My honeymoon was… fine.

After six months of planning and one epic and well-deserved tantrum aimed Jake’s way, we had a beautiful wedding. What I had assumed would be a day of stress, which I could barely remember, was wonderful. I cherish every moment and if I could live the day before and the day of my wedding over and over again, I would. If you follow my blog at all, you know that I am not a romantic and it was just that perfect. So naturally, to restore balance in the universe, my honeymoon had to be kind of… meh.

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I’ve put off writing this post, because I keep coming back to the same question: what kind of entitled white girl calls a 10 day Alaskan cruise “meh?” I mean, travel is the ultimate goal for millenials. Facebook has told me 15 times this week that I should abandon all my responsibilities and see the world. Why save for retirement, when I might die in a car crash next year? I should spend that money now and see Uzbekistan. What do you mean “Why Uzbekistian?” Why not Uzbekistan?!?!?!

I’ll tell you why not Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan doesn’t have my cat or my little-old-man beagle. I can’t get good service to call my Gramma or download library books from Uzbekistan. If I’m in Uzbekistan, I can’t make an impromptu girls night or swing by the local dairy store for a cup of my favorite frozen yogurt. My own bed is not in Uzbekistan and neither is my favorite Superman mug or my polka dot blanket. I can’t get my favorite donuts in Uzbekistan. You know where I also can’t do these things? Alaska.

For modern newlyweds, the honeymoon is meant as a chance to recharge and reconnect after the stressful wedding planning months. Jake and I were supposed to go on a 10 day Alaskan adventure and have the time of our lives before settling into a routine in our new hometown. I forgot one thing, though.

I am a hometown girl, who thrives off routine.

If it weren’t for this simple, yet undeniable fact, I’m pretty sure I could’ve overlooked the less than perfect details of the aforementioned adventure… like the fact that the only vessel worse than The Grand Princess was used as the setting of the movie Ghost Ship. 

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Regardless of my lack of adventure lust, there is no scenario in which I wouldn’t have been frustrated that for eight thousand dollars, I had booked a balcony suite on a 20-year-old ship… literally. The Grand Princess was built in 1998 and only a poster of The Backstreet Boys in our room could’ve made that more apparent. We had a dorm refrigerator, empty save for two bottles of water, that management insisted on calling a “mini fridge” when they charged us $15 for drinking said water, despite having an all-inclusive drink pass. There were only two outlets in the room built before personal devices had become the norm and only one of them worked. The decor, right down to the brand emblem on our television, had faded with time.

838-02482326er Jake and I on our honeymoon.

Princess Cruise Lines took full advantage of the fact that, at least on this cruise, their average passenger age was wheelchair bound by refusing to update their ship, amenities, or entertainment in any way, since I was in the fourth grade. If I were a little more Amelia Earhart and a little less Miss Havisham, perhaps I wouldn’t have cared. I’d simply have lived for the days at port, but for me, one of the things I’d most looked forward to, was enjoying the coziness of the ship, with my husband by my side. It’s the entire reason I chose to book the longer cruise. The cozy part of my honeymoon wasn’t cozy, though… and after six months of wedding planning and moving and new jobs, I really needed cozy. As much as I loved my time with Jake, I couldn’t get over the disappointment that, while I’d planned my wedding day perfectly to the last detail, my honeymoon preparations had left so much to be desired. I hadn’t properly researched the cruise line or put enough thought into how I’d feel spending ten days away from the comforts of home and neither ended up being all that great.

When we were at port, Jake and I did have a wonderful time. We went on a rain forest walk and enjoyed a crab feast in Ketchikan, took an impromptu brewery tour and visited the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, went ziplining for the first time in Skagway, and shopped and saw the sights in Victoria, Canada. The souvenirs we bought were minimal and I took approximately 30,000 pictures, because I did have some wonderful experiences with my new husband. At the end of each one, however, I dreaded boarding what must secretly be the original Titanic, with their terrible, disrespectful management, nonexistent entertainment, blatant overcrowding, and severe lack of kitten and beagle snuggles, quality donuts, and the smell of home.

3e7az The perfect honeymoon.

