Friday, February 22, 2008
Our wedding anniversary is next week. MY WIFE and I were married on February 29th, 1992. Yes, on Leap Day. Would you have expected something saner? We will have been married 16 years next Friday. Of course, since we were married on Leap Day, this will only be our 4th anniversary.
Many people - mostly women - get all bent out of shape concerning this. They ask us when we celebrate our anniversary when it's not a Leap Year; February 28th or March 1st? Our answer is that we don't celebrate it at all when it's not a Leap Year. Upon hearing that news, they get a look on their faces as though we just told them we like to eat our own feces.
We truly don't mark the occasion in any way except during a Leap Year. And, before you get all up in my grill, saying that it's just like a man to screw his wife out of a yearly celebration, let me assure you that it was a mutual decision. As a matter of fact, MY WIFE was the one who originally suggested February 29th be the date for our wedding. Stuff like that is why I love her, of course. The fact that she was almost certain that I'd agree to it no doubt is part of the reason why she loves me.
Since our anniversary is celebrated only once every four years, we generally try to do something big. We don't just have dinner and exchange cards. We take a trip of some sort and try to do something interesting or quirky. More on this next week.
In the meantime, as prelude to next week's postings concerning love and other irrational behaviors, here is the story of how I met MY WIFE. Some of you have seen it before. That's your tough luck. I've edited it slightly, removing a couple of paragraphs that would make little sense now - stuff that referenced blog postings from the original publication period. Unlike the original posting, which was spread out over three days, this time there are handy links to get you to parts two and three immediately.
THE SHISH-KEBOB INCIDENT
I met MY WIFE in the time-honored sitcom tradition. I was set up on a blind date with her. The blind date was set up by my mother.
There's a whole bunch more backstory than I'm going to give you here, but in the interest of saving time (and preserving my sanity) I'm only going to give you the bare bones.
I had been in a hideous on-again off-again relationship, for some ten years, with a woman who might have made someone a marvelous wife but certainly not me. I look back on things now and I realize that I was certainly as much to blame for the relationship not working as she was. We were both pretty horrible to each other at times. We had so many differences in tastes, culture, religion, upbringing, and on and on, that a blind man could have seen that we weren't meant for each other. We had both been together so long, though, that we didn't know what else to do.
That's basically true. We did a lot of things together that we really liked, but when we had nothing else to do, we spent hours arguing over tremendously petty things. You don't do that if you really love someone. We had some good times because you don't stay together ten years or so without having some good times. Most of the time, though, she was unhappy that I wasn't willing to make our arrangement more permanent and I was unhappy that it was as permanent as it was. Getting married to her was something I did not want to do, and it seemed to me that was all she wanted to do, at least for a while there. And I felt more and more trapped as time went on.
As a result of my feeling trapped, I indulged in a whole bunch of stupid behavior. I took boatloads of drugs and drank like a fish. Not that I wouldn't have done some drugs, anyway, but I pretty much didn't care if I offed myself for a while there. I put so much coke up my nose, it's a wonder I still have one.
I'll tell this story at length some other day. The thing you need to know right now is that a whole bunch of my ex's childhood friends had moved to Florida a few years previously. She went down there for a visit at the beginning of December. She was supposed to return in time for Christmas.
I got a "Dear John" letter three days before Christmas.
The funny thing is that I had cleaned up my act some six months previous. I had gone cold turkey off of cocaine. I stopped drinking completely. The only vice I still had was cigarettes and she smoked, too, so that wasn't a problem. I was completely sober and acting like a responsible adult for the first time in years. And that's when she decided to dump me. Maybe being sober was the problem. I know I'm a totally different person sober as compared to wasted. Maybe she fell in love with the wasted Jim and the sober one wasn't as much fun. Or maybe she needed someone who could share getting wasted with her, since she wasn't averse to getting lit up like a Christmas tree, either. Could be.
Anyway, she did what I didn't have sense enough to do myself and I thank her for that. She could have done it in a nicer fashion, but it was what we both needed. Hell, I probably would have sent her a letter, too, if I had hooked up with someone else.
To say that it was a shock would be an understatement of enormous proportion. I had already completed my Christmas shopping for her. I was expecting her home any day. When I got the letter, I assumed it would be telling me her travel plans. In a way, I guess it was.
I went through the holidays in a daze. As much as I knew our relationship wasn't headed anywhere good, we had been together for a looooong time. It was not unlike going cold turkey from a hard drug. I know because I had experienced that just a few months back.
I felt real sorry for myself and entered into a pretty deep depression. I was overweight and had already lost much of my hair, so I had serious doubts concerning my ability to attract another woman. I became fairly unstable mentally.
One side effect of the depression I entered into was that I got into the best shape of my life. I ate nothing, and I mean nothing. I subsisted on coffee, milk and vitamins. I had no appetite at all, but I was smart enough to know I needed nutrients of some sort, so I took the vitamins. And I walked miles and miles every day, just trudging along through the streets of Milton, Mattapan and Dorchester - probably looking like a lunatic to other folks, since I was talking to myself half the time.
