“More Cowbell?”

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I can fake my way through an art museum crowd for days.

“Oh yes, I love the depth of this piece too, the way the artist used earth tones to suggest angst.”

And meeting new people is not a problem either.  I could even go pro.  Just ask John.  He is Amy’s boyfriend, and even though I met him in the art museum lobby, by midnight we were like old fraternity brothers on the patio at Hunter-Gatherer, a trendy local restaurant where middle-aged coolio’s mingle with the real thing.

And evidently, I know how to keep two women happy.  Alyson was tired after the museum benefit and wasn’t sure about extending the night further at a bar, but an hour later she was laughing and telling stories like, well, me!  Amy pitched in too, fondly remembering something I said in a sermon…four years ago.  So I was feeling pretty sure about myself last Friday night.

But that is not how tired date number four started.  It’s beginning was not unique.  Actually, it was mundane.  Here goes, my opening line to my wife: “What should I wear?”

Aly and I were a little suspect about the night’s attire.  We didn’t think Contemporary Artist of the Year would be formal.  In my mind, the contemporary artist fashion motif is a mixture of bell bottom terry cloth, itchy Mexican wool and reappointed two-ply Kleenex, of which we aint got.   But after we remembered this is Columbia, SC where the radical ordinary wins the fashion day, we went to the closet for our best tired date outfits.

Aly had an easy choice.  She just happened to pop by Stein-Mart after work and buy a great dress and sweater because all women have the upper hand in date situations.  If men had the upper hand, I would have come home from work and unloaded a new set of bicycle tools before I got ready.  “Yeah honey, I knew we were going out, and I just wanted to have something nice to use when I repack the bearings in the bottom bracket tomorrow.”

But there was really more to my fashion question than color matching.  When I asked Aly “what should I wear,” I wasn’t asking what would make me look good to the museum crowd, or feel better about myself.  Don’t really care.  Much.  What I do care about, and I think this is a safe generalization to make for most married or kept men, is how YOU think I look dear.

I was watching that show where the woman who looks like a rabbi and the guy who wears everything two sizes too small crack jokes about the innocent contestants in the dressing room.  They go on and on about fashion this and fashion that and how clothes make the person…only seen it once or seven times.  But none of that really matters to me.  One clothing choice versus another doesn’t makes that big of a difference to my appearance.  There’s only so much that can be done with rangy and receding.

So as not to confuse the issue next month, since fashion isn’t really the point, when I ask Aly “what should I wear,” what I am really saying is, “I trust you.”

So thanks for that.  And you were right.  My “More Cowbell” t-shirt would not have been good.

Dating tips from ‘The Bachelor’…or NOT!

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I must admit that I am a sucker for the “The Bachelor” on ABC.  I have always thought of the show as a study in 21st Century dating and social order (which may not be a very good sign for the 21st century).  And, as a closet romantic, I always root for a girl that I believe is “right” for the bachelor; hoping that true love will survive the chaos and drama of this tortuous show-it rarely does.

But recently (while planning dates for me and Kev) I have analyzed the “dates” that these couples are sent on.  Here are a few for example; climbing a bridge, repelling off a 30 story building, jumping out of a helicopter into the ocean, zip lining through the rain forest, and flying over the Swiss Alps.  Ok people, have any of you EVER had a date like those?  I mean really?  This “so-called” reality show is NOT reality (I know you all already knew that).  And, to further complicate matters the thrilling, adrenaline producing events that the producers usually put these “daters” in are usually the BIGGEST FEAR for the girl involved-I always thought that was a coincidence.  “Wow, Emily is deathly afraid of heights and the producers set up a date that had her climbing a bridge, what are the odds of that?”  Well, actually I am sure it is all planned.  Studies have shown that emotions felt during intense, adrenaline producing activities can cause people to “think” what they are experiencing is love or at least deep like.  That is why we sit at home and wonder why all these girls have “fallen” for this average guy.  They have experienced the highs of emotional responses while paired with the bachelor and have labeled that emotional high as “Love”.  I know this is not a new concept, but it is certainly why most reality show couples don’t last.  You can’t jump out of helicopters everyday!

