Category: Relationships

Subconsciously, I Really Love Him

I could feel the weight of his gaze — it rested on my profile as I concentrated really, really hard on the menu in front of me.

Ew — please, please stop staring, my mind begged.

Every noodly fiber in my brain stretched and strained in an effort to push his longing away from me and onto something else — anything else.

The waitress.

The woman in the booth behind us.

The slice of banana cream pie on display inside a glass counter to our right.

The teaspoon resting in a pool of coffee droplets on the aluminum tabletop.

Anything.  Whatever.  Just.  Look.  Elsewhere.

Normally, I try my damnedest to put on a super cute performance when I know I am being watched by my man.

But now — no.  God no.  Now, I wanted to look repulsive, actually.  I wanted to repulse and repel him because his eye raping was making my skin jump and curl and shrivel.

If you are a woman, then I know you know that feeling — that jumpy, curly, shrively skin feeling.  You feel it when a guy is being a particular kind of gross.

I somehow sensed the staring was now being accompanied by open-mouth breathing and a side-cocked head.  I also somehow sensed that the top two buttons on his Oxford shirt were undone, exposing a sparse patch of black wire.

Why am I here?  This is all wrong.  Why am I here?

I made the most unattractive face I could conjure, pushing my jaw down against my neck to force a double chin.  I squinted my eyes, exaggerating the crow’s feet as I continued to review breakfast options:

Steak and eggs?

Biscuits and gravy?

I don’t ever eat like this.  Again — all wrongWhy am I here?

Sigh…..

Just keep readingDon’t look up….keep reading.

“Enjoy two of our homemade buttermilk biscuits smothered in sausage gravy….”

I could feel the threat of a gag reflex at “smothered,” as a tube of Pillsbury biscuit dough — -seemingly lodged in my chest — exploded under the pressure of my ensuing panic, forcing a yeasty paste up into my throat.

I think I might vomit.  Or cry.  I’m going to vomit and cry.

It was then that I became aware he and I were not alone at our table.

There were suddenly two boys sitting across from us, and they were furiously scribbling crayons down to nubs, intent on covering their paper place mats with blue and red wax.

The smaller of the two threw me a sideways glance.

“I love coloring place mats, Mommy,” he said, tossing his red crayon aside to grab for a green one.

Mommy.

No, no, no, no!  No “Mommy.”  I’m not your Mommy, I thought.  He can call me Miss Lauren, I reasoned, but most definitely not “Mommy.”

What did I do — what stupid, terrible mistake did I make? 

Oh, God — what happened? 

Why am I here in this diner, sitting down for a breakfast date with this guy — this guy who, apparently, I have encouraged to the point of longing gazes and open-mouthed breathing, and allowing his kids call me Mommy?  This guy who looks like a mash-up of  an old neighbor and that strange cashier at Giant who talks my ear off every time I accidentally go through his line.

My thoughts zig-zagged like a thousand pin balls in a frenzied attempt to identify whatever events in my life’s story had led me here to this completely foreign and unhappy place.

In a brief moment of clarity, I remembered my husband.

My husband!   Yes, you, husband.  Where are you?  Oh, thank God — [husband’s name]!  Yes, yes, yes.  Him, please.  I want him.

And then it became apparent that the husband was no longer a viable option.  He was out.  Obsessive staring guy and his two crayon scribblers were in.

Waves of intense hopelessness washed over me as I came to accept this whole awful scene was my new reality.

No, no, no, no, no……

When I woke up, I was still upset.  The nightmare was over, but it had left an imprint that would likely take a few hours to shake off completely.  That’s usually how these things tend to go, at least for me.

I breathed deep and immediately felt grounded by the faint smell of All Free and Clear mixed with Polo cologne and just a hint of sour bath towel.

Our bedroom, I’m nearly certain.

I opened my eyes and blinked into focus a large brown mass above me.

Ceiling fan.  Ours.  The husband’s and mine.  Our bedroom, yes, definitely.

I turned my head to the left — the husband sleeps to my left — and rejoiced in all that was familiar. Big, broad shoulders.  Long back.  Thick legs capped by wide feet and odd Flintstone toes.

Oh, thank Jesus. 

And I literally meant “Thank you, Jesus.”  No worldly manhandling of the Savior’s name.  I’m a believer, and I was literally sending up a mini-prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude.