After about three weeks of no eating and much walking, I had dropped 20 pounds and I started to come out of my funk. I went on a couple of dates with women from the office I worked in at the time. It was fun, and they were nice, but they weren't what I was looking for. What was I looking for? I didn't really know, but I knew I'd know it when I saw it.
And this is where my mother comes in.
My Mom knew the tough time I had had of it. She also knew me. Moms know you; that's the way it is. So, she said that she had someone in mind who might be just right for me. I was up for another date, if nothing else, so I said sure. So she set up a blind date with a friend of hers from church.
I should explain that my mother's friend was over 20 years younger than she was, lest you think MY WIFE is as old as my mother. Not that my mother is ancient, it's just, um, er ...
(Man, they'll both be reading this and there is just no way out of that sentence. I'll be getting it from someone.)
There was a Valentine's Day dance at my step-father's club. My Mom invited MY (future) WIFE. And then she invited me. I knew it was supposed to be a blind date, but I had seen pictures and I knew what was coming and I was looking forward to it. However, my mother hadn't told MY (future) WIFE that it was a blind date, per se. She had just invited her to the dance, expecting nature to take its course. And then she sent me to pick her up at the T station and bring her to the club.
MY (future) WIFE - who I think we'll just call MFW from now on to save time - had seen me before. We had both attended my mother's wedding to my step-father. That had been about eight years back. At that time, I had red hair down to my shoulders and I was in a band and looked it. According to MFW, she and her friends had said, "That's Connie's son? Doesn't he realize it's the 1980's?" or something to that effect. She wasn't overly impressed, in any case.
Now, however, I was in great shape and I had shorter hair along with a Van Dyke beard. I had less hair, too, and I was in the habit of wearing a Greek fisherman's cap in those days, so I looked not unlike Nikolai Lenin when I drove up to meet her at Braintree station. Well, I was wearing a suit and tie, and I didn't squint as much, but just go along with it, OK?
She looked exactly as she had looked in the pictures my mother had shown me. She was petite, smiling, well-dressed, and had a heckuva nice rack. She looked nothing at all like Nikolai Lenin.
We made some small talk on the drive back and got along alright. I apologized for looking like Nikolai Lenin and she laughed. She had a sense of humor; that was good.
We got to the club and helped my mother and step-father set up some decorations. That was one pretext they had gotten MFW there on, to help them set up. We exchanged a few more little jokes and polite conversation. As the dance began in earnest, we both sat down and listened to the music.
Turns out this was a big part of our success together. Neither one of us dances. Well, to be honest, I don't dance more than she doesn't dance. She can do it if the need arises. Me? I'm coordinated; I'm somewhat athletic; I have loads of rhythm - I'm a musician, after all - but I can't dance any better than a drunken gorilla, and that's probably an insult to drunken gorillas the world over. So, we sat and talked. We really enjoyed each other's company. We found out we could make each other laugh, a lot.
Early on, while discussing one thing or another, I had told her that I didn't drink. After a while, I started getting a bit nervous because I really wanted this woman to like me, since I liked her so much. I asked her if she wanted something at the bar. She wanted a white wine. I went to get it and got a beer for myself, to steady my nerves a bit. She gave me a bit of an odd look when I came back with the beer and started drinking it. She reminds me of that every so often now. Her memory for those types of things is much better than mine. She reminds me of things like that. And I do the same with her. The important thing is we laugh about them. Some couples get into knock-down-drag-out fights over silly shit like that. We tend to enjoy each other's contradictions.
(One time we were riding the trolley from Ashmont. It was her first time coming to my house in Dorchester. When we were nearing the Central Avenue stop, she suggested I pull the cord to let the driver know we wanted to get off. I said, "Nah, you don't have to pull the cord. Somebody always gets off at Central Avenue." Of course, I always got off at Central Avenue, so of course someone always got off at Central Avenue. It was a totally ludicrous statement. She laughed like hell and still gets a big kick out of that.)
(She said she especially likes it when otherwise really smart people say something that's totally dumb and then don't realize it. I think she was being kind.)
Anyway, the rest of the night went smoothly. I offered to drive her home. She accepted. On the way to her house, I decided to see if we had some more things in common. I asked her if she liked The Three Stooges. Her reply was somewhat less than affirmative. I started to have some doubts about us. I'm the all-time Three Stooges fanatic. I couldn't see how I could get serious about someone who didn't like The Three Stooges. Well, there's some good trivial stuff to base a relationship on. My ex had adored The Three Stooges, so what did that tell me? In any case, that turned out to be just about the last doubt I've ever had about us.
Our first real date, after the dance, has come to be known as the shish-kebob incident. However, that will have to wait. Work to do. Back tomorrow with more mushy stuff.
Go to The Shish-Kebob Incident!