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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.