I was thankful and grateful that I had not, in fact, made a dreadful mistake by deep-sixing my husband in favor of some awful conglomeration of men I’d never want.

I was also thankful and grateful to be married not to any of the men from my past — nor to the occasional man in a series of “futures,” who, in moments of carelessness, I idealize to unnatural levels of perfection — but to my man.  The man I married nearly 13 years ago, and with whom I’ve produced two children and a life that suits me and him and us just fine.

I slipped out of bed, grabbed my robe, and headed downstairs to start the coffee.

Still enjoying that awesome sense of relief that comes with leaving a bad dream behind you, I started tidying up for breakfast.  Working my way through the previous evening’s dinner dishes, I wondered why it is that I feel my deepest longing for him — my husband — in my subconscious.

You see, the diner nightmare was not the first dream to have left me desperate for the comfort of my reality.  Two hands do not have enough fingers to tick off the number of times I have woken up frantic because I thought I had “accidentally” married an ex-boyfriend.  Or because I somehow got entangled with that co-worker at my old job, or with that character actor who played the “crazy cousin” on last night’s episode of that syndicated sitcom I sometimes watch before bed.

All these dreams of “terribly wrong” serve to reinforce what is “terribly right.”

So, why can’t I get to this place of pure and absolute submission to the correctness of it all in our day-to-day, night-by-night living of real life?  Why can’t I live in my waking hours the way I wish I could live in my dreams?

I’m going to change that now, I committed.

I’m going to start trying to live differently.  I’m going to consciously love my husband as though my reality depends on it.

And really, our realities do depend on it.  Right?

The coffee was ready, and so I grabbed two mugs from the cabinet as I heard the husband make his way downstairs.

“Good morning,” the husband offered as he blew past me toward the door that leads to our garage.

“Good morning,” I called back.

I stood at the counter, waiting for him to reemerge.  I had his coffee ready, and I was hoping he’d have five minutes to spare.  He usually does have five minutes for a few sips of coffee with me at our table.

When he came back inside, I could see he was not in a sipping sort of mood.

He was in a rush.

A second blow-by, this time past me and my coffee mugs and out to the foyer where his laptop rested against the wall.

Hoisting the black canvass strap up and over his shoulder, the husband came back into the kitchen in search of a to-go cup for the coffee, and to grab his keys and wallet.

Before he could make another move, I walked over to him and slapped myself against him — literally fell into him —  wrapping my arms around his back and burying my face into his chest.

I breathed him in, and then said:

“I had the worst, worst dream last night.  Oh my God, I am so glad I married you.”

Mildly amused, but failing to fully absorb my cue, he said:

“That’s sweet, babe.  Me too.  Hey — did you remember to buy the to-go mugs?”

I pulled back from him as he helped me further disengage, peeling one of my arms away as though opening a gate.  He walked through and away, toward the to-go cup cabinet.

“[Husband’s name]!” I said.  “I’m serious — I had a bad dream!”

“Sorry, babe.  I’m just hot, and in a rush — you know…. Tuesday mornings.  I’ll call you when I get to work.”

No, I didn’t know “Tuesday mornings” and I didn’t care if he was hot, and maybe he wouldn’t be in a rush if he woke up maybe ten minutes earlier.

I watched through the window as he headed down the driveway toward his car.

Mere moments into the conscious reality of a new day, and I was already agitated.

Okay.  Yup.  Got it.

This is soooooo why I tend to love you harder in my subconscious. 

But, subconsciously, apparently, I really do love him….


A Typical Saturday Evening Drive When We’re On The Verge Of A Good Time

A story that captures the typical amount of tension that seems to be a necessary prelude whenever the husband and I are on the verge of having a nice evening together.  It’s also a story about how men can be a little bit selfish:

Upstairs in my bedroom, I was perfecting “the look.”

Gold bangles? Yes.  Definitely.  But only two– and take off that white leather cuff.

I unsnapped the cuff from my wrist and quickly tossed it on the dresser.

Taking several steps back to get a better view of everything together, I scanned my reflection from head to about mid-thigh, where the mirror ended and the dresser began.

Ditch the ring, too.

I yanked the cocktail ring off my right index finger, and settled my arms back to my sides.

From what I could tell, it now all looked great — as long as I kept my stomach sucked in when standing. The dress had some ruching at the waist that — if positioned just a quarter-inch too high  — made for the unfortunate insinuation of a puffy gut.