I didn’t have a miserable time on my honeymoon. I don’t know if I could have a miserable time with Jake. We had our adventures and saw some amazing sights. Whereas Jake had never been on a cruise, though, I have and I couldn’t ignore the fact that we had been ripped off and it was all my fault. The six days on the ship had been just as important to me as the four days at port and they were… well, pretty crappy and left me longing for home. The one time we tried to watch a Movie Under the Stars, we couldn’t hear Avengers: Age of Ultron, over the sound of a construction crew, who I can only assume was frantically trying to keep us from sinking to the bottom of the North Pacific. The only other entertainment options were the casino and a series of sales pitches about the amazing deals on precious jewels just recently discovered in the Alaskan mountains. We spent more time watching movies I’d downloaded on my Kindle Fire than enjoying the “all inclusive entertainment” and it wasn’t half as comfortable as doing it on my own couch.

I’ll just go ahead and confess something that no millennial is ever allowed to admit: I don’t particularly enjoy travel. I’m too much of a homebody and it’s too much of a chore. I don’t like leaving my pets and my king sized bed and my WiFi and my books. I don’t appreciate any part of air travel, especially getting motion sick, with barely enough room to lay my head in Jake’s lap while he brushes my hair aside as I deep breathe. I hate the fear of forgetting to pack something important, only to realize later that I brought far more than I could have ever needed… but I should’ve included my hair dryer. I work in a library, so I worry about bed bugs always. I don’t like spending large quantities of money in just a few days time. I don’t want to stress about whether or not all of my belongings will get home. I really, really, hate Princess Cruise Lines.

Our honeymoon definitely wasn’t horrible. A couple of times, it was even wonderful. Overall, though, I didn’t really get the recharge I needed and I was just so frustrated with myself for spending so much of our money on something that turned out… just okay. We’ll have better vacations and I’m sure we’ll have worse ones, because if travel doesn’t really appeal to me now, I can only dread attempting it with children. We had a dream wedding and that will just have to make up for the fact that our honeymoon was… fine.

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The Romantic Weekend that had Nothing to Do with Valentine’s Day

Jake and I both find Valentine’s Day to be kind of lame. I’m pretty sure Jake has never celebrated it. In fact, the only way I have, in the last several years, is by going to dinner with Gail to reminisce over the infant daughter she lost on February 13, 2010, just weeks before I would’ve had the baby I miscarried. It’s not just a greeting card holiday for me. It’s actually a pretty sensitive time of year, one when I’m quite prone to tears. As timing would have it, though, it was on February 12 that I received my third and final Gardasil shot. After eight months, Jake and I would finally be able to have sex without voiding the $600 I spent to vaccinate myself against his sluttier days. So, more in spite of the faux holiday than because of it, I scheduled five days off, from the 12th through the 16th… and Jake decided to plan a ski trip.

Y’all, recently I’ve admitted that my relationship with Jake is pretty old school. He pays and opens doors. I make him peanut brittle and chat with his mom in the kitchen, while he goes quail hunting on the family ranch. It would never work for Gail, Laura, or Catherine and to each their own. I just love that Jake’s… the boy. I don’t care if that makes me June Cleaver, Samantha Stephens, or Charlotte York. I’m not living my life to make a statement for the modern woman and I’m not real fond of the modern man.

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Specifically, I loathe the tendency modern men have to refuse to make any plans. Every woman knows the conversation.

“What do you wanna do?”
“I don’t care. What do you wanna do?”
“Whatever you wanna do.”

I wanna watch as your testicles descend and you make a fucking decision. That’s what I wanna do.

tumblr_nzgsuslugj1qlvwnco1_500 How was I single for so long?!?!

I come up with plenty of fun ideas. I just don’t want to be the only one doing so. The catch of course, is that when you insist the man make the plan, you have to go with it… entirely. You can’t veto this aspect or that aspect, so my only caveat was that Jake check to make sure our hotel was not on the bed bug registry. With my having no more real information that that, on Friday morning, after I got my shot, we were off!

