Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Shape of my heart

The first boy I ever adored was named Jeffrey. I was twelve, and he was a tiny slip of a boy with smooth looking skin and long eyelashes. Word got around, as it tends to do in seventh grade, and to my great delight Jeffrey asked me to take a walk with him at our upcoming weekend school retreat. This was a big deal at my religious elementary school, and a bigger deal to me, who lived most of my early adolescent life behind Paula Danzinger books and Sally Jessy Raphael glasses. The biggest deal was the way he asked me. He took me outside our science fair and presented me with two soap hearts, which he had made at someone's "how to make soap" booth. I was floored, absolutely ecstatic, my own heart racing with the romance of it all. But alas, poor little Jeffrey developed "inflamed lungs" (I will never forget the diagnosis) and had to miss the retreat. I was without a date to walk with once Saturday afternoon rolled around and I caught the attention of the class slacker artist, a hottie with great hair and a bad attitude. I was suddenly smitten and he would prove to be enamoured of me for as long as the walk lasted. Once I got home, I shelved Jeffrey's hearts far away, along with any interest in a "nice" boy for the decade that followed. Until I met my husband.

A and I met after we had both been battered by the "not good enough for yous". On our first date, we smoked Ultra Lights and discussed our most recent affairs of the heart. He had a seven year toxic relationship that he could not seem to kick, and I waa dating my umpteenth emotionally unavailable attorney. I was charmed by A's goodness, and finally ready to receive it, to be good to myself. Thankfully, he was too.

In our years before kids, it was easy to lavish the love on each other, to celebrate every occassion with great fanfare, to spend dinners staring dreamily at each other and reveling in our luck. Now, while our love has grown, our time has shrunk. Where we used to hold hands, someone is pushing a stroller or carrying piggyback. Where we used to share long tales of each other's day, we are interrupted by shrieks of "mommy!" or "milk" or just plain "aiiiieeee!" In many ways, we are living the Cliffs Notes version of romance.

It is important to feel courted, regardless of gender, but most importantly for women. My father, despite limited comfort in sharing emotions, readily showers my mother with gifts. When he travels internationally, he spends hours at perfumaries, inhaling coffee beans in between whiffs of various crystal bottles, trying to find the best scents. He buys her bananas, her favorite breakfast staple, before she has time to notice they are gone. He arranges her vitamins in the shape of a smiley face. He used to shop for clothes for her, until she put her foot down, down hard on a crazy Norma Kamali number that included a swimsuit that he believed was a blouse. And she has purses so extravagant with names that are totally lost on her. For their thirtieth anniversary, he proposed again, with a huge Tiffany diamond, the kind where you always wonder "who actually buys these"? I suggested he go to the diamond district, and he scoffed. "There's just something about Tiffany's", he said. And he's right.

I am a believer that actions speak louder than words. It's not the diva in me, it's the romantic in me. It's not about how much you spend, but about the thought -- the steps you take to really consider what a person would enjoy. Women often will say, "Oh, I don't need anything, really." I believe this is bad practice. I think a woman should be courted forever, and sometimes, this means getting creative, spending more than you anticipated, and doing instead of saying. For my recent birthday, my sister later told me that A sent her frantic emails, with subject lines like RUNNING OUT OF TIME - NEED IDEAS and HOW ABOUT A SPA PACKAGE? She told me that he was thoroughly stressed about the best way to celebrate me. He knows what I want, and you can't find it online. I want planning and plotting and attention to detail. I want active listening, noticing what I notice in others. It all shows that you care enough to still want to thrill me. I believe that woman should always assert her worth, or else she will be offered far less. If that makes me high maintenance, so be it. Because whether the heart is made of soap or gold, when the love is there, it is worth sharing.

32 Comments:

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You hit that nail right on the head. However, the man that will do that, I believe, is a rare species. If you find one, hold on tight.

 
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