Not good.

But — it was an otherwise really great dress.  And I knew that I’d only be standing upon entering and exiting the restaurant, and for maybe one trip to the bathroom, so keeping my mid-section taut for an estimated 10 to 12 non-consecutive minutes would not be too difficult a challenge.  Besides, the hair looked perfect, and the make-up had miraculously behaved too, so, there was always that.  And that counts for a lot, especially knowing most of the evening, I’d be presented only from the chest up, the rest of me conveniently tucked away behind a candle-lit dinner table.  Hedging my bets that there’d be a tablecloth involved too, I figured I was definitely good to go.

I grabbed my purse and clonked down the stairs in brand new heels.  The husband was waiting in the driveway.

It was an absolutely gorgeous evening.

Not a cloud in the sky.

But upon stepping outside, an unexpected chill hit my bare arms, while an overly aggressive gust of wind blew a mess of curls into my face, tangling some strands with mascara that hadn’t quite enough time to “set” yet.

Raking the hair back into place, I saw that the husband had the top down on his Mustang.

Sigh —

I knew how this was gonna go.

“Hop in, baby!”  the husband grinned as he held the door for me.

I hobbled down the driveway, curling my eyelashes back with my fingertips.  As I slid into the seat, I offered up the first of several hints.

“Oh my gosh, it’s so much chillier than I had thought it was gonna be.”

Silence.

“[Husband’s name]?”

“What’s that baby?”

When the “ignore” doesn’t work (and it never, ever does), the husband then goes for the “phony-oblivious.”

“I was just saying it’s awfully chilly.  I’m freezing, actually.”

“You’re kidding me!” the husband said, feigning surprise.

We only have this conversation, oh, I don’t know, maybe….every single time he puts the top down, save for the 60 days between July 1 and the end of August.  This was still April.

“No, I’m not kidding,” I said, as I crossed my arms and tried to squeeze away the goosebumps.

“Well, here — turn the heat on.”

The husband reached for the dashboard, snapping the temperature knob toward the wide end of a red arc that framed the right side of the dial.  The most extreme of the heat variants, I noted.  He then twisted the little vents toward me, forcing a blast of hot, dry air in my direction.

This is what he always does when I say that I am cold in his top-down car.

The heat, as I expected, began to do weird things to my skin.  I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks, as the tip of my nose and the tops of my ears started to tingle.  My make-up, which had gone on effortlessly just 30 minutes before, was now congealing; every pore and fine line threatened a push to the surface. Lush, black eyelashes slowly morphed into scary, clumpy spider legs.

The full success of my “look” hinged on perfect hair and make-up distracting from the possibility of a puffy gut.  I could sense my plan slowly unraveling.

And, despite the assault of heat that roasted my face, 90 percent of me was still freezing.  The cold air that hung above our heads worked its way around my shoulders and down the back of my neck.

This was no solution, but a nonsensical effort to keep the top down at all costs.

“[Husband’s name]!” I said, trying not to yell.  “You know I hate that.”

I quickly flipped closed the slats on each air vent and snapped the temperature control back to “OFF.”

This is what I always do when he tries to keep me from being cold in his top-down car.

“Baby, this is silly — if you’re cold, put the heat on!” the husband insisted, as he once again reached for the temperature knob.

Now normally, I’m not one to mince words.  I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and there is no in-between.  No dancing around the subject, or sulking quietly waiting for the husband to intuit exactly what it is that I am expecting of him.

But for some reason, I was — in this one moment — kind of waiting for him to offer up what I knew would be a sacrifice without me having to ask for it.  I was waiting for him to graciously relent, but not act like he was relenting (hence the “gracious” part).  I was waiting for him to care more about my comfort than his need to play like Crockett and Tubbs.

I was waiting for him — just this once — to put the damn top up without it involving such unnecessary back-and-forth.

At the first stop sign, I turned to him and glared at the side of his face.

I know he felt it.  He pretended not to.

“[Husband’s name],” I said.  “Can you please just put the top up?”

“You want the top up?” he asked, his eyes darting from side-to-side, as he tried to busy himself on a scout for cars that weren’t even coming.

“Are you kidding me?”  I asked.  “Uh — yeah, I want the top up.  You know I always want the top up when it’s cold.”

And, then, the kicker:

“Baby, I didn’t know you were cold!”  he said.

