewelry store.  Jewelry.  Yes.  Small package; big pay-off.  Of course.  A delicate gold necklace with an opal pendant, perhaps.  Precious, yet not too expensive.  Viola; mission accomplished.

As I entered the jewelry store, I was immediately assaulted by a sign clearly designed to up the ante: “Show her how much you love her.”  Recalling my recent epiphany in the bathroom, I began to think about my relationship with Heidi in more serious terms.  Heidi is a really amazing woman—smart as a whip; an athlete with no equal on the tennis court; a woman with model good looks arrayed with a thick mane of long blond hair.  She seemed perfect to me at the time.  Besides, I had this nagging feeling that if I didn’t start getting serious about this relationship soon, I might never have my beer delivered in quite the same way again.

For the next half-hour, my thoughts wandered as I began to contemplate what was previously unfathomable.  I was officially divorced a mere four months prior.  Yet as I stood there looking at the glitter of romance within the crystal showcases, I was seriously considering a second foray into the land of until death do us part or until I can’t stand you anymore.  And this is the peril of my first reference.  We say until death do us part, but the fact is that we are all too comfortable with until I can’t stand you anymore.  But not to preach; I’m just a writer.

I was next accosted by a stunning vision who identified herself as Linnea.

“May I help you?”  A sense of déjà vu overtook me.

I’m looking for an engagement ring.” I replied with significant trepidation.

“See anything you like?”

My mind was again reeling—repeatedly asking a host of questions: “Is this what I want to do with my remaining years on Earth? What sort of setting would she really like? Can I really afford this?” and, much to my surprise, the most terrifying question of all: “Would she say yes?”.  As I contemplated the rest of my life, I wasn’t sure which possibility was scariest: a polite reply of “no; not now” or an enthusiastic “yes”.  I mean the proposition of forever is frightening on its own merit—with or without the one you love.

I looked up and the clerk repeated her question: “What sort of set did you have in mind?”  I stared at her, unable to speak.  Sensing my uncertainty, she reached down, unlocked the case, and pulled out a simple diamond trio setting.  “I think this is beautiful.”  I replied simply “OK; I’ll take it.”

I returned to the office cash poor and unable to work, distracted by what had now become an obsession for me.  I decided to make good use of the time and make the necessary plans for the evening, putting off actual work for the moment.  I made reservations at a local restaurant, and on the way home I stopped at the store to pick up some flowers and a card.  I wanted to set a romantic mood for the evening; she, of course, thought I was merely trying to make up for the previous night.

On the way to dinner, I was thinking about the evening ahead.  The restaurant was unique to Austin and had incredible romantic potential, perfect for asking the question at hand.  Sure that I was about to present her with a unique culinary and romantic experience, I asked “Have you ever been to Hudson’s on the Bend?”  “Once, about five years ago.”  she replied.  “It’s where I got engaged.”

Aghast, my lower jaw dropped, like one of those cartoon characters who suddenly realizes they just stepped off a cliff with nothing beneath them but air.  I frantically searched for an appropriate reply.  “You got engaged there?”  I asked, incredulous.  To which she replied “Yes silly.  I told you; Zeke proposed to me there.”  “He did?” was all I could muster.

“Will this bring up any bad memories?” I asked as I desperately tried to recover.  “Oh no.” she said.  “That was a long time ago.  It’s fine.”  Horribly disappointed, I briefly considered delaying my proposal, but I was already committed and at this point I doubt God Himself could change my mind.

Later at the restaurant, when I was halfway through my second glass of wine as we waited for dinner, I knew that it was now-or-never.  Looking at Heidi across the table, my breathing increased and I felt beads of perspiration forming on my forehead.  I nervously asked her to take my hand.  Unable to muster any creativity whatsoever, I recited the script most men utter in these situations.  I think it must come from the movies and TV shows our girlfriends force us to watch when we first begin dating.

“I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” I began.  Uncertainty momentarily seized me as I tried to continue.  “Will you—will you marry me?”  I stammered.  Then, as if in slow motion, I reached into my pocket to retrieve the box with the gold and diamond token.  Fumbling as I opened it, I knocked my fork off the table, wincing as it unceremoniously crashed to the ground.

Somehow I managed to present the ring to Heidi without any further mishap.  Becoming a bit emotional, she wiped her eyes, smiled at me, and simply said “Yes.”  I breathed a thankful sigh of relief, took the ring from the box, and placed it on the third finger of her left hand.  I then looked deep into her eyes and contemplated all the wonderful things ahead for the two of us.

She returned my gaze, smiled, and softly said “Thank you for a wonderful evening honey.”

She continued “Oh; I meant to ask you: did you get a dresser today?”

Guy-o

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Filed under Life or Something Like It, Marriage

A Wedding or Two

My youngest daughter, Ashley, was married last month.  This followed my oldest daughter Rachel’s wedding seven months earlier.  A wedding ceremony springs from a simple concept: two people publically profess their love and announce their intention to spend the rest of their lives together.  It occurs to me, however, that intention is fulfilled by the invitation, which seems in my mind to nullify the need for the wedding itself—but that fact is rendered academic to the blushing bride.  Somehow the wedding ceremony has evolved into something so elaborate it is terrifying to the average American male.

Now to be fair, weddings have been lavish occasions throughout recorded history in every culture.  Intellectually, I understand why, but it seems today they are not merely elaborate.  They have become exorbitant spectacles in which the bride must be appeased like some sort of volcano goddess who makes demands at the point of an emotional gun.  I think the term in pop culture is bridezilla.

