Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

For Eric

Trevi Fountain 2008

20 years ago this week, I got a phone call at the office. The guy on the other end was an actor I had worked with on a play some months before – I was the stage manager. He was calling to ask me out on a date. I’ll never forget how nervous he sounded, and how the invitation came out in a rush. It sounded like “Wouldyouliketogoouttodinnerwithmesometime?” And when I said “Yes” he said “You would?” It was sweet.

When I got off the phone I went straight to my friend Karen’s desk and told her I’d been asked out. “It’s not a big deal, you know, it’s just a date,” is what I said, or something like it. My words were nonchalant, but I was excited. It had been a long time since I’d been asked out on a proper date.

But at the same time I was on my guard. I had been unlucky in love, as the saying goes, and I had decided that I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes. I wasn’t going to give my heart away only to have it carelessly tossed back to me – again. I approached the whole idea of dating from an aggressively casual posture; there was no way I was going to be out-cooled. I could be just as disinterested as any guy; just wait, you’ll see.

As I said, I had known him for a few months. I had had a little crush on him during the show, and I tried to let him know that I liked him, but he never asked me out. I figured he wasn’t interested.

But we had been running into each other a lot after the show closed. We were on the same Christmas and New Year’s party circuit, so for a few weeks over the holidays we saw each other pretty much every weekend. And then, finally, a few days before Valentine’s Day, he called and asked me out.

We didn’t go out ON Valentine’s Day. I thought at the time that he thought it would be way too awkward for a first date, a sentiment with which I agreed. Now I know that it was because he took someone else out that night! Yes, he was a player – for the first couple of months he and I dated, he was also dating at least two other women. To be clear, he never tried to hide these relationships – I always knew about his “other girlfriends”. It bothered me, but after a while he gave them up.

Just sayin’.

We dated on and off for two years. When I say “off” I mean OFF – we broke up a few times. The last time I didn’t see him for months, and I really thought it was over. It turns out that we were both miserable being apart, and eventually we worked things out and got back together. Not long after that he proposed, and I said “Yes” to him again.

It wasn’t supposed to last. I can’t tell you how many people expressed their surprise that I would consider marrying this man, or who told me to my face that it was a mistake. Why? Well, my darling husband is 29 years my senior.

He’d lived a life before I was even born and much more until he met me, and what a life it had been already! He’d traveled around the world; he’d been married and divorced. He had discovered his passion for acting. When I met him he was 56 and I was 27. It thought he was funny and sexy and talented. He thought I was too young for him.

I tease him that it took me ages to convince him that I was serious about our relationship, and that’s true as far as it goes. What I never told him is how hard it was to convince myself that I could let myself love him.

Yes, love is largely outside of our control – it is chemical, and spiritual, and elemental. You can’t choose who you love, and once you love someone you never don’t love them, so unless you spend your life with the only person you ever fell in love with, all of us wind up dragging a lot of broken relationship baggage around. If you’ve ever had your heart broken, and I mean well and truly shattered, you know how hard it can be to risk it again after you’d finally put the pieces back together. My darling and I both had a lot of mistrust and hurt to work through – me as much as him.

But one by one he put my misgivings to rest, just by being himself. And the wondrous thing is that a large part of being himself is tied up in the fact that he is so much older than me. Our age difference does matter, just not the way most people thought it would when we got together. It has been a huge bonus being married to someone who has lived more than I have, seen more than I have. His perspective is so much different because of it, and I benefit from his longer life experience.

It also doesn’t hurt that he’s the greatest guy ever. I’ve never met anyone as completely without artifice as him. When we started dating, he didn’t know how to play the games, and I had to learn how to relate to a man in a whole new way. With him, I know exactly where I stand, all the time. When he’s mad, he’s mad – about the thing he says he’s mad about, not about some other thing. It took some getting used to, but its one of the things about him that I value the most.

And he loves me. I can’t believe sometimes how much he loves me. He shows me he loves me in everything he does. He is thoughtful, and generous, and kind. He spoils me. He takes care of me, which is not an easy thing to do. He forgives my early-morning crankiness and my episodic bad moods and my self-absorption. He reads this blog EVERY WEEK, and not just glances at it – we have conversations about it. He is my biggest fan, and my firm foundation. I have never been loved as much or as well, and I am so grateful for him. I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve him. He’s the best husband anyone could want. And he’s mine, so hands off!

Happy Valentine’s Day, darling. I’m looking forward to our curry dinner, and cuddling up with you and the cats on the couch to watch TV. That’s all the romance I’ll ever need.

