By ALEXI VENICE
On Friday night, Bill and I went out for wood-fired pizza and locally-brewed beer. My husband of almost three decades, he looks younger than I do in this photo despite the fact that he’s four years older. (Guess no one will be mistaking me for a trophy wife. On the other hand, I call dibs on Bill being my trophy husband.)
The atmosphere was casual and light in the nearby brew pub. Surprisingly, we were surrounded by people mostly our age—middle 50s—in the rustic, but upscale, setting. This observation initially made me suspicious–like maybe the prices were going to be too high and the quality too good. (Will the pizza be greasy enough for me? Will the atmosphere be too stiff and formal?)
I like to refer to our demographic (50’s and 60’s) as the “Cialis and Celebrex Crowd,” because men our age apparently need pharmaceutical assistance in getting, and maintaining, a hard-on; and we women apparently need a pill for staying bendy and flexible. (I assume that those of you who regularly read my posts and books have figured out by now that I’m very bendy and flexible au naturel! I don’t need pills for that. Plus, I think the commercials for Cialis and Celebrex are insane–sitting in his and hers claw foot tubs! Outdoors! Side-by-side! The thought of it! If he’s taking a pill, he’s in the tub with me and we’re in a private setting.)
Anyway, we were basking among our CCC in their winter hats and expensive jeans and flannels, looking hip and feeling young. (When I say “expensive,” I don’t mean a Melania Trump $1300 Balmain flannel. I mean a Stormy Kromer flannel on sale.)
We had a couple of beers and a homemade pizza (not greasy enough for me), while maintaining a low banter about our work lives, our adult-daughter’s life and our disabled dog’s recent brush with an infected dewclaw. We gossiped about politics, still in a state of shock and disbelief that you-know-who is actually our president, and still wishing we had someone like Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, as our leader. (Shout out to Justin here: Make your move, man. Annex the United States. The time is right. We’re ripe for the picking. We’re desperate and vulnerable. Take us.)
Bill toasting his beautiful wife. He looks so reasonable, happy and equable, don’t you think? (Don’t be fooled. It’s a clever disguise.)
One of the activities that binds Bill and me is building stuff together. Not by ourselves—like Chip and Joanna—but by designing something for a professional to build for us. Bill can do the prep work—laying a foundation or digging holes for pilings, but a full-time carpenter is needed to construct the actual woodshed, deck, boathouse or pergola. Bill could if he had the time, as evidenced by his substantial biceps below. Here’s a security cam pic of Bill landscaping at our lake cabin.
I know, right?! Judging by his baggy jeans, I’d say he’s half the man I once knew. (Thank goodness he only lost his butt and not his biceps.)
So, ensconced in warm, rustic surroundings at the brew pub, our flirtation over pizza and beer morphed into a spirited discussion over the construction of a theoretical brick pizza oven. Then, we fell into a disagreement. You’ve seen it happen to couples out dining—the dreaded buzzkill of strained words and steely stares over dinner in public. In public! Where you can’t raise your voice or say what you’re really thinking, or use your go-to profanity that’s become a not-so-silent partner in your marriage. (Oh, trust me, we can spew forth a steady stream of scurrilous epithets and profanities with the best of them.)
The heated tension of a quarreling couple makes everyone uncomfortable. From a distance, you know the argument is over a trivial matter that the couple should forget. But, when it’s you, you can’t drop it. Your point is the biggest point in the world at that moment in time, and there’s no way you’re going to pivot 180 degrees and suddenly agree with your lover! Beer does not help pivoting. Pizza does, but unfortunately, we were consuming both.
My point, long since forgotten and stupid at the time, was that I thought the foundation for the brick oven should be laid within an existing, circular, brick area. Bill, on the other hand, was adamant that a new foundation should be created for the brick oven a few feet away.
Boom! Enter sparks, flaring nostrils and squinted eyelids! I stuck to my position, and he dug in his heels over his. It’s not like we were negotiating world peace through the reduction of nuclear missiles, but what we had to say was IMPORTANT! This heated argument took on Superbowl-sized proportions–setting us up for a clear winner and loser. (I know many of you know Bill, and will automatically take his side because he’s such a gentle, reasonable man. I don’t blame you because, well, I can be a bit of an *@#, and my verbal skills are superior to his, so it’s technically not a fair contest.)
Admit it, we’ve all been there, even grabbing the car keys and bailing on our spouse, leaving him or her in the dust. A friend of mine recently did this–bailed on her husband and drove away–only to discover she had his car keys with her when she got home. He was stranded at their lake house an hour away. Worse than a walk of shame, she had to drive an hour back to their lake house—on a Monday morning—to return his keys!
Like a good husband should, however, he apologized for being a belligerent dickhead as soon as she arrived. (Sorry to use a general term that applies to so so so many of that gender, but it’s based on factual evidence and behavioral patterns forged over the course of many centuries.) As soon as he apologized, marital harmony was restored.
Back to my story. After all, this is a blog about me, not my unnamed friend (Hi Kate!) and her husband (George) who have a house on Lake Holcombe. Something new happened during my heated debate with Bill over pizza that night. I was distracted by the veins in his thick neck pulsing with life while he made his point, and how the gold chain resting on his tan skin—in memory of a loved one—shimmered through the opening of his collar.
And, I was again attracted to him. Attracted like I had been when we met in our 20’s. That slice of exposed skin between his neck and shirt collar was so delectable—like the allure of a pizza slice–that I wanted to kiss it. (Okay, that’s going too far and getting a little gross. I don’t want to make you puke. Erase that analogy.)
(Here’s what I’m talking about, though. Bill making pizza dough a few months ago at the lake. See the neck, ladies? See the neck? Fine, maybe it’s about the hands. See the hands?!)
In that instant of me lusting after Bill’s neck, it didn’t matter what was coming out of his mouth, I was hopelessly attracted to that narrow swath of masculine skin.
How could that be? How could the flexing of his neck undo me in the middle of a disagreement? And, should I have resisted my attraction to make my point or gone with my attraction to make my night? (I pledge you to secrecy. You cannot tell Bill that he possesses this powerful weapon that annihilates me.)
After almost three decades of being with this man, I decided to go with my attraction to make my night. To hit the “reset button” because I love him. The other stuff doesn’t matter. Well, staying bendy and flexible matters, but other than that…