A strained silence hung all about.

Sensing my agitation, he corrected himself, slightly.

“I mean, I didn’t think it was cold out.  But, if you’re really that cold….alright.  You want me to put the top up?”

I marinated in the subtle emphasis on “you’re” and “that,” as well as the continued effort to keep things his way by ending with a question that he already knew the answer to.  I guess he figured he still had a fighting chance.

Agitation was now edging toward anger.

“You should have just told me you wanted the top up.  See — here it goes….I’m putting the top up.”

The husband forced a neutral face as he pushed whatever button needs to be pushed in order to maneuver the black canvass from crinkled accordion arm to smooth, respectable roof.

I should have been pleased, but I wasn’t that pleased, really.

See, I knew this mildly tense exchange had just set the tone for a moderately tense drive.  No doubt some unexpected traffic was gonna up the tension ante.

Plus, I now had to execute some beauty first aide in a moving stick-shift car.  Negotiating a mascara wand to effectively groom the spider legs — without putting an eye out — as the husband shifts it into high gear would be no small feat.

And, frankly, I was a little steamed that the whole thing had to even come to this in the first place.

Sitting there in the passenger seat, I assessed the damage in the visor mirror.

Ew. 

I was warm, but at what price?

Suddenly, I became very aware of my stomach.  What earlier seemed nothing more than a minor problem easily rectified by some strategic sucking in, now seemed a huge problem, completely insurmountable.  I could feel it — all gross, and blah-like, and pushing up against the fabric of my dress.

I wanted so badly to start up a fight.  Sometimes it’s the only way to exorcise the demons.

But I knew I couldn’t.  The evening would for sure be ruined.

So I sat there, and let my splotchy skinned, spider-lashed, puffy-gutted self be driven to an early birthday celebration — for me, by the way.  Did I not mention it was my birthday dinner?

As we got out of the car, roaming the parking garage for the stairwell that would lead to the restaurant, my husband seemed surprised to detect a slight aura of “attitude.”

“What’s wrong?” he queried.

I walked a little too fast as he pulled at my hand to force a slower gait.

“Just relax.”

I think we’ll just stop here for now, as the the issuing of an order to “relax” is probably the worst thing that could have come from his lips.

Nothing makes me feel more murdery than any man — most especially the husband — insisting I “relax.”

But that is the stuff of a whole separate post altogether.

Suffice it to say, generous servings of beer and really great food and company helped to soften the earlier blows to my mood.

When we left the dinner, I happily walked in obedient rhythm with the husband, and I was sufficiently “relaxed.”

We had the “good time” I had hoped for.

But, of course, not before first participating in A Typical Saturday Evening Drive On The Verge Of A Good Time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The One Good Thing A Bad Boyfriend Did

A story about the right way for a committed guy to act when in the company of sexually suggestive women:

So, I once dated a guy who, to put it nicely, was not a “good fit” for me.  To put it a little less nicely, this guy was what some in my parents’ generation would call “a bad seed.”  A heavy drinker and a heavy liar, this guy was the root source of so much unnecessary angst at a time when I should have been angst-free.

I chose to submerge myself in all his bad drama, though, so the precious time wasted was no one’s fault but my own.

Besides, I don’t really want to focus on all the yucky, gross things that happened.  I want instead to focus on one very, very good thing that happened.  Because, there was one good thing, and it was so good, it has helped to soften some rough edges, leaving me with a slightly better memory of him than I otherwise would have had.

That’s how good this one thing was.

Here’s the story:

So, this boyfriend had a sister who worked in an industry that put a lot of emphasis on a woman’s ability to sell her sexuality.  That’s a figurative statement, by the way, lest anyone get the completely wrong idea here.  Anyway, his sister was forever bringing home girlfriends who were schooled in the art of “being hot.”  They were all perfectly tanned and perfectly toned and every single one of them seemed to know just the right way to cock their head so as to expose the jugular without sacrificing a very calculated doe-eyed gaze.

Being that I was in college at the time, I had grown accustomed to a uniform of pajama bottoms and ratty sweatshirts pulled from the boyfriend’s dirty laundry pile.  I wore my hair in a sloppy knot of tangles, usually secured to the back of my head with a strategically maneuvered pencil (remember that trick?).  I rarely wore make-up during the day, but I always wore my glasses, which did little to help my cause.  Think less Lisa Loeb and more Ben Franklin.  I know — yikes, right?