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The moment we left, Jake declared that we wouldn’t be stopping at all for several hours… and promptly relented every time I had to go to the bathroom. The drive was relaxed as we debated politics, talked about work, gossiped about our friends. Any silences we had were easy and comfortable, despite the fact that Jake doesn’t really listen to music when he drives. Jake humored me as I took photos of everything and told me tales of his previous ski trips, encouraging me not to get too frustrated if I didn’t pick it up quickly. He thought he was being encouraging, anyway. In actuality, he was just insisting over and over again that I’d likely suck at skiing and therefore hate it, continually citing his friend’s wife who got so frustrated that she insisted on walking down the mountain alone. I assured him I’d try and that I was looking forward to it, but was worried that the sport, in general, would cause me back pain.

It was evening when we arrived in Ruidoso, luckily still light out, so we could see the snow on the mountains and find a place to eat. We’d each had a pretty rough week at work, mine having actually involved a hysterical phone call to Jake the night before…

Me: “Could you please pack the pink travel bottles I left at your place?”
Jake: “Yeah. Sure. Are you crying?”
Me: “NO. I just have something in both my eyes!”
Jake: “So, that’s a yes.”

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I told you it’s a weepy time of year for me.

Jake works in the oilfield and he’d just embarked on a trip that cost right around a thousand dollars. He had his own job worries after driving all day and coming off the night shift. By the time we’d eaten and gotten back to the hotel room, we were both exhausted and fell asleep around 8:30, like the party animals we are.

I woke numerous times in the night, unable to sleep because my left shoulder and the left side of my neck were painfully tight and my arm was throbbing from where I’d gotten my shot. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing how many times I got hurt over the weekend and it’s just… not surprising at all.

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The next morning, it finally happened. Yes, yes. I doubled the number of men with whom I’ve had sex… more than that if you want to get into discussion as to what counts as a man… and sex. Not to go into unpleasant amounts of detail, I’ll just say that Jake and I definitely click, sexually. Gail was right and we just continued doing the same things we’ve been doing, only without stopping this time. I barely even worried about what to do with my arms. It was just the perfect amount of comfortably awkward, messy, and emotional. I wouldn’t change a thing.

We spent Saturday procuring skis, ski pants for me (only $45!), and browsing the stores on main street. Jake bought me a souvenir t-shirt and it was the best Valentine’s Day gift I’ll ever get, because that wasn’t his intention at all. He just likes to do sweet things for me. There was only one small theater in town and it looked like it would have folding chairs in the auditoriums, but we decided to see Deadpool anyway.Though we loved it, we agreed we’d never let our children watch it as we made our way back to the hotel room. Jake suggested we get a cab that evening, so we could drink freely and have a ride back to the hotel. Naturally, from that point forward, everything went wrong. 

The cab driver drove us the three miles or so into town, dropping us off at a restaurant we’d both wanted to try. We decided to see some more of the shops while they were still open, making the approximately one mile trip down main street, despite the new boots I was wearing. We headed back, as it started to get cold, and Jake gave me his jacket to wear over mine, since I was in a dress. When we finally made it to our first choice restaurant, we realized they were only filling reservations. In good spirits, we headed to our second choice… which had permanently closed without removing the sign. We made our way to our third choice as my legs began to freeze and my feet thankfully started to go numb.

Finally, we made it to an open restaurant… where the food was meh, the service was terrible, and the company was wonderful. We drank and laughed and I told Jake how my Gramma had hinted that he’d be proposing.

Me: “I assured her that would be terrible, since I’ve told you verbatim that sooner than a year is too soon.”

When he came back from the bathroom, Jake teased that he’d had to catch the waiter and make sure he didn’t put the ring in my dessert. At around 8:30, he went to call the cab driver… who would not answer. At 9:00, after hearing from more than one waitress that the cab company was made up of “assholes,” our only option had become pretty clear. We would be walking back to the hotel, more than three miles away, after having walked two miles already… in the cold, with me wearing new boots and a dress, and completely drunk. Fortunately, Jake was relatively sober, because he quite literally had to drag me that entire three miles.

I’d like some credit for the fact that, for the most part, I didn’t complain. I drunkenly rambled some pretty offensive musings. I laughed about how much walking three miles in brand new heeled boots sucked. I made several dramatic declarations of my pain.

Me: “Okay. So, if I lay on the ground right now, you’re just gonna say logical things about how I’m getting my dress dirty and you’ll insist I get up and start walking. We’ll argue for awhile and then I’ll finally get up. You’ll be annoyed and I’ll be cold and it will just be twenty minutes gone that could’ve gotten us twenty minutes further, won’t it?”
Jake: “Yes. That sounds pretty accurate.”
Me: “Could we do it anyway?”
Jake: “No.”

Me: “MY BOOTS ARE RUINED!”
Jake: “Your boots are not ruined.”
Me: “THEY ARE TOO, BECAUSE THEY’RE FILLED WITH MY BLOOD!”

Me: “JUST LEAVE ME HERE TO DIE!”
Jake: “Keep walking.”

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Towards the end, my feet were hurting so badly, I did start to cry. I was drunk. My shoulder still hurt from the night before and my arm was still sore from that stupid shot. It was 40 degrees. Regardless, Jake pulled me along beside him, refusing to let me rest or take off my shoes and walk barefoot. Not once did he get angry with me. Not once did I blame him for his brilliant cab idea. Finally, we got back to the room and I was able to take off my boots and survey the damage done to my feet. I’m telling you, I looked like a victim of ancient Asian foot binding. It was horrible and we were getting up to go skiing first thing in the morning. Thank God for small favors, though, because the walk in the cold had sobered me up enough that I didn’t have to worry too much about being hungover. It’d be terrible to ski with a headache.

After trying on skis Saturday afternoon, I’d very seriously explained to Jake that he had to stop teasing me for not knowing things he considered common ski knowledge. On this one topic, I didn’t want him to joke with me, because it was making me feel stupid. He apologized and agreed… as he did when we got to the resort and I told him he had to stop telling me how frustrated I was going to be in an hour, because it was ruining my fun.

Overall, skiing was great. Jake was an endlessly patient instructor, never insisting I do something when I told him I was scared or uncomfortable. I realized that the falling, that is so much a part of skiing, didn’t affect my back at all. Bending down to tighten and loosen my skis, however, was a different story, so Jake did this for me approximately 20 times throughout the day. He encouraged me and waited for me and never grew impatient, despite the fact that he can ski a black and I was barely doing the bunny slopes. It was great, but after a couple of hours, I needed a break for my blistered feet, so we ate lunch and I slept with my head on a picnic table while Jake skied some more difficult runs. After an hour or so, Jake came back, convinced I could do the easiest green, so we headed up the mountain.

The day was quite warm, but as the sun set, it was growing colder, particularly higher up the mountain. What I didn’t know was that this meant snow would turn to ice. What Jake didn’t know was that I was serious when I said the lift got off on too high of a slope. Not having much choice, I went for it… gained too much speed and threw my legs out to the side to intentionally fall… and smashed my head into the slope.

I’d hit my head so hard my cap and glasses flew off and my eyes felt like they were swelling. I buried my face in the snow and gripped the back of my skull as I heard Jake telling the guy manning the lift that he thought I’d hit my head. I started to cry and Jake rolled me over, insisting I look at him.

Most of the women I know cherish memories of receiving flowers and jewelry. For me, it’s the little things, like the time I was mostly asleep on Jake’s chest and I felt him pull my glasses off and kiss me on the top of the head. All things considered in the expense of the trip, the gravity of it being our first time, or the notion that it was a “romantic Valentine’s Day getaway,” the most profound moment of that weekend, was when I reflexively turned into Jake’s chest after I hit my head on the ice and he wrapped his arms around me. I don’t even remember what he said to steer me to the side of the slope, but I remember how good it felt as he held me in the snow and I cupped my head and cried from pain and fear, while trying to decide how badly hurt I was. For about 10 minutes, we sat there, until I determined I was okay to ski down. He never rushed me or told me to shake it off. We didn’t speak at all, except when Jake assured a woman that I was okay. I am pretty sure I fell in love with him all over again, on the side of that mountain.

Had I not hit my head, I think the run would’ve been alright. As it was, my eyes were pulsing and I just wanted to lay down in the cold snow to soothe the pain, but I had to get down the mountain. Jake skied directly by my side, the entire time, including when we came to a slope that was both steep and slanted toward a drop off full of trees.

Jake: “I’ll ski to your left and if you start getting too close, I won’t let you fall.”

Now, uninjured, I am pretty sure I would not have been able to complete this run, straight through. Injured, though, I made it less than halfway down this particular path before shouting that I didn’t want to do it anymore, throwing my legs out to the side, and knocking both Jake and myself down. Uninjured, I might have shakily declared I would just walk until it got a little easier. Injured and scared, I panicked and started crying uncontrollably and gripping my head. All the while, I kept flashing to Jake’s story of his friend’s wife, fearing he’d see my freakout in the same light a year from now. I apologized over and over, crying, as Jake told me that it was okay, we didn’t have to hurry, and that I could just sit down for a minute and decide what I wanted to do. Ultimately, I did decide to walk until things got easier, as Jake skied at the same pace I plodded. When I could, I put the skis back on and gave it another shot. Jake was ready to head back to the truck when we got down the mountain. I insisted he go ski a blue or something before we left.

Jake: “I don’t want to leave you hurt.”
Me: “I’ll be fine. Have fun and I’ll hang out at the picnic tables.”
Jake: “Are you sure?”
Me: “Yes. It’s fine. Go.”
Jake: “Well, if you’re sure…”

It’s beyond me why any woman would play this game if she didn’t actually want the guy to go ski. I meant it. I wasn’t angry. I wanted Jake to enjoy a last run before we left, particularly since it didn’t seem likely we’d be back the next day. I thought about asking the first aid center if they’d lend me a cot for a bit, but then I realized what an asshat Jake would look like in that scenario and spent the next 45 minutes perusing the ski shop. We headed down the mountain and Jake made no attempt to make me feel bad for not wanting to ski the next day. I made no attempt to blame him for insisting I could do the run on which I got hurt. We went back to the hotel, showered, changed and made jokes about calling a cab for a ride into town for dinner.

We spent the next day lounging in the hotel room. We watched movies and went in search of an affordable wooden bear souvenir, made with a chainsaw, an apparent staple of Ruidoso. It was the perfect souvenir, as Jake spent the entire trip quoting his best friend Aaron in a silly voice “Ruidoso, home of the wooden bears.” We talked and laughed and I tried not to complain too badly about my still very sore shoulder, feet, and head.

Me: “How old were you when you had your first beer?”
Jake: “Fifteen.”
Me: “What brand was it?”
Jake: ::confused:: “Budweiser.”
Me: “Where were you?”
Jake: ::still confused:: “Camping.”
Me: ::laughing::
Jake: “What?”
Me: “You remember drinking your first beer better than you remember losing your virginity.”
Jake: ::laughing:: “That was a mean trick!”

The next morning, we had our last continental breakfast of sausage and fresh made waffles. We headed out early, since we’d lose an hour on the way back. I knew everyone else would be sad to see the vacation end, but I was just devastated that I’d have to go from spending every day with Jake, back to our usual schedule of once every two weeks. We’d connected so much over the weekend, not just physically, that I couldn’t imagine not waking up to him every day. I’m glad we’re taking our time. This is how you figure out if you want to be with someone forever. I still can’t help but wish we could fast forward to the point when we’re ready for that, though.

Crawfish and Friends

Jake and I had our first weekend away together.

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For a never-married guy, Jake has a weird number of married and engaged friends, particularly since most of them are younger than he is. When we first started dating, he informed me that his last single friend had just gotten married, only to ask after Christmas, if I wanted to go see his friends out of state for an engagement party. Now, coming from the wealthy folk I do, I was picturing h’orderves, at a venue of some sort. Maybe it would be in a barn and the guests of honor would include some lace and burlap, as a shout out to their country roots and Southern locale, but there would definitely be a cello. I’m not being irrational here. My aunt and uncle had an anniversary party just months ago. Just to privately mock him later, I took a mighty pretentious photo of my cousin playing his cello in the corner. Naturally, I was stressing out a bit about meeting Jake’s friends under such formal circumstances. Being a clueless boy, Jake didn’t share, until the week prior, that said engagement party meant beer and crawfish by the lake.

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The respite to my nerves was temporary, though, as I realized that Jake hasn’t introduced a girlfriend to his friends. I mean, sure they knew some of the girls he dated in high school and college, because they were around, but Jake has never taken a girl across states lines to meet his best friends and their wives, ever. This was likely a bigger deal than meeting the parents, because while you can rationalize that your parents are from a different time, your friends often have the exact same priorities and aspirations you do. In Jake’s case, he’s told me quite a bit about his friends’ marriages, the way they relate to their wives and their goals in general, and expressed a pretty clear desire for something very similar. If we didn’t get along, that could be a big conflict. What if they hated me? What if I said the wrong thing? Actually, to reword, what would happen when I said the wrong thing? What if I was too much of a city girl, despite every person I work with thinking I’m too much of a country girl? What if they thought I was after Jake’s money? What if I was too nerdy? Should I wear a dress, like I always do, or would I look too big for my britches, like when I met Jake’s sister in a friggin’ prom dress (not really). Why didn’t I own any t-shirts without things like “Super Librarian” of “Trek Yourself, Before You Wreck Yourself” on them?

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I tried not to think about these things, as I packed, telling myself that they were Future Belle’s problems. That girl has a lot of issues. She could handle one more. The plan was to leave for the three and a half hour drive on Friday, after I got home from work, which was at about 6:45. Jake would already be at my apartment, waiting for me. I wasn’t aware that this would mean that the second I walked through the door, I’d be greeted with only a moment of pleasantries, to be immediately followed by “You got everything packed? You ready to go?” and rushed out the door.  This meant I forgot things, namely my toothbrush and some ibuprofen. Y’all, I don’t get health insurance for another two and a half months. My glasses are almost three years old. I pretty much have a daily headache, when I get off work, because I stare at a computer screen for a living.

Jake and I headed out, quickly stopping by a steakburger fast food restaurant that Jake had been adamant would be amazing, despite my informing him that it was pretty much just fast food. He would not be deterred, being about three times as stubborn as I am, so he ordered while I ran inside to pee, because there was no way he was stopping again, in as much as a hurry as he was… that is, until about two hours later. I tried to play it off, but as the headlights flashed in my eyes, one after the other, I’m pretty sure my brain started to bleed out of my ears.

Me: “I know you don’t want to stop, but I don’t think I can make it. If I don’t get some kind of medicine, I’m not gonna be much fun, when we get there… and I might throw up in your truck on the way.”
Jake: “Is it really that bad?”

I’ve exaggerated my fair share, but it really was. I don’t even think Jake realized this until he pulled into a truck stop and I couldn’t handle the lights long enough to go inside and pee without deep breathing, while he insisted I wait in the truck for him to buy some Aleve (awww). Fortunately, by the time we got to the house, where we were staying, I was no longer near tears. Jake and I walked in together and Jake, despite his many wonderful qualities, completely neglected to introduce me. I was a little uncertain, at first, until three women started hugging me. Apparently, Jake has been quite chatty.

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Mindy: “I’m a hugger. I just have to give you a hug!”
Me: “Hi. I’m Belle. I’m sorry we’re so late. I didn’t get off of work until 6:00.”
Hailey: “You’re a librarian, right?”
Aaron: “Jake, you didn’t even introduce her. Be a better boyfriend.”

We sat at a table, where there was clearly a drinking game in progress… I was pretty sure. I’d never played a drinking game, unless you count the one where I’d see how quickly I could finish my paper after taking three shots of everclear, to hide from my marriage. I also didn’t announce this, so three gold stars for normal socialization skills!

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These people were so friendly. I was a little worried that the women might be catty or at the very least, a little exclusive, since I was an outsider. I knew it was unlikely Jake would put up with people who practiced the former, but it was equally unlikely he’d even notice the latter. As we chatted and shared embarrassing Jake stories, though, I didn’t feel excluded at all. The girls and Jake explained the drinking game to me and didn’t pressure me to drink the entire bottle of beer when it was my turn to do so. We shared stories and told jokes, until finally Haley interrupted to announce…

Haley: “I’m sorry, but it’s just so weird to see you touching him.”
Me: “What?”
Callie: “I know! I thought that when he had his hand on her back as they walked in!”
Me: “What are you talking about?”
Haley: “Jake hates to be touched. He won’t even hug us. Did you not see him duck out of the way when he came in?”
Me: “Seriously? He’s the touchy feely one!”
Jake: ::scoffing:: “I am not.”
Me: “You hugged me on our first date. I remember, because I thought you were really sweaty.”
Jake: “What? I wasn’t sweaty.”
Me: “It was June, you were so. You’re the snuggler in this relationship. You pretty much lay on me when we sleep.”
Mindy: “When you were touching his beard, I thought that must be driving him crazy.”
Me: “Well, if it is, it’s been doing so for a while, because I do it all the time.”

His friends weren’t only really nice, but they were also funny. They’ve known each other since the beginning of time and had dozens of stories about growing up in a small town and going to college together. I could tell why Jake hung out with him, particularly because they had such similar senses of humor.

Me: “He thinks it’s hilarious to use his Bane from Batman voice, when we’re fooling around.”
Mindy: “Ugh. Aaron does the same thing! He pretends I’m a Russian prostitute.”
Aaron: ::stereotypical Russian accent:: “Prostitute. Get on the bed.”

This was obviously the funniest thing Jake had ever heard and if I’d had a quarter for every time I heard that sentence over the course of the three day weekend, I’d have been able to fund the gas to get home.

Gradually, the men drifted outside and the women to the living room, where everyone chatted about their careers and guys. Haley was the engaged friend and her fiance, Clyde, was outside with Jake. Mindy has been married to Aaron (Jake’s Gail) for almost three years now, after having dated for only five months from the first time they met, when Aaron asked her to dance at a wedding. Callie was alone, because her husband, Sam, was at a varmint hunt… no really. He was shooting raccoon for sport. Jake assures me it’s a fantastic time.

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For probably an hour, we chatted easily, in part because I’d had a beer or two. They seemed surprised by some of the things I told them about Jake, how gentlemanly and sweet he is, but pleasantly so. It’s clear these women, two of whom Jake lived with in college, think of him as an older brother. I give them extra points for not being too fond of him to give me a chance. That night, Jake and I went to bed in a room of our own, since Callie offered to take the mattress on the floor of the pantry, because Sam was shooting gorilla rats. As nice as the privacy was, however, our bed pretty much felt like a bouncy house. So, despite downloading an app that plays the sound of a fan, because I’m just high-maintenance, I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep.

The next day was the day of the actual party. I hadn’t realized, but numerous other people would be arriving around 2:00, so prep work was in order. Having forgotten my toothbrush in Jake’s crazed rush, I tagged along with the girls to Walmart. I wouldn’t say that I had a lot of interests in common with these women, as I’m quite sure they’ve no idea who Spock is and I mightily loathe Nicholas Sparks, but we did seem to share a lot of values. They were very… Southern. They clearly have really traditional relationships, which was a change of pace compared with my Women in Power family. Jake and I have a dynamic I haven’t discussed at length, but it is very traditional. He generally takes the lead and I generally follow. It works for us and I’m aware it wouldn’t for others. Trust me. Jake’s friends seemed to have pretty similar relationships to ours, though more permanent. The men were all very sweet to their wives/fiancees. At one point, not realizing everyone could see them from outside, Aaron grabbed Mindy’s hand and danced with her in the kitchen. Amy, who I would meet later, over-imbibed and her fiance, Taylor, spent at least a couple of hours away from the party, making sure she was alright. There was certainly a shared element, though, and I can’t even put my finger on what exactly it was, but it was pleasantly… relatable.

When we got back from Walmart, Callie started shredding a rotisserie chicken and she and I paired up to make her Pinterest buffalo chicken pinwheels. The women hung out in the kitchen, cooking, while the men goofed off in the back, but it was a mutual decision and really quite nice to be able to talk freely as girls. I don’t know if it was the standing or the bouncy castle bed, but after a few hours, my back was really bothering me. I hurt it about four years ago and it can occasionally be a real problem. Jake was having a great time, so I disappeared into the bedroom to lie down, so he could enjoy himself.

I’m not used to being so… on, as a weekend away with strangers. It took such constant effort to be friendly and sociable that by the time the party had really started going, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. We’d gotten up so early, for a Saturday, probably around 8:00, that the day felt endless. The one person I knew, was having a grand ol’ time with his high school buddies and the last thing I wanted was to make Jake feel like I needed his constant attention. I liked Jake’s friends. They were fun. It was also a lot of stimulation and I was in pain. After about 30 minutes, Jake came in to check on me and I put on my big girl panties and went back to socialize. It was then I met Amy, a newbie to the group, having been engaged to Clyde’s brother, Tanner, only a month ago, after eight months of dating. Amy, coincidentally, teaches home-ec (my bachelor’s degree), while pursuing her master’s in library and information studies. Not only was she a doll, but it was great to see how inclusive of her Jake’s friends already were. These were just really kind people.

I chronicle every detail of my life, so clearly, I’m a total narcissist, but one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the quiet pride Jake took in me. Despite his friends comments about his touch-phobia, he was just as giving with hugs and kisses and “I love yous” as always. He even bragged to someone that Callie and I had made the pinwheels. At one point, as I stood outside, listening to Aaron tell the story of how his made up game had been brought to the USA by the Titanic swim team, Jake came from behind and wrapped his arms around me.

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I’m pretty sure these are the sweetest hugs ever.

Haley: ::looking to Jake:: “You are a completely different person.”
Jake: “Why?”
Haley: “You’re touching her.”

As sweet, chivalrous, and physically affectionate as Jake is to me, he’s not a blatantly romantic guy. He pays for every date we ever go on, opens the truck door for me nine times out of ten, and shows up at my door less than 24 hours after I call him crying. He’s generally a pretty practical, tough, oil man, so that’s our hearts and flowers. For him to do this stuff in front of his best friends, rubbing my back while insisting I sit down, hugging and kissing me and telling me he loves me, openly bragging about some Pinterest food I helped make… that’s like the equivalent of that scene where Noah and Ally dance in the street, only I’m not an abusive, elitist snob. He’d been the same way, when I was sick during the drive, but that was in private. Seeing Jake value me the way his friends valued their wives and fiances made me picture forever with him in a way I never have. I’m talking about the consideration of compromises like uprooting my career and moving away from my family and friends, one day. It was big.

Not quite as profound, but also very important to me, was the chance to see Jake interact with his friends. Though he’d been drinking pretty steadily, all day, at no point was he out of control drunk. I never felt like I had to act as his babysitter or stay sober so I could take him to the hospital. He didn’t make any hateful comments to anyone or get angry. He was having fun, but he was being an adult while doing so. I never thought I’d say that about someone playing beer pong.

One of the many red flags waved by my ex-husband, was his lack of friends. My mother has a similar problem. I’ve never met an emotionally healthy person who just doesn’t have friends. I consider it a big warning sign that people just don’t like them. I had trouble even keeping up with Jake’s friends and he was loved. It sounds over the top to say that, but they adored Jake and were thrilled to have him there. These are people who’ve known him for 15-20 years. They’ve not only heard the drunken bathroom story, but were there to clean it up. It was awesome to know that he’ll always have his own social circle and that, if the day comes, it’s a pretty welcoming one.

The morning after the party, Jake was, surprisingly, not even hungover. When I asked him about it, he said he’d kept it in check, because he didn’t want me to feel awkward if he was sick. We ate breakfast, as a group, and then we lounged in couples and watched movies for a few hours. After that, everyone packed up and headed on their way. Jake and I chatted on the drive back and I was genuinely sad to leave. As stressful as meeting so many new people was, it was so… normal. I never had a weekend like that in all of my marriage. I’ve never gone away with a man. I’ve never had anyone hug me from behind while his best friend tells me some ridiculous tale. I’ve never even considered uprooting my life for anyone, not even Jake. It was sad to see it all come to a close, but it was pretty great to get all the insight I did from it.

 

 

Crap I’d Like to Share: An Almost Post

Ward: “What’s a blog?”
Me: “Well, you just write… about anything you want. People write about traveling, cooking, dating…”
Ward: “So, it’s writing essays for fun?”

Gramma: “In all my life, I have never seen so many fat young people.”

The day I taught her to text, I left her house and got the following a few hours later:
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The time I tried to sell a friend on 50 Shades of Grey:

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Summer of ’11, Gail and I took the worst vacation of all time. The air conditioner in the car broke as we rolled into New Mexico days before the 4th of July, Gail got strep throat, and my mother was… well, my mother. However, we did leave a basket for the aliens (translate: littered in the desert).

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