Thursday, January 12, 2012
Of all the joys that matrimony brings -- companionship, security, and bedtime spooning -- the thing I like best is this: I don’t have to wear a bra in the house.
Along with dumping tight undergarments when at home, I’ve let my once-black, then-hennaed, hair go gray; swapped contact lenses for bifocals, and replaced high heels with gym shoes.
It wasn’t always thus. In my first marriage, I remained glamorous for a spouse who deemed casual wear a rebuff. And in the eight years between the ending of that union and my marriage in 1998, I donned camouflage I deemed essential to survive the dating wars.
A bit of history of that pathetic time: Before searching for males or enlisting friends to fix me up, I updated my cosmetics and hair color, shopped Victoria’s Secret and Nordstrom’s shoe salon, and fortified my then 54-year-old ego for the possible trauma that lie ahead.
After several experiences with single men who failed to see my potential -- despite the costuming and overhaul, I marched on. For although I was enjoying my furlough from the rules and regulations of my marriage, I wanted a steady companion like my friends had. I hated being a third wheel when dining with friends, or the single relative minding the purses while couples swung on the dance floor.
So, I wrote this ad for the Personals: “DJF seeks widowed or divorced JM, 55-65, health-oriented, gray-hair, with grown children. Should be financially secure, college educated, a city dweller, and early riser. Reads NYT, listens to NPR, and watches Masterpiece Theater. Loves dogs, jazz, Stephen Sondheim, and ethnic restaurants.”
When I first met Tommy – on the street where I lived, not through the ad – I realized my preferred profile would need alteration. While his age, marital status, and most indulgences were on target, some key requirements were missing. Tommy was not Jewish, never went to college, was childless, lived on a very limited budget, and his hair – what remained – was brown.
I put aside the profile, and decided instead to be flexible – and to leap. That’s how I came to discover these attributes: Tommy was friendly, kind, curious, intelligent, and self-reliant. He was a superb athlete, a life-giving gardener to my pathetic plants, and handy around the house.
We dated, and after two years began to discuss marriage. Three close friends, who have elected to remain unmarried to their long-time partners, questioned my sanity: “Why mess up a good thing? You’ll lose your independence. Why do you want to be a wife again?”
How to explain the feeling that marriage was appropriate for us? “Boyfriend” sounded silly at 60; “partner” too business-like. “Husband.” just right. Both of us wanted to wrap our commitment to each other with bands of gold.
We considered possible dates and sites for a big wedding celebration, but instead of waiting, decided to turn a weekend in Las Vegas, already on the calendar, into a marriage ceremony and intimate wedding party.
On January 13, 1998 in the Wedding Chapel of the Treasure Island Hotel, with 16 people watching, my two daughters escorted Tommy down the aisle to a tape of “I’m Glad There Is You” sung by jazz great Johnny Hartmann.
A heartfelt ecumenical minister – who didn’t look a bit like Elvis – performed the ceremony; and in keeping with Jewish tradition, my Gentile Tommy raised his just-married right foot to smash a napkin-wrapped wine glass.
Recently in this 2012 year, as Tommy lay intertwined on the couch with our dog, I asked: “Did it ever bother you that I stopped dying my hair after we met, or that I don’t dress sexier around the house?”
He put down the remote, wrenched his eyes from the TV and focused on me. Once in his line of sight, Tommy appeared as someone who had just discovered his ice cream was really frozen yogurt -- not disappointed, just surprised.
Before picking up the remote and returning to a “Law and Order” re-run, he raised both hands in a thumbs up signal, which I interpreted as, “No, honey, you’re perfect just the way you are.”
Happy Anniversary to Tommy and me!