Because both the boyfriend and his sister still lived together at home, it was not unusual for the whole cast of us characters — me and the boyfriend, the boyfriend’s sister and her beautiful friends — to have to share space and interact more than I would have liked.  I cannot tell you how many times I sat — in the sweatpants and the tangled pencil hair and the Ben Franklin spectacles — huddled under an afghan on the sofa watching Supermarket Sweep or some other nonsense, when the sister and her friends would walk in.

“Hey, sweetie!” the sister would chirp, presenting herself to everyone in the room.

Oh God, here we go.

“Oh, hey,” I’d respond hesitantly, working to rearrange the afghan in a more complimentary configuration.

“Hi” a chorus of even chirpier voices would call out from behind the sister.

I’d then look up again to acknowledge two or three cohorts with varying degrees of exposed cleavage.

Damn it, I’d think as I did a slow count of ten before casually turning my head to assess the boyfriend’s level of interest in the scene.

Please, please let him not be looking too long. 

Often times, as far as I could tell, he did a pretty good job of pretending not to notice all the sex in his face.  And for that, I was relieved.

But there was this one time he did me one better.  There was this one time he did more than just pretend to ignore.  And for that, I was truly grateful.

The boyfriend and I were in the kitchen fixing a feast of odds-and-ends garbage food.  I’m pretty sure we were about to settle in for a Supermarket Sweep marathon, so of course, I was wearing the sad-sock uniform, Ben Franklins and all.

I vividly remember standing side-by-side — he, jostling a frying pan over high heat, I, separating slices of Velveeta Singles — when the sister walked in with a friend.

“Hey, guys, wat’cha doin’?”

The boyfriend and I turned around to greet his sister, who was standing next to her most vampiest of friends.

Oh, no….her?  Great.

There this girl stood, in micro shorts and a deep V-neck top, her back perfectly arched to grant two enormous breasts center stage.

“Hey, y’all,” cooed the vampy friend, who I am completely convinced was always faking a slightly Southern accent.

Sensing she had made an effective entrance, this girl proceeded to prance — literally prance —  past the sister to position herself in the middle of the room, the fluorescent-bulbed ceiling fixture now her makeshift spotlight.

And there she stood, just begging us all to bask in her glory as she drew her hands to her hips and twisted her core from side-to-side in a phony fidget.  With each sway she seemed to be teasing, “Look at me…” swish “Look at me….” swoosh “Look at me….” swish.

The display was so ridiculous it would have been less jarring if she had just come out and asked the boyfriend if he wanted her outright.

I leaned my back against the counter and crossed my arms over my chest.  I tried to make a point of maintaining eye contact with this girl — like an animal in the wild choosing fight over flight in the face of danger.  My cheeks burned and my heart started to race, but I was gonna hold my ground.

So there we all were.  All four of us in the kitchen amidst a very awkward moment of silence that begged the question: Now what?

And then, to my pleasant surprise, the boyfriend reached his arm out toward me and drew me close to his side, where he held me tight as if to answer, “Here’s what.  I chose her (me).  I don’t chose you (vamp).”

Then, wiping his eyes away from his would-be pursuer, he addressed only his sister, casually asking her where their mother kept the spices we’d need for our meal.

An undeniable slam — so hard, I think this girl could actually feel it.

It was played so well that it matched the exact scenario I would have whipped up in my head had I ever been asked how I’d want a guy to handle a situation like this one.

The vamp was forced to morph the swishy-swooshy movement into a playful half-dance over to the fridge, where she buried her head in an overly concentrated search for a beverage.

I secretly hoped she was waiting for the tears in her eyes to recede.

The boyfriend continued to engage his sister,  further erasing the friend from the script.  Within moments, both girls left the room, and then the house.  The boyfriend and I went back to our feast making in silence.

This was not the only time I have been forced to go up against such a challenge.  Every now and then, some girl will dare to tread where she doesn’t belong — beyond that unspoken boundary that separates friendly from too friendly.  And men should know that it is their job to shut. it. down.  And fast.  There is nothing worse than letting another woman think she’s “got it” over the girlfriend or the wife.

I doubt too many guys read this blog, but to those who do, take a lesson: The worst guy I dated did this one thing right, and it was enough to make me remember him (somewhat) fondly.