It was time to leave for my annual dinner at Marzano with my long-suffering husband, and I was completely unable to get dressed.
So to avoid confusion, this is the same husband who, seventeen years ago, endured my oaths while I tried, and failed, to bring our oldest daughter into the world. Friends, it was grisly. This is also the same one who sees me, every morning, in a green bathrobe that would drive a weaker man to drink or mistressing. Why did I care how I looked for this birthday dinner? Don’t worry – I am not really asking that question.
Of course I care, everyone knows I care, because everyone cares. It’s a common misconception, perhaps foisted on us by every form of media, that women dress for men. Sure, that happens, but often we dress for ourselves. I’m not opposed to curb appeal; I wanted him to have a pleasant view across the table, but mostly it was my own vanity and grumpiness dictating the three costume changes.
Finally, clothes on and weathered curls (see Birthday) corralled with products and swear words, I was out the door. I threw a lipstick* and wallet in my purse; unfortunately, at the last minute, I forgot to toss a good mood in there.
But on the drive to Parkland, I recalled another evening (perhaps also a birthday when I was dour?) when he said this, “You’re just hungry,” Eaters, that’s brilliant. Let’s throw some food at this.
I lean pretty vegetarian, and was prepared to do the same on my birthday. It didn’t turn out that way, so some of you may need to avert your eyes.
We split an appetizer: bruschetta with goat cheese, onion jam, prosciutto chips and microgreens. It was suffused with rosemary, an herb that tastes wintery and that I love having at this time of year.
And then, because he’s a genius, he asked me about three of my favorite topics: my friends, travel, and travel with my friends. I’ve said before that people love to talk about themselves. Apparently, I am also people.
The Caesar we split was crispy and neither under, nor overdressed – a pleasing rarity. The pasta carbonara was silky and tasted like something you might request before being executed. The blood orange tart had a buttery pistachio crust.
This was all lovely and satisfying (and not overly filling, since we took half of our dessert and entrees home) but the real joy was my dinner companion. He was willing to reach into a pit of writhing snakes and pull me forth, out of my dark mood. It took awhile, but the man was like Christopher Robin tugging a chunky Winnie the Pooh through that hole. Pop! I came through.
I won’t say my cheer lasted through the night, (hey, the blues can be sticky!) but that doesn’t mean I won’t forget his exertions. I never cease to be amazed by the power of perseverance in our relationships.
We are often helplessly, but hopefully, saying “Don’t give up on me,” without uttering a word. We can’t say it, because beside it sleeps the silent question, “Will you?” and we don’t want to wake it.
It takes imaginative grit to see someone as you know they can be. To keep calling another person forth, reminding them of who they are – across many birthdays and dinner tables – is a quietly joyous surprise.
*Lipstick shade was “Vixen” by ZuZu. This name tested better with focus groups than “Wife,” or “Midlife Crisis Burgundy.”