The obsession does not end with the bride, however.  I recall the latest British royal wedding for Kate and William.  By the way, is it appropriate to call them by their first names?  I digress.  The word recall is a bit of an overstatement because I never saw the wedding so I don’t actually recall any of it.  I do, however, remember that a lot of people on this side of the pond (as they say) set their alarms to be awakened at an hour that should be reserved for other events.  Things like your wife going into labor, for example.

Sorry for the aside, but I am suddenly compelled to ask a rhetorical question: why is it that women tend to go into labor when you’re supposed to be doing something really critical—like sleeping?  I think it might have something to do with God needing to be entertained.  To me it’s no different than creating two creatures seemingly from different planets and then programming them to seek each other out to live together in something called marital bliss.  I think he just kind of gets a kick out of watching the aftermath.

So what exactly is the appeal of royal weddings specifically and wedding events more generally?  What would motivate my wife and ex-wife to invest so much time and effort into months of planning, whole families to temporarily relocate, and for otherwise rational people to get up for the 4:00 a.m. pre-game royal wedding show?

In the case of my ex and my wife it could be argued that they simply love my daughters and want to give them what makes them happy.  Fair enough—but that begs the question: why would this particular thing make a person happy?  Further, it certainly doesn’t explain why someone would go out of her way to watch a wedding between two people who are quite literally strangers to her.  No; there’s certainly more to the appeal than a simple act of loving kindness or latent voyeurism.

I asked a friend of mine about that out of mere curiosity—just a sort of passing question.  At the time we were walking to a diner to have lunch and she suddenly stopped and looked at me as if I had asked about why we need air and replied with something akin to “Because we’re not fish you moron.”

She then went on to describe the importance of publicly declaring your vows to love honor and cherish another human being and celebrating a Holy union in a world devoid of moral integrity.  “Besides,” she continued “what’s wrong with doing something nice for your daughters?  Did either of those weddings really disrupt your routine so much that you were significantly put out by spending an afternoon and two evenings to be there for each of them on their special day?”  Feeling the need to disarm her I simply capitulated: “No.  Do you want the bar or a booth?”

For the next week I spent a lot of time just wondering about the whole notion of weddings and what it means to decide to marry.  I finally arrived at the conclusion that it means something entirely different to women than it does to men, and it’s something we’re not really going to understand—ever.  For one thing I think the event has a significance for women most men can’t possibly understand.

I have another good friend who was married about a year ago, and planning the event was as important to her fiancé as it was to her—but that’s an anomaly in my experience.  My oldest daughter Rachel’s best friend was married a couple of years ago, and there were two things important to the groom in that case: he wanted a lot of Sinatra at the reception and he wanted a personalized beer stein for each of the groomsmen.  For the record I put that sort of planning squarely in the category of First Class, but that’s not the point.

The point is that the former is the exception and the latter is the rule in my experience.  I think that’s because the groom is celebrating because he decided to get married, he got the girl, convinced her to marry him, and now he’s done.  He can stop looking.  It’s sort of like taking down that first deer.  Mission accomplished right?

I think women see the entire affair differently in a way that makes the ceremony more typically important to her than it is to him.  I offer that for a number of reasons.  Part of it was my friend’s reaction when I wondered aloud about why these things become so big so fast.  I also noticed that both my sons in law had a few very brief vows they had prepared for the bride, which can essentially be summarized as “I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”  Both my daughters approached the altar with near-tomes that rivaled the Bible.

These vows were offered with intense emotion and great passion.  There were confessions of how their lives had been changed by their betrothed and why they were taking this step.  What it meant to be standing at the altar with this person they loved and respected.

And I guess that’s the essence of the difference.  They had a sense of what that moment at the altar means that eludes most men.  I think most men see the ceremony as a formality.  I think most women see the ceremony as a defining moment in which bride and groom publicly declare that they are from that point forward entwined in a Union that bears declaring.

That doesn’t make it any less meaningful to a guy, but the ceremony doesn’t seem to carry the same emotional weight that it does for a girl.  Like most things, the experience just seems different for each, and the desire on the part of the bride for the ceremony to be “perfect” can make it kind of brutal on the groom.

Case in point: I was standing in for one of the groomsman at Ashley’s wedding rehearsal.  My dad was performing the ceremony and he said “This is the point at which communion will be offered.”  The groom (also named William by the way) inquired “So how will we do that?”  I thought he meant “Will wedding attendees be participating?” but it turned out to be a deeper question.  “What do you mean?” Ashley replied.  “Well we’re Catholic, so can you provide some details about this particular part of the service?”

I was raised Baptist but have attended Catholic services including a Catholic wedding.  I knew exactly where this was going and I was pretty sure Ashley did not.  I looked on as Ashley attempted to answer William’s question as William continued to repeat it, each weighing in with greater and greater verbal force.

I winced a little and then squirmed involuntarily, causing the flask of Johnny Walker in my vest pocket to rattle against the pistol on my hip concealed by my blazer, which was a little embarrassing.  I was meeting the groom’s family for the first time and I wasn’t certain how they felt about either of those things.  Of course in addition to being Catholic, they were also from Louisiana so I was guessing they were OK with the whiskey.  What gave me pause is having both.  In church.  At the same time.  Some people are funny about things like that.

Frankly this only reinforced my confusion about wedding events and the importance the bride places on everything being just so.   Here’s what I did figure out: it’s really important to have friends like Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels to confide in when you’re dealing with wedding “situations”—whether you’re the groom or the father of the bride.

Guy-o

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Filed under Life or Something Like It