What does this have to do with me and Kev dating? Well, I would have to say on the adrenaline producing scale our last date was a 1 out of 10.  We really had a tough time coming up with a good “date”.  We had a gift card to Solstice Kitchen so as a last resort that was going to be the date-not even a movie included.  Vanderbilt happened to be playing its short-lived stint in the NCAA tournament so we decided to watch the game at home and then got to dinner.  Vandy lost-no adrenaline there.  By this time it was about 8:30.  I was ready to put my stretchy pants on call it a night, but No, I had to “dress up” and go out to eat.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to eat at nice restaurants and I always love Kev’s company, but really, 8:30 was just a little too late for this home-body.  Can you just picture THIS date on the Bachelor?  Boy, the viewers would be flocking to see daters going to eat at a restaurant.

Of course our time together was warm, familiar and fun.  We laughed so much that night-I can’t even remember why, but it certainly was a special, intentional time for us to recharge and remember why we are together in the first place.  Sure, we have had our hearts race, butterflies in our stomach and even the occasional adrenaline producing events (like bungee jumping in Destin, FL); but what makes for great relationships (not great T.V.) is finding love and passion in the everyday moments; watching a basketball game, cooking dinner, cleaning out the attic or sitting across the table from one another laughing.

Maybe next month we will repel off of the Capital Center Building….stay tuned.

Beach Couple

Someday that will be us...hopefully

April 2012   Hunting Island, SC                    While trying to capture the essence of a late afternoon at the shore when the sea meets the sky through the sun’s long shadows, I saw this couple in the bottom of the camera frame.  They looked to be at least two decades older than me, and even though they were bit players in the scenery that opened before me, I fixated on their stroll at the waters edge.  I don’t know their story.  I can only assume their relationship.  But the beach has always been a destination that upon arrival fans my imagination.

I think they are dawning upon their fourth or fifth decade of marriage, and judging by their attire, they are not at the beach to tan.  They have stopped at Hunting Island for a night to camp before continuing to Jacksonville in time to see their two grandkids for Easter.  They have never really been a couple of great means.  Decades ago when their kids were small they planned family vacations around tents and campers because it was the most economical way to see the country.  But now, its their preferred accommodation, not because they can’t afford nice hotel environs in their retirement, but because the smell of pine and salt air remind them of their salad days, when their children were small enough to innocently receive the brilliance of a family dinner around a Coleman stove followed by a walk on the beach in time to see pinks and oranges mix with blues and greens forming a day inching toward its night.

They have weathered a few surgeries between the two, and they could both stand to lose a few pounds, but that has been a constant battle that they are now tired of fighting.   They take vitamins, but they still eat the cheesecake when offered. They have been in debt and out of debt and back again, and wasted way too much breath on arguments about money and in-laws and sex and how to correctly load a dishwasher.  He still goes behind her and abruptly nests the bowls and plates in the bottom rack, and she lets him because it makes him happy even in his frustration.

They have a faith, and it is not bound by attendance.  Don’t get me wrong, they were at one time heavy lifters in their parish, and they still attend, but it long ago ceased being about appearance and perfunctory duty.  In this senior season their faith is bound by simplicity.  They like it like that, and they from time to time wonder why they couldn’t feel this way about God when they were younger, and busier.  They don’t care much about being right anymore, and they listen to music now.

So that is who I think they are, or maybe who I hope Aly and I will become. Honestly, they don’t look like they did on their wedding day, and it is foolish to think anyone with their life history would. But they have something. Something I want.  Something I think is attainable, even within reach from where we currently reside at year twenty-three.  They have it.  And “it” is that hard fought victory tested by time and trials and oh so many unmarked trails they have joyfully and sadly wound their life around. But don’t ask me to put a name on it, or a description beyond what I have already attempted.  A good marriage is hard to qualify with a universal definition, but I’ll borrow that famous phrase from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when attempting to describe pornography.  Words often fail an apt description of a good marriage, “but I know it when I see it.”

He looks up the beach and sees a Pelican diving into the surf to catch a Pelican supper.  She is content to watch the Blue Symphony in front of her.  The sun is warm on their backs.  They aren’t tired.  They are mature.  And in the very next instant, he grabs her hand at the same moment she is reaching for his.  “Lets go eat supper.”

And they do.  And it is good.  Good Friday.