Unless you want to go back to Rome and kiss me in front of the Trevi Fountain again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment »

My Secret Valentine’s Day Shame

Valentine's Day

This secret shame has haunted me for years, but now I think I have the courage to confess it publicly. I know this will come as a shock to many of you, and for all the years I lived in denial about my true feelings, I am sorry. I can no longer pretend. I’m ready to admit it now.

I like Valentine’s Day.

Please don’t judge me too harshly, all of you who knew me from my college days when I protested against “V” Day. You know how passionately I defended those members of our society marginalized by this annual ritual of romantic love. You remember those February 14ths past when, in solidarity with my boyfriendless sisters, I dressed in black and donned my “No Hearts” armband and proudly announced my refusal to buy into the created-by-Hallmark-and-Whitman’s-and-FTD-glorification-of-fake-sentimentality. I mean, why do we need this holiday? Are we likely to forget to cherish the one we love if we’re not reminded once a year? Shouldn’t our significant others be taking us out for romantic dinners and buying us flowers and jewelry as a matter of course? Of course they should! Well, I wasn’t going to be taken in by this transparent attempt by corporate America to force people to spend their hard-earned money unnecessarily! No way!

Of course, my militant stance was buoyed by the fact I never seemed to have a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day either. Every February 14th I seemed to be between boyfriends – either because of a breakup just before, or a new relationship was just emerging and couldn’t stand up to the V-Day scrutiny, or I was just in a dry spell. I started to wonder if it wasn’t a plot by every would-be boyfriend to keep from having to buy me flowers – the timing was just a little too convenient. I mean, I had boyfriends at Christmases and on my birthdays. I had dates to all the important events in college – Inaugural, Homecoming, etc. Just never on Valentine’s Day. It really pissed me off. I remember sitting in the lobby of my dorm watching those long white boxes containing dozens of roses – white, yellow and red – come flooding in, carried by my boyfriended dorm mates or, (and this was almost too much to take), being delivered by a florist. Then I got to see the moment of arrival, when some giddy girl would open the box and wave the offering around the room to her admiring audience. Pretending to be happy for these girls (some of whom were my good friends on every other day of the year) was just too much, so I opted to boycott the whole thing.

I’ll fast forward through the years between college and my first date with my eventual husband (because nothing romantic of note happened – at least nothing I’m willing to share). It was early February 1995 when he finally asked me out. Valentine’s Day was the next week. Great, I thought, here we go again – boyfriend in sight but still no flowers for Amanda! And I was quite right; the whole candlelight dinner and box of chocolates thing was way too much pressure for a second date. I knew it, but I was disappointed nonetheless, and it didn’t do anything to change my attitude about “that stupid holiday”. As it turns out, though, that was the last February 14th that I would spend alone. Ever since, my wonderful, thoughtful, sweet husband has brought me flowers and a beautiful card and we have gone out to dinner at some lovely spot and celebrated our love to the full.

Oh the hypocrisy! Well, yes, you’re right, and at first I admit I felt badly about my shameless embrace of all things Valentine. But over the years I’ve come to look at it in a way that has given this annual money grab more substance.

Valentine’s Day isn’t like other kinds of non-religious occasions that center on human beings. Celebrating an anniversary is an acknowledgement that two people have managed to stay together for another year, which is no mean feat these days. Birthdays are the celebration of an individual life; the completion of another year and the looking forward to the next. But I’ve come to see Valentine’s Day as not being about the individuals involved. Instead, I think it’s about the third thing that exists when two people decide to commit themselves to each other – the relationship itself. As anyone who is or has been in a long-term relationship knows, the relationship has a life of its own that must be nurtured by the individuals involved. It has its own history. It exists both within you and apart from you, and sometimes in spite of you. It is a thing that should be acknowledged and protected if it is to survive. I talk about “my marriage” as if it is a living thing, separate from myself, and it is.

Now that I am in a committed, long-term relationship, I have come to view Valentine’s Day as more than just a commercially driven, shallow enterprise. I now see it as an opportunity to hold my relationship up to the light and admire it anew.  It is an opportunity for my husband and I to pay homage to this third entity that lives with us, the thing that over the years has come to be much greater than the sum of its parts. It isn’t about the flowers or the romantic dinner or the gifts – they are just the ritual sacrifices we offer to the god of Romance. Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the “Us” that is more than just “You” and “Me”.

My friends, I hope you will forgive me for my former hypocrisy and jealousy. I have mended my ways, and I now fully and joyfully engage in all the silliness and manufactured sentimentality that Valentine’s Day has to offer. So, what do my husband and I have planned for this year?  I don’t know, we haven’t talked about it yet. It’s this Friday, right? The restaurants are going to be mad houses . . . Ugh.

We’ll probably just stay home and watch a movie.

***********

Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

photo credit: Shenghung Lin via photopin cc

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: