I’m a real, live girl… apparently.

Every year, starting in September, my dad slowly morphs into The Grinch, himself. You literally cannot have a conversation with the man, without hearing about how we should just cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas and go to Cozumel. Truly, it is not Christmas dinner without listening to my dad bitch about Christmas dinner.

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My dad and his Christmas shopping list.

Now, I love the holidays so much, I am currently plotting to send Jake away for a weekend, so I can pull out my hot pink Christmas tree and have Christmas in July, before I have to sell it this fall… because Jake’s a boy and wants a boring ol’ green tree. I did not get my father’s disdain for the last quarter of the year. I did however, get his… you know, I keep Googling a word for “cynicism, but funny”, because I am fucking hilarious, but I can’t find any results. Fine. I got my father’s cynicism, only instead of directing it at the holidays, I’ve spent most of my adult life directing it at feelings. Ask Gail…

Me: “Ugh. Emotions belong with the last fucking Horcrux.”
Gail: “What’s a Horcrux, again?”
Me: “It’s where Voldemort stored each of the seven parts of his soul and hid them at the ends of the earth, you loser.”
Gail: “Yes. I’m the loser.”

Me: “Spock is the perfect man.”
Gail: “Why?”
Me: “He feels nothing. He’s always completely logical. Spock would never text you at 6:00 in the morning, asking if he’d done something wrong, because he hadn’t heard from you since 9:00 last night.”

… or Catherine.

Me: “Real men don’t cry.”
Catherine: “Dude, agreed.”
Me: “A real man is like Louis from Interview With a Vampire. He only cries one tear every thousand years.”

My teenage years might have been spent obsessing over Roswell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but every romantic entanglement that wasn’t supernatural was met with mockery and derision. No lie, I’m still surprised that I wasn’t kicked out of The Notebook for my hysterical laughter.

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As time went on, I actually developed a love for ridculing these movies. My 24th, 25th, and 26th birthdays were spent crafting with Gail while talking over teen movies, Gilmore Girls style, making up new lines and yelling “Where is the administration?!?!” at the screen. Gail still regrets making me watch Dirty Dancing, because I spent the entire movie ranting about how Baby was the only one dressed like it was 1987 and no one noticed.. and ultimately cackled upon discovery that the famous “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” line referenced which table she sat at at the country club.

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Me: “Fucking white people, dude!”
Gail: “You are literally the whitest person I know… and the whitest person you know.”

I don’t have a friend left who will watch Titanic with me, as they’ve all been subjected to my epic rant, several times, and don’t want to listen to my random shouts of “Team Cal!”, during every romantic scene. I think I’m the only woman alive who will openly and cruelly mock Pretty Woman. 

Me: “I loved the ladies who turned their nose up at her in the dress shop. They’re the heroes of that story.”
Laura: shut_up_breaking_bad

It’s not just movies that have failed to invoke sentimentality in me. I hate weddings and anniversary cards and Valentine’s Day. I’d rather Jake fill up my gas tank than buy me flowers and I couldn’t even give our wedding officiant three reasons I love him without making a joke. I have indeed spent the better part of my life priding myself on being a little bit dead inside…

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… except something’s changed. I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but at some point in the last five years, I’ve begun to enjoy these movies… and not for the sake of mockery and blog material, but because they invoke feelings in me.

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I realized the other day, that not only was I not hate-watching Hope Floats, I was actually empathetic to the main character. I mean, yes, I still critiqued it, messaging Laura about how Birdy had a dream divorce, with a mom who would pay all her bills during her recovery, while looking like Sandra Bullock. I’m not a completely different person… or maybe I am, because as I’m nearing 30, I find myself in the mood to actually watch these movies more and more.

Such was the case the night I rented The Longest Ride. I genuinely wanted to watch a romance, but since the only Nicholas Sparks movie I’ve ever (eventually) enjoyed was The Notebook (and I still fast forward through the cheesy James Garner scenes), I figured chances were high I’d spend my night giggling through it… except I didn’t. I loved the bull-rider-meets-artist tale and almost immediately ordered it on Amazon, assuming this would go into my cache of chick flicks, one of the few I actually liked. After all, I was marrying a man from a rodeo family. That must be the only reason I related to this one… but I had to be sure I maintained my heart of stone, so I searched Netflix for the sappiest romance I could find, perhaps one I’d already seen and knew I would enjoy mocking… like Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven. 

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I knew the twist ending. I knew it wasn’t just love that saved the heroine, but ghosts. Yet, I found myself delighted by the chemistry of the lead actors. I thought the children were adorable and I don’t even like children. Yes, yes, I still laughed my way through the ending, but it was with less mirth than I once had. The same was true of Steel Magnolias. I no longer giggled at the predictability of Julia Roberts’ death, but found myself tearing up and wishing Sally Fields was my mom. I even Googled “movies like Steel Magnolias,” because apparently what they say is true. As we women get older, we all morph into the same Lifetime Original Movie cliche, weeping through formulaic romances about cancer and finding ourselves tearing up when Lorelei tells Emily about her secret day with Richard… and I am no different. It’s only a matter of time before I drag Jake to the latest rom/com and cry over Hallmark cards full of sentiment written by someone else. Soon I’ll find myself looking at children with affection, instead of distate and binge watching 7th Heaven… but wait, I did that last summer! What is happening to me?!?!

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Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting the Fifty Shades Series

Anyone who reads my blog is familiar with my love-to-hate affection for the Fifty Shades of Grey series. After all, I’ve captioned it here, here, here, and I once showed you my homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey game. There are many things wrong with this series, but quite frankly, that’s a topic that’s been exhausted, by individuals willing to take it a lot more seriously than I. In fact, while researching for this blog post, I found this one, which makes a lot of great points and this one, which makes me giggle.

Reba: “Everything makes you giggle, Belle.”

I do have a pretty low threshold.

So, don’t misunderstand my point here. I am not defending the series, as a whole. It’s just that in reading all of the thought-provoking and giggle-inducing critiques, I’ve come across a few criticisms that insult women all on their own. For instance:

Women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are unintelligent.

Zetus lapetus, is this book badly written. The characters are abhorrent, the dialogue is beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief, and it is just so redundant. I don’t care that Anastasia says “double crap.” I just said “zetus lapetus.” I care that she says it 88 fucking times. It’s just… unreadable, but you know what? That’s just me. I read books about pushy special ops alpha males and werewolf love stories and that one about the sexy alien king. One of the most well-read women I’ve ever met has a soft spot for hobbit slash fanfiction. Does that make either of us any less intelligent? If your answer is yes, kiss my ass, because I also devour at least 10 articles a day on everything from current events to the issues facing prison libraries.

If your argument against Fifty Shades of Grey is that intelligent women can’t read poorly written smut, you are one of the reasons reading is not a more popular hobby. Some people don’t watch American Idol or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Some people had to Google “most popular reality show” to make that point. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to turn down their brain to relax. Not everyone considers reading a chore all the time. There are two kinds of librarians: literature snobs and those who hate literature snobs. I am the latter. I am intelligent. Sometimes I read smut.

Ana is only 22.

I’ve seen multiple criticisms of Fifty Shades of Grey fixate on the age of the heroine. For one, they get it wrong. Ana turned 22 in the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, so actually, the character in the movie is supposed to be 21, until otherwise specified. If you’re gonna bitch about something, do it accurately.

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When I was 21 years old, I lost my baby to a nearly second trimester miscarriage. Six months after that, I helped my best friend bury her infant daughter. That year, I accepted over $20,000 in student loans, graduated college, made the decision to enter graduate school, and chose to leave my ex-husband. Perhaps it wasn’t the typical middle-class American 22-year-old experience, but I was unequivocally an adult. By 22 I had bought a car, moved several times, paid my bills, taken out more in student loans than I could possibly earn in a year, and made major decisions about my future career path. That is typical. So, how dare you tell me that I wouldn’t have been of sound mind to enter into a sexual relationship of my choosing? If a woman old enough to vote, marry, drink, be tried as an adult, and sign binding contracts wants to sign a pretend contract before consensual sex, it doesn’t matter how much she giggles or how “mousey” she appears. I was 23 when I learned to apply eyeliner from a YouTube video and actually style my damned hair. That’s not what made me an adult. Being both responsible and accountable for my own choices was. Regardless of where things go in the books, Anastasia Steele was both of these when she met Christian Grey. Her age had absolutely no bearing on the situation and it’s disrespectful to young adult women to imply that they are not capable of making their own choices.

Ana is still a virgin.

This article is not the first one to take issue with the fact that Anastasia Steele has never had a sexual experience until she meets Christian Grey. The writer actually suggests that, because Ana has had no genuine interest in a man and doesn’t masturbate, it’s more likely the character is asexual. For one, the lead character in a romance isn’t asexual. That’s not how the genre works. Two, we learn later that Ana has had encounters with the opposite sex and they just haven’t gone anywhere. In regards to masturbation, I do know women who just aren’t interested. A lot of women have trouble reaching orgasm, both by themselves and with a partner. Their bodies just work a bit differently and without an emotional connection, physical stimulation may lack appeal… and that’s okay.

My biggest problem with focusing on this criticism of the series, however, is the assumption that a woman who is not sexually active is asexual or somehow abnormal. Until one year ago (exactly, oddly enough), I not had sex in six years. Furthermore, I’d only kissed five people, ever, and that includes a stranger who pecked me on the cheek on New Year’s Eve. I am not asexual, far from it. I was just never interested in sharing my body with someone with whom I saw no future. I once let a man in a bar kiss me, with tongue, when I’d just met him that night. It makes me uncomfortable even remembering that, because physicality without an emotional connection just doesn’t do it for me. Different women have different needs and it’s just as offensive to shame a woman for not being sexually active as it is to call another a slut.

Fifty Shades of Grey is only popular, because the hero is rich.

While Christian Grey sure wasn’t my dreamboat, I can tell you that when I was treading water in a dating pool of grown men with flat-billed caps and job titles as specific as “n/a,” it wasn’t so far-fetched to think that, perhaps, it would be easier to repair deep-seated emotional scarring than to motivate a man to get his shit together. While I’ll admit that for an America drowning in debt, financial freedom might be it’s own fantasy, I’m still not convinced that the ability to “buy all the planes” is the sole appeal of the Fifty Shades of Grey target audience. This article suggests a somewhat circular logic for the over 30 bracket, in particular: women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, because women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Finally, a woman with traditional goals (marriage, children, an optional career) can come out and say…

No longer is it only Carrie Bradshaw that gets to talk dirty, but housewives too!

As a librarian, part of my job is analyzing literary trends. This is why I am particularly aware of the rise of the billionaire romance novel. Along with Christian Grey, in the last few years we’ve been introduced to Gideon Cross, Gabriel Emerson, Jesse Ward, and many other laughably wealthy and emotionally damaged heroes. However, long before well-worn copies of Fifty Shades of Grey hit nightstands all over the world, we met the heroes in these series: Rock Chick, KGI, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Psy-Changelings, Immortals After Dark, and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Every title listed stars leading men who are borderline abusive and financially set. That describes most contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance. This shit ain’t new. Not only does the insistence that this book simply broke new ground with an abusive megabajillionaire give the title far too much credit, it also implies that all women who enjoy romance are gold digging whores. That’s just not nice.

Note: I was known, at one time, to declare that I’d let a man string me from the ceiling and whip me if he’d pay off my student loans, but I am hardly the standard by which all women should be measured.

Fifty Shades of Grey is responsible for sex injuries.

This article and many, many more suggest that the rise in bedroom play injuries is the fault of Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe it’s the researcher in me, but…. I call shenanigans. You are an adult. You likely have a smartphone on you at all times, meaning you literally have endless information at your fingertips. If you are stupid enough to purchase a spreader bar and use a trashy novel for a user manual, you are the only one to blame for the spine injurt. Have some faith that the majority of women are intelligent enough to manage a Google search, y’all.

I can say a lot of bad things about Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of writers can. I mean, two twenty-somethings e-mailing each other? What is this, Amish country? Between Ana’s “inner goddess” and Christian’s “laters baby” this librarian actually fell out of love with reading for a few days. I love when women ask me to suggest titles “like Fifty Shades of Grey,” because it gives me the opportunity to introduce them to much better written erotica. Perhaps I can get them started on Kristen Ashley’s special-ops-saves girl books. Maybe I can send them back in time with one of Karen Marie Moning’s sexy highlanders. I can even show them more plot-light erotica, but with with steamier scenes that don’t read like a child reporting her molestation – “Then he touched me… down there!” You know what I won’t do, though? Insult them.

  • I originally posted this on March 5, 2015.

The Apathetic Bride

As a child, I was not especially girly. This might come as a shock to my frequent readers, considering Jake and I just recently had an argument as to whether or not glitter can be my second favorite color. Spoiler alert: he’s wrong.

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Perhaps I’m simply overcompensating in adulthood, because when I was little, I was bound and determined to be a tomboy. I “hated” baby dolls, Barbies, dresses, and the color pink, because naturally you couldn’t like Disney princesses and climbing trees. Regardless, I loved my Water Baby, because it didn’t feel like a doll, but a real baby and I wanted my play to be as realistic as possible… which is precisely why I stuck my baby in the microwave to heat up the water, after my mother refused to refill it. While my mothering instincts might have left something to be desired, it wasn’t for lack of interest. Just like most other little girls, I felt that biological drive and genuine desire to be a mom.

I suppose my first romantic fantasy had the same lead as that of every other 90s girl: Jack Dawson. Of course, it took me a bit longer to realize that Cal Hockley was the real hero of Titanic, but all the same… at age 10, I began to dream, innocently (put your dress back on, Rose, you just met this man), of falling in love. Despite this, it would be another six years before I even considered my own wedding, and as an assignment in a marriage and family class, at that. Now, before you go mocking my undergraduate degree of family and consumer science education (or home-ec), I’d like to clarify that this was a budgeting and planning exercise. Weddings just happened to be on topic with the course, as we calculated the cost of catering and venues and attire. While I’m sure this was fun (and a little harmful) for the girls who grew up fantasizing about their dream weddings, for me, it was just… illogical.

Teacher: “You have to include boutonnieres for the men.”
Me: “Why? You can have a wedding without those.”

Even when I planned my first wedding, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to care about this entirely unnecessary party. In hindsight, I’ve considered the possibility that this was simply because I was getting married for all the wrong reasons, and there may be some merit to that. On the day of my wedding, I remember trying to picture my life five years later and thinking that I couldn’t see myself married then… that maybe this was the wrong path… that it was too late to do anything about it. Few believe me when I tell them this, since I didn’t actually say it at the time, so they insist that the only reason I don’t care about my pending party is because I’ve already had a wedding. Y’all, I swear on the Deathly Hallows that the next time someone implies that my second marriage counts less than the one I entered before I could legally drink, Imma cut a bitch.

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Weddings have just never been my thing. On our first date, I told Jake as much… and he was baffled as to why. In every other way, this man is a stereotypical country boy. He loves hunting, fishing, drinking, football, and taxidermy. He has such a thick southern accent, that he sounds like a racist cartoon character. The man’s a downright parody of himself… and he loves weddings, so much so, that he’s attended at least fifteen over the years and has been in half of them. Jake thinks it’s absolutely worth it to spend $9,000 on a party. I’m marrying Katherine Heigl from 27 Dresses and I’m… Sheldon Cooper.

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Hate is a really strong word for how I feel about weddings. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I don’t mind the idea of looking back on a big celebration to declare my lifelong commitment to Jake, in front of all of our friends and family. It certainly means a lot more at 29 than it did at 19, to me and to the audience. I’d do it just to make Jake happy. It’s just… I want to be a wife, not a bride. I don’t need or really even want all the fuss, especially when the tradition and industry surrounding weddings… kind of sucks.

Weddings and wedding planning are typically very sexist. It takes a lot to tickle my feminist bone, but I resent that I’m supposed to plan this shindig, just because I brought the vagina to the party. I want to go to the caterer, who Jake told me was shocked that I’d “let” him decide the menu without me there to hold his hand, and remind her that it’s 2017. I love Jake’s mom, but I think it’s completely unfair that she and everyone else think my father should pay for an elaborate party that his adult daughter doesn’t really even want. It’s not because it’s my second wedding, either. It’s because I bring in $50,000 a year and I don’t need my father to inventory his livestock so he can pay some man to take me off his hands, because women are such a burden. If we want a party, we can pay for a party.

To be clear, it’s not any one person being sexist. It’s the wedding industry. Societally, we talk sooooo big about female empowerment and some pretend sisterhood where I owe more to a random woman than a random man, because somehow equality (?), but the second a woman gets engaged, all of that goes out the window. I’m criticized for my own traditional relationship and gender role (my boss once joked that I was “gender conforming”), which effect only me, but now it’s not only okay for me to ask my dad to pay a literal dowry, but mandatory. No longer are the sparkle and the glitz and the bright colors grounds for mockery, but celebrated… by the jewelry and bridal stores, who want my money. If I say I want to maintain a certain body image for Jake, I’m doing a disservice to all womankind, but my wedding is in three months, so it’s just assumed I’m on a diet of laxatives and self-loathing, to look good for everyone else. The idea that I’m not allowed to be traditional and feminine (aside from the language), unless it’s wedding season, is utter bullshit… and a marketing ploy.

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Zetus lapetus, are weddings expensive. After my first and only wedding dress shopping trip, last summer, I’ve refused to go on another. I was thrilled when my bridesmaids chose their own dress online and ordered it sight unseen. As for my dress…. well, I’m getting married in three months and I don’t even know what I’m going to wear. I’m not really that concerned about it, either, because I’ve been shopping online and all the dresses look the same. It’s my first communion all over again. For realz, y’all, the only difference I can even see half the time is price. The same white, A-line, floor length, strapless dress, either runs for $800 or $2,300 and no one is going to remember it, either way. In fact, none of the stores even make anything as low key as the lacey, tea length, sleeved dress I had in mind. They’re so well stocked in taffeta and tulle, I’m never sure if I’m looking at bridal gowns or pageant dresses… and I’m not even going to pretend I’ve ever had that much grace and poise.

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I’m sure I’ll order the dress I’ve had my eye on from Etsy in two weeks, and if I don’t… so what? I can find something on Modcloth in the last month if I must. It’s a dress I’ll wear one time and it’s likely I’ll only vaguely remember doing so, because that’s the thing no one tells brides: they’ll be so stressed and wired the day of their wedding, that when it’s all said and done, it’ll be a fog of memory. They’ll have looked forward to the day their entire lives, shed tears of frustration over ridiculous arguments during the planning, spent thousands of dollars on flowers and centerpieces and videography and all those other things I refuse to purchase… and it’ll still be a haze. The only people who’ve ever truly enjoyed a wedding are guests, and so I maintain my apathetic stance: I don’t care and if it’s my day, why can’t I bring my pets?

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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.

 

 

“… an Eskimo kiss for the road.”

So, why haven’t I written? Well, I could make excuses about work stress and car trouble, and while both would be valid, they wouldn’t be completely honest. The real reason I haven’t written, is because I’m sill suffering from the dreadful Girl Brain.

Things with Jake are super. He is the bees’ knees, peachy keen, dreamy, and every other pre-1960 reference I’ve made in the past. A few days before Halloween, he came out to Shetland and spent an impromptu two days with me, both of us taking off work to enjoy cuddling up during a rainstorm to watch scary movies and eat pizza. On Halloween evening, I drove to Wellston to spend the holiday with him and met his parents.

Jake: My parents will be here, by the way.
Me: Okay. Does that mean you don’t want me to come or that I just shouldn’t dress all whorey?
Jake: What? No. Stop reading into things.
Me: I’m not reading into anything. I’m trying to figure out if you’re saying you want me to meet your parents or if you want to cancel so you can spend time with them alone.
Jake: If you don’t want to meet them, I’ll understand, but I wasn’t telling you not to come.

Jake’s parents are southern cattle ranchers through and through. Just… picture a couple of southern cattle ranchers and that’s the Grangers. It was a nice dinner, at a local fast food chain. Jake was proud to introduce me. He joked about the fact that I was sort of in costume, in my red jeans and Superman shirt. His mom hassled him about the length of his beard, while his dad talked about politics. They discussed rodeos and deer hunting. They both laughed, when I teased Jake for looking like Yukon Cornelius.

After dinner, Jake watched Hocus Pocus with me, under strict orders that I not recite it. We cuddled on the couch before going to bed, where we also cuddled, until he had to leave for work at 6:00 in the morning and I had to make the drive back to Shetland.

After Halloween, I was all geared up to tell you this great story about meeting the parents. Then I got busy. Then I started overthinking things.

Y’all, if Jake ever proposes, I’m pretty sure my response is going to be “I didn’t even think you liked me.”

Due to distance, family obligations, work, and us both generally having lives, Jake and I get about one sleepover per week. In the meantime, we talk on the phone two or three times and I send a series of anecdotes or Internet memes that rarely get a response… via text message, that is. When we see each other in person, he’ll mention the things I send him and joke about them or discuss them. Jake just doesn’t put as much value on texting or even phone calls as I do. He’d rather spend time together in person… because he’s a dude. I can’t think of a single guy who would want to spend large quantities of time on the phone… but he does it for me, a few times a week. Still, by the time I’m ready to post a blog, I’m worried that Jake is losing interest and that I’ll look back on the post I’m writing and wonder how I was so blind.

The week after Halloween, Jake and I weren’t planning to see each other. He was going to spend his days off hunting and we were going to get together the next week. It was all good, though I knew I’d miss him… until the Thursday following the holiday. I got out of work early and decided I’d finally go get new tires. It couldn’t cost more than $200.

New Tires: $370
Replacement Wheel Strut: $55
New Break Shoes Immediately or I Die: $255
New Struts That are Future Belle’s Problem: $750
New Break Pads That are Nearer Future Belle’s Problem: $300

Me: I don’t think I can do anything next week.
Jake: Why?
Me: I’m just having some financial issues and I think I’m going to have to work. I may be able to take off Friday. I’m not sure.
Jake: Tomorrow or next week?
Me: I meant next week. I’m sorry. I miss you. It’s just been a tough week. 
Jake: I can come tomorrow.
Me: I work tomorrow… and every day after that and it’s still never enough.
Jake: What time? 
Me: I get out at 3:35.
Jake: I’ll be there.

After I got that text, I called Jake to assure him that he didn’t need to come to Shetland. He was in another state, y’all, yet he was willing to drive to Shetland the next afternoon, knowing I was on my period and that we both had to work Saturday, so we’d be getting a maximum of 16 chaste hours together.

Me: “You don’t have to come here. Enjoy your time with your family. I’m fine.”
Jake: “You just called me crying. I’ll be there, tomorrow.”
Me: “I’m not crying! I’m fine.”

Gail: “You’re right. He probably doesn’t even like you.”

The following night, we went out for pizza and cuddled on the couch to watch Zombeavers on Netflix (he now has his own profile on my account).

Jake: “To save your life? Yes. I would throw your dog to a pack of zombies.”

What do I do? Do I swoon or break up with him?

We didn’t get to see each other for another week, after that night. Once again, instead of blogging about the astounding chivalry and genuine care Jake showed me, after I called him bawling about money troubles, I spent the week deciding that the rarity of his messages obviously meant he just wasn’t that into me. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t tell him these things. I don’t act clingy or crazy or ask what he really means, when he says he loves me. I’m aware that these are my insecurities to deal with and not his problem. It’s just that every other woman in the dating world needs a book called He’s Just Not That Into You and I’m wondering where I can get a copy of No Really, He Actually Likes You. He says he loves me. He shows he loves me. Yet, here I am, scratching my head and wondering what he’s thinking. He’s not a complex guy! He’s thinking exactly what he tells me he’s thinking!

This past weekend, Jake came to Shetland, once again at the end of his three days off. He had been hunting with his brother and saw a giant buck on his way out to see me, but still kept his commitment to our plans. I made us crock pot taco soup and talked him into watching an episode of Supernatural, while I sprawled on top of him on the couch. The next morning, Jake came to church with me for his very first Catholic Mass. We went to lunch and then he humored me while I browsed the outlet mall for a couple of Christmas presents, even carrying my bags after I’d made my purchases. We went back to my place and watched The Devil’s Advocate (his choice).

Me: “I made you a present.”
Jake: “You made me a present?”
Me: “Yeah. You probably won’t wear it and that’s okay. I just thought I might make you one. You said red is your favorite color.”
Jake: “It’s a hat. Why wouldn’t I wear it?”
Me: “I don’t know. It’s really bright and maybe it’s kind of lame to wear a hat your girlfriend crocheted for you.”
Jake: “No. I’ll totally wear it to work.”

Definitely swoon.

A few minutes after he left, I called to tell him he’d forgotten some things. I packed them up and ran out to meet him in the parking lot of my complex.

Me: “Open the door. Give me a hug for my troubles.”
Jake: “I would’ve come up and gotten it.”
Me: “That’s okay. I love you.”
Jake: “I love you, too.”
Me: “Hold on. You need an Eskimo kiss for the road.”
Jake: ::laughing::

Gail’s right. He probably doesn’t even like me.

“Would it freak you out if I told you I loved you?”

Me: “You make me really happy.”
Jake: ::silence::
Me: “Does it freak you out, when I say stuff like that?”
Jake: “What? No.”
Me: “Would it freak you out, if I told you I loved you?”
Jake: ::laughing:: “No.”
Me: “I love you.”
Jake: “I love you, too.”

Y’all, I said it first. I later informed Gaily that I didn’t feel insecure about it, because Jake’s a very strong-willed guy and there’s not a soul on Earth that can manipulate that man into doing anything he doesn’t want to do. Also, though, as I was leaving…

Me: “Did I push you into saying anything you didn’t want to say, before?”
Jake: “What? No. You didn’t.”

Despite this, I had horrible moments of insecurity over the next week and a half, rationalizing that “I love you” is practically an ultimatum. The other person either says it back or the two of you break up. So, by that logic, Jake wasn’t saying he loved me. He was just saying he didn’t want to break up with me.

Well. I made that significantly less romantic.

Suddenly, I was worried about every text I sent. Was I annoying him? Was he not texting back, not because he’s always been more of a phone guy, but because he’s over me? Did he really want to spend his birthday with me? Would the effort I put into his birthday celebration freak him out? Should I send everything back and act like I hadn’t planned anything? Would buying him beer that he’d undoubtedly keep at my place be too long term? What about starting such an epic series as The Lord of the Rings? Zetus lapetus, I may as well have just proposed!

I kept this all to myself, of course. I’d already essentially asked Jake if he was sure he loved me. I’ve also heard him say numerous times that women need to just take the things men say at face value instead of over-analyzing them. I know he’s a forthright guy. So, at this point, my vulnerability is not Jake’s problem. It’s Gail’s.

Me: “He told me he loved me. He told me he was sure he loved me. He cooked me dinner that he killed personally. He doesn’t care that I left a toothbrush, some shampoo and conditioner, a comforter, and a stand-up fan at his place. He was willing to go with me to have my dog put down if he had puppy cancer. He’s a bearded oil man who gives Eskimo kisses and coos at my beagle like he’s a baby. He’s not getting laid until Valentine’s Day! Still, I’m over here with Girl Brain, tearing it all to pieces.”
Gail: “When he said ‘What? No.’ when you asked if you’d pressured him, what he meant was ‘What? No… and I hope that’s the end of that drama.’ You’re being totally and completely irrational and you’re right. You don’t get to talk to him about it, because that’s not his problem. I can tell you this, because I know it’s exactly what you need to hear. You talk to me about this stuff, not him.”

Despite Gail’s reassurance, I vowed that I was just going to stop saying it. Clearly, this goes on the very short list of things at which Belle does not excel: modesty, sports, and vulnerability. So, the next time I saw Jake, I was going to just pretend the whole thing never happened. On Wednesday, when I drove to Wellston after work, I was determined not to say it.

Me: “What if February comes and I’m really bad at sex?”
Jake: ::laughing:: “Meh. You’ll learn.”
Me: ::laughing:: “I love you.”
Jake: “I love you, too.”

  1. modesty
  2. sports
  3. vulnerability
  4. filtering thoughts to speech

It’s definitely best that we haven’t had sex, yet.

The First Time He Sees You Have a Panic Attack in Bed…

That’s a relationship milestone, isn’t it? Wasn’t that an episode of Sex and the City?

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that, in addition to my dated television references, I have… difficulty processing negative emotions.

Me: “All kidding aside, I genuinely think that if we just bury our negative feelings, without discussing it, there won’t be any long term consequences as long it doesn’t happen often.
Gail: 

So, last Wednesday, when I topped off my already terrible day by running into my ex-husband for the first time since he signed the papers five years ago, I coped as only Belle can… which is to say I didn’t. It was only 4:00 in the afternoon, y’all. I was already overwhelmed and still had a night at the library head of me. I chose not to process such unpleasantness. After all, no words were spoken. We only made eye contact and kept walking. It was easy enough to compartmentalize and label it Future Belle’s problem.

Indeed it was. That night, after work, lying in bed, I had an… episode. Though it’s been almost five years, occasionally, I still have nightmares about my marriage. Usually, I’m still married, he’s still a sociopath, and the worst part is that I have trouble waking. Even more rarely, I wake and have trouble convincing myself that I’m in the present day and in no danger. Last Wednesday, however, was… severe.

I’m talking, Lifetime Original Movie severity, here. It was epic, in a way it has not been in years. So, naturally, once I’d come to my senses, emotionally and physically exhausted, I assumed the drama was out of my system. Everyone gets one meltdown every decade or so. Fortunately, I’d had mine that night, as opposed to the next, when my boyfriend would be staying over. What luck!

Jake came to town the next day and I conversationally explained a bit about why the previous day had been so awful, including that seeing my ex-husband “rattled” me. We went to dinner, watched a couple of movies and an episode of The Walking Dead, and we went to bed. Once there, we fooled around for a little bit and then I started to feel a bit… off. I feared I knew what was happening and went to the bathroom to splash some water on my face. I told myself to get control and went with my usual inner mantra.

It’s 2015. Your’e 28 years old. It has been almost five years and you are safe.

It wasn’t working. Of course, I shifted my focus to hiding my breakdown from Jake as I got into bed. It seemed easy enough to do with the lights off, even if that was making my little PTSD-worthy flashback worse. I told myself to keep my feelings where feelings belong: on the inside…

… as I started shaking. To Jake, there was no catalyst. The room was cold and he assumed the shaking was shivering… for the first few minutes.

Jake: “Are you okay?”
Me: ::nod::
Jake: “Belle? Are you alright? Say something.”
Me: 

Without a response, Jake reached for the light… and I lost it.

Me: ::hysterically crying:: “I’m fiiiiiine.”

I don’t remember a lot of the conversation, honestly. It’s sort of a blur beyond Jake finally getting frustrated with all of my apologies for crying.

Jake: “Will you stop apologizing and just please tell me what’s wrong?”
Me: “Sometimes, I just… I feel really panicked and just get really… scared. I’m sorry. Yesterday just really freaked me out. I promise this never happens!”

Jake was impossibly sweet, as he stroked my hair, told me I was okay and that I was safe. At one point, he actually feared I couldn’t breathe as my throat started to close and I wheezed through my cries. He just held me as I apologized again and again for showing negative emotions.

Me: “Do I have too much baggage?”
Jake: “No. Jude’s not too much baggage. He’s close, but not quite.”

He made a joke. The guy realized how much I don’t like to talk about feelings and he joked about my clingy dog being too much baggage, instead of forcing me to take the situation seriously.

Once I’d calmed down, Jake kissed the top of my head…

Jake: “I want my tea.”
Me: “What?”
Jake: “I’m thirsty.”
Me: “There’s a water bottle right there.”
Jake: “I know, but I have tea in the fridge and I want to get it.”
Me: “Okay? Why are you telling me this?”
Jake: “I just didn’t want you to think that I was getting up to put on my boots and leave, because I would never do that.”

More than once in the night, Jake actually woke me to make sure I was alright. The next morning, I brought it up first.

Me: “So, did I freak you out too much last night?”
Jake: “What? No. I’m just glad I was here.”
Me: “Yeah. Me, too. It was a lot worse the night before last. Don’t worry, though. I only cry once a year. If feelings were meant to be talked about, they would be called talkings.”

The Fault in Our Deal Breakers

Things with Jake are going really well. He’s funny, smart, hardworking, and chivalrous. We enjoy enough of the same things to be compatible and have a good time, but have enough of our own interests not to bore one another. The sexual chemistry is as good as it can be for two people who are not actually having sex. Simply put, after three months, he is still the bee’s knees.

It’s funny how such chemistry works, though. When I met Jake, we’d barely chatted on Plenty of Fish, both eager to just meet and see if there was anything there. At first sight, I remember thinking that he was, indeed, 5’8″, which was both a positive and a negative, in that he was being honest and 5’8″ is fine, but was not secretly a very sexy 6′ tall. I noticed that he was clearly a country boy and drove an attractively ridiculous pickup. I supposed the red hair wasn’t so bad, but I did wonder what he looked like without the hat. Yes. Those are the initial physical impressions I had of the guy with whom I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love. These observations were without negativity or distaste. I considered Jake the way I assume most people consider an online date, comparing him with the image I’d been given and assessing whether or not the result was workable. It’s almost… scientific. Looking back, though, I find it somewhat fascinating what does and does not actually matter in our relationship, in regards to the deal breakers I initially set forth, even after reading the book that helped me to completely reevaluate my priorities in January. For example…

What Doesn’t Matter

His Hairline


Two years ago, I went to a festival with Ava, a friend from high school. Ava’s married to her second boyfriend, so as much of a doll as she is, she’s not really capable of exchanging dating experiences. She had, however, brought a friend from work along, Sheila. I’d been discussing some of my latest dates with Ava, when Sheila shyly admitted that’s she’s tried some online dating as well. We started to specify, in a little more detail, what we will and won’t accept in a profile or photo, when Sheila announced with disgust “I don’t want bald guys.”

At the time, I was still in the midst of my Shallow Phase and even I thought that was a little harsh. I mean, bald can be attractive, particularly when worn with confidence, but I figured everyone has their limits and I didn’t want to be judgemental toward a woman I’d just met. That was then. Today, I’ll say with certainty that if you’re turning men down because of their hairline, you’re making a mistake. Statistically speaking, over two thirds of men will experience significant hair loss by age 35. It truly is only a matter of time and wouldn’t it be a damned shame to be single at 33 (disclaimer: assuming you want to be married at 33) only to realize that the petty reason you had for turning down potentially great guys five years ago is now a quality shared in most of the men you meet?

Personally, it took me a little while to get used to Jake without his hat, not because I found his hairline unattractive, but because he just looks like a different person without it. The fact is, however, that when he does all of ­­the sweet things he does for me, such as taking my dog out while I’m in the shower, cooking me dinner, or walking around the fair for 30 minutes looking for the chicken and waffles I just had to have… it never really registers which guy he looks like anymore.

His Height


If they’re going to lie, women lie about weight and men lie about height. This generalization is usually true, regardless of age and no matter who’s telling tales, the logic is the same:

I’m only rounding and once they meet me, it won’t matter.

We all know that lying in online dating is unfair, but we do it because no one responds to us, otherwise.

I’ll just post that more flattering photo from last spring. I look basically the same.
I’ll say I’m 5’10”. As long as she’s below 5’8″, she won’t care.

You don’t look the same. You’re not 5’10”. They’re going to care, because you’re lying by introduction.

We’ve been over this, though. What I haven’t really acknowledged, however, is how little height matters in the long run. When I first started dating online, I stated that prospects must be six foot, not because I was being shallow (okay, not just because I was being shallow), but because my dad and brother are both six foot. At 23 years old, I genuinely thought that six feet tall was average height for a man. When I learned otherwise (less than 15%*), however, I only lowered my requirement to 5’10”, because I wanted to be a dainty little lady next to my guy.

Now, as I mentioned, Jake is 5’8″. That means he has about two inches on me… only two inches on me… and it’s fine. Being an oil man, while not tall, Jake is stocky, so I do still feel quite small next to him, particularly since I wear ballet flats everywhere and he wears work boots that add an inch to his height. I’m not saying that I’d necessarily be just as attracted were he 5’3″, but I think I would even if he were just my height. Attraction is important. I’m not claiming otherwise. Just as with his hairline, though, when Jake pays for dinner, chases his giggling nieces, or laughs at my dad’s jokes, I don’t give one fig how tall he is. Eventually, the individual features that you’re considering on that first date just add up to a whole person. Hat or no hat, 5’8 or 6′, today, Jake just looks like Jake… and I find him pretty darned cute.

His Hobbies

When I started dating, I had this image in my mind of a man who reads non-fiction and perhaps high fantasy. He’d like to fish and hunt, but wouldn’t mount trophies. He wouldn’t really care for video games or have such a juvenile sense of humor as to watch stereotypical boy comedies.

Not only does Jake love South Park and tell me all about each new episode, he thinks Austin Powers is hilarious. He likes to golf and despises cats. We have an ongoing dispute over whether or not his deer mount has a name (it’s Buzz) and he loves to camp. Y’all, when it comes to camping, the only thing I DON’T have in common with the mom from Troop Beverly Hills, is that I will never love my daughter enough to camp.

Take my kidney, but I ain’t sleeping on the ground.

We share a lot of commonalities as well, though. We both like old cheesy science fiction and love the holidays. We enjoy horror movies and Jake doesn’t even mind that I screech like a rape victim whenever anything jumps out at me (at home or in a crowded theater). We share a dry and sarcastic sense of humor and I, in fact, do understand most of his South Park references, because I used to watch the show. I like older video games and can even be coerced into playing some newer ones. We both love to learn and Jake will more or less humor me in regards to any outing I suggest.

Having different interests gives us something to talk about and allows each of us to try something new. Jake’s really enjoying The Walking Dead and I’ve learned some fancy new hunting lingo. Did you know that a successful dove hunting outing does not equal “catching a lot of birds”? Because we work in entirely separate fields, there’s never a competition to be the expert. Perhaps, most importantly, Jake’s silly hobbies allow me mine. I can always crochet or read a trashy romance novel while he plays his new video game or watches the latest political debate. Just as my affinity for paranormal romance says nothing about my intelligence, his South Park quotes say nothing about his. Everyone wastes time in different ways and it’s just been really nice to sit next to someone while doing so. He’ll just have to deal with it, when I get a cat.

What Does Matter

His Weight
When I read my one and only dating guide, I was convinced that weight didn’t matter. Like height, weight was just part of the initial attraction and eventually, I wouldn’t notice anyway. Then, I had my date with Dell, who blatantly lied about his weight. This wasn’t 10 pounds, but 40 on a man who was only 5’7″. Jake isn’t a wisp of a guy, but he’s nowhere near obese, as Dell was. The thing is, as we’ve been dating, I’ve realized how much it matters to me that he’s not excessively overweight.

Unlike height, weight isn’t about attraction so much as physical capability. Never have I sat in a booth with Jake only to realize he doesn’t quite fit. Not once has he had to sit down and catch his breath from leisurely walking, as my ex-husband did, because he was morbidly obese. Being with someone so young, yet so out of shape is inconvenient and embarrassing. When Jake and I went to the zoo, on our 6th date, I was the one who needed the break, when my asthma started giving me trouble. Last Friday, we spent the whole day walking around the fair and Jake kept pace just fine. He doesn’t have high blood pressure, or bad knees, or trouble maneuvering in bed.

I think the most important issue in the long run, is that don’t feel pressured to eat poorly around Jake. When we went the fair, sure, we stuffed ourselves with bottled beer and syrup drenched chicken. In fact, I appreciate his ability to enjoy a day without calorie counting. I also appreciate his generally healthy habits, though, as they more or less match mine. We may not be talking forever just yet, but if it’s ever up for discussion, I don’t want to spend the next 50 years fighting about pouring gravy over everything.

His Time


From our first date, Jake has done something that’s set him apart from any man I’ve ever met. He’s made me a priority. When we first started messaging, I was hesitant to get involved with a man in oil, as ubiquitous as it is around these parts. Engineer 114 had been in oil and his schedule and priorities had both been problematic. Jake had assured me that distance wasn’t important to him and he’d travel to Springfield to meet me and buy me lunch. For our second date, he traveled even further to meet me at the mall in the heart of the Metro. For our third date, when we went to the Fourth of July festival in Springfield, he mentioned to me that he was supposed to spend time with his parents, but they’d arrived several hours later than planned. Rather than postpone or cancel with me, he explained to them that he’d made a commitment and he was leaving. He chose to forgo time with his family to keep his plans with me and not ruin my holiday.

Sure, when I was looking, I mentioned that I wanted someone who had time to date, but I never expected the level of commitment that Jake displayed from the beginning. It wasn’t that he was obsessed with me or clingy, so much as if he said he would be somewhere, he meant it. Yes, Jake’s been late when he’s come to see me from his family’s ranch, but he’s never bailed on me. In fact, last Friday, when he hadn’t messaged or called to tell me for sure if he’d still be able to come to the city for the fair, I assumed he’d been caught up in the rig check he’d done that morning. Dejected, I told myself that this is part of dating an oil man and I either am or am not up for it, but that Jake wouldn’t just stand me up without a damned good reason and I didn’t get to guilt trip him for it. I took care to keep my texts neutral.

I’m gonna go to the gym. Let me know when you’re able. Miss you.

Almost immediately, Jake called to tell me that he was halfway to Shetland and hadn’t answered the phone, because he was driving through a thunderstorm. On the surface, I’m dating a guy who won’t ditch me when he knows I’m looking forward to the fair. I look deeper, though, and I see a guy who won’t tell me he’ll mow the lawn and yell at me for guilt tripping him by doing it myself two days later… a guy who won’t get fired for staying home to play video games… a man who won’t leave me to miscarry alone and scared.

His Respect for My Field

To be fair, I did list this as a requirement in dating, but I never realized how important it was to me to not only be with someone who didn’t openly mock my field, but who genuinely seemed to respect it. As a librarian, in the dating world, I’ve received some pretty danged appalling comments about my degree and profession. I’ve written entire posts about them. In short, there’s just no quicker way to end a date with me than to to mock libraries and/or librarians… after I lecture you about how wrong you are.

Jake has never belittled me, especially in my career. On our first date, he naturally asked a lot of questions, and I think the stress involved in my job still surprises him. The other night, when he asked me how work was, I answered “over stimulating”, which threw him for a second. He’s hardly the only one who pictures a peaceful library instead of a night of secretarial work, in-depth research, information technology, education, babysitting, customer service, and the occasional call to the police. The difference is, he asks and listens. He processes what I’m telling him and believes me.

As an engineer, Jake has a very stressful job, sometimes working for 24 hours at a time, in a hole in the ground. Never once, though, has he responded to my exhaustion with a comparison to his own. He respects my field and my stress level for what they are, even if he doesn’t fully understand. Not only that, but when I excitedly told him I’d applied for a full time position at a library in a dangerous part of the city, he didn’t imply that he didn’t want me to take it… just that I needed to stop defending it with stories of how all libraries are sketchy and telling him about the bullet holes in the window next door. He knows my job isn’t just important to me, but part of who I am as a person.

I don’t know where things are going to ultimately go with Jake. In two years, I could be blogging about my new boyfriend or my new baby. It’s really too soon to tell. If this doesn’t work out, though? I feel like I know a lot more about what actually matters and what just… doesn’t.

Citations

http://gladwell.com/blink/why-do-we-love-tall-men/

Birthdays and Boyfriends: Meeting the Parents… and Best Friend

So, I celebrated my 28th birthday last week and I did so with such enthusiasm, I’m going to have to have that Logan’s Run themed 30th birthday party I keep talking about… and that city-wide lantern release.

Remember, Gail. This one’s on you.

As I mentioned last week, in my brief Blogiversary post, two of the most significant celebrations I had planned for my birthday were the introduction of Jake to Gail and Terry and his introduction to my dad and Lena. After my late evening at the grown-up arcade with my work friends, on Wednesday night (my actual birthday), I went home to get ready for Jake’s arrival on Thursday morning at nine, as we’d planned. In fact, the previous week, when I’d driven to Wellston and Jake had made me dinner, we discussed this plan, in depth. I told Jake that I intended to take a half day substituting job if I could find one, assuming he’d arrive in Shetland around noon, as he usually does when coming from his family’s cattle ranch.

Jake: “Well, I’ll be there at 9:00.”
Me: “You will? I thought you were leaving that morning.”
Jake: “Yeah, but I’ll leave early.”
Me: “Okay. Are you sure? I don’t mind taking the day off, as long as it’s to spend time together, but otherwise, I need to work.”
Jake: “I’m sure. I’ll be there at 9:00.”

I wasn’t just being pushy, here. While the only times Jake has ever postponed plans have been when he’s driving back from his family’s ranch, it’s also been every time he’s driving back from his family’s ranch. That’s why I was just short of nagging when I asked. So, imagine my frustration to receive this text at 7:00 on Thursday morning.

I’ll be there around lunch.

Even know that three months is too soon to threaten to throat punch the boy, but I was just so frustrated. I could have been working. I haven’t subbed all summer and I could have really used a half day’s pay. Jake, though… well, Jake’s in oil. We have substantially different incomes and likely always will. Half a day’s pay means very little to him and I’m not super eager to admit how difficult September has been, especially with the Gardasil vaccine that I’m getting, at least partly, because of him. I tried to look at things a little differently. Now I had a whole morning to finish sewing my flannel Star Trek pants… for which no one would be paying me. Nope. I just couldn’t get over it, so I kept my texting brief, for fear of sounding bitchy. Verbal and textual chatterbox that I usually am, Jake noticed and called. He said he wanted to make sure the plans were still the same, that we’d be going to the botanical gardens and to the outdoor store. He clearly wanted to see if I was mad and I’m just not all that great at hiding emotions, but I was polite, if brief. When he arrived around noon, I was still a little reserved. Jake actually had to stop me and ask to see the Spock shirt I’d raved about getting with my birthday money: “Trek Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.” Ultimately, I decided the best bet was just to say something to him, rather than let it stew.

Me: “I’d have worked this morning if I’d known you’d be late.”
Jake: “Ugh. Yeah. My brother was being a dick, so I didn’t get out until later.”

He clearly didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want to pry, but I quadruple checked that he’d be there early in the morning! Still annoyed, I set it aside and we started our day with lunch. Midway through our meal, I’d forgotten all about my frustrations with Jake and was just so glad to be with him. I always convince myself in our time apart that he’s not as great as I remember and I’m always wrong.

We had a great time. I stole my country boy’s new phone and changed his theme to pink and his ringtone to Turn Down for What, the latter of which I’m still not sure he’s been able to fix. We joked and talked about politics and I, again, took his phone and pretended to change his Facebook relationship status (he doesn’t Facebook at all), only to have him tell me to go ahead. After lunch, we went to the gardens, which were, quite honestly, boring. Did you know that botanical gardens just equals “trees and bushes”? When we’d gone to the zoo, Jake had been strangely gifted at naming the plants, so I’d thought it would be a fun activity, but I was wrong… except for the Jake part. That part was nice.

After the gardens, we went to the outdoor store and Jake asked if I wanted him to buy pretty much everything I touched. While it’s sweet that he wanted to get me a birthday gift, that’s not really how that’s done, so I declined everything but a bag of cotton candy jelly beans. We played a shooting game and Jake told me the official names of the fish in the tank. As much of a city girl as I can be, there’s something so… familiar about Jake’s country roots. All my life, I’ve grown up around men who hunt and fish. My ex-husband wasn’t into any of those things at all and there’s something almost… comforting in Jake’s down home side. He’s so friendly and laid-back, but at the same time, he can argue Lord of the Rings vs. Harry Potter (he’s wrong). Ultimately, you’d think I’d find discussing types of fish dull, but it’s almost… soothing.

By the time we were supposed to meet Gail and Terry at the bar, I was pretty tired, but Jake had other ideas, which made us later than a nap would have. Regardless, everyone seemed to hit it off quite well. Terry and Jake are both from small towns, with farmer/ranchers for parents. The conversation was easy and fun and my three margaritas put me so far over the limit, by the end of the night, that I jokingly programmed a sex shop into Jake’s GPS… and he drove there, when I refused to tell him what it was.

Finally, we went home and crashed for the night. The next morning, we woke up late for Jake and at normal human hours for Belle.

Jake: “It’s 8:00. We’ve wasted half the day.”
Me: “Shut up. It’s like the middle of the night.”

I made breakfast and somehow, the topic of my taking a job the day before came up again.

Me: “I was just frustrated because I asked for that very reason. I could’ve worked a half day. I don’t even know if one would’ve been available, but I couldn’t look because you said you’d be here at 9:00 and I blocked out the day.”
Jake: “I can like… give you money if it’s that big of a deal.”

Me: “Duuude. Noooo. I’m pretty sure that’s prostitution, so let’s not.”

I’m pretty sure that is the boyest thing he has ever said and that’s saying something. Ultimately, however, he got my point and understood the level of frustration I felt, so I feel the communication was successful. It wasn’t a fight, but it was our first disagreement and I think it was a productive one.

After breakfast/brunch, we went to see The Gift and then to meet my parents. I was a little nervous, but I didn’t want to make Jake more nervous by admitting so.

Jake: “I can’t believe I forgot my beard trimmer.”
Me: “It’s not that bad. Besides, I set the bar really low. They’ll love you.”

That’s me… being supportive.

I was right, though. Lena enthusiastically talked about my steps and both she and my dad told stories of their numerous trips to Mexico. My dad was thrilled to have a cattle/hunting/camping conversational companion and Lena and I bonded over how awful all of those things sound. Both of them loved when Jake told them how he doesn’t care for tattoos, piercings, and colorful hair.

Dad: “Are you going to go to the rodeo with him?”
Me: “Oh, I’m sure I will. His whole family is into rodeos. His dad was a rodeo clown.”
Jake: ::laughing:: “That is not true.”
Lena: “You’ll learn that Belle is her father’s daughter. They’re both dramatic story tellers.”
Jake: “Oh, I got that one a while ago.”
Me: “Hey. The difference is, want you to realize I’m being dramatic. My dad wants you to believe that he saw a cricket the size of a pony.”

It was great. They liked him. He liked them. It was a little loud with the live music and that was a damned shame, but it was just… fun. No one liked my ex-husband, so this is new and I’ll tell you, it’s awesome. I’ve always hated the idea of being with someone who doesn’t click with my family again and I’m pretty sure Jake with his stuffed deer head (who he’s refusing to let me a) decorate for Christmas or b) name Buzz) fit in better than me with my Ravenclaw Quidditch sweatshirt.

So that was my birthday and Jake’s introduction to some of the most important people in my life. I’m not sure it could’ve gone better, either. My daddy likes him. My stepmomma likes him. My Gaily likes him. Perhaps most amazingly, after three months, still like him.