Nearly ten years ago, as I walked down the sidewalk in Santa Monica on my way to lunch, a coworker stopped me and said, “Ruthy! Look at you, kitten. Mee-ow.”
He really talked like that, probably still does. He’s a legend, seriously, a proverbial Hollywood post-production legend. One time at happy hour, he announced to the table, “I’ve had enough!” and poured his entire martini into our girlfriend’s handbag. Laughter, hugs and kisses ensued. Some people are endearing even at their most obnoxious moments. Or maybe I’m able to enjoy that story because it wasn’t my purse.
Anyway, after calling me “kitten” (I love being called kitten), he said, “You’ve got a spring in your step, baby. I’ve never seen you so happy!”
“Thanks, Bill. I am happy. I’m in love.”
I was in love. With Andy.
We’d met only a couple months earlier, but I knew what it was. I’d been in love before. Prior to Andy, there was one true love and two bona fide faux-loves, all well-earned lines on my resume de l’amour.
On top of those years’ long serious relationships, I kicked off my thirties by racking up over forty (four. zero.) internet dates. I know. I counted them because a girlfriend of mine swore that finding The Right Husband was nothing but a numbers game. Several of the forty hung around for mini-romances. All ended miserably.
- The craziest man I met (and by “crazy”, I don’t mean mentally ill, I mean eccentric, not charming-eccentric either, unpleasant-eccentric) was an 0ld guy in Venice. Rude. So rude that I was rude right back. That date was 45 minutes (30 minutes too long).
- The next craziest was a trust fund baby in Santa Monica. He wore his pants too high on his waist. For some reason, I thought I loved him. It was probably the way it rained on us at the Hollywood Bowl, and the orgasms. I was wrong about the love.
- The sweetest and most fun was also a trust fund baby in Santa Monica; so you can’t stereotype. We had a mutual light and upbeat appreciation for each other’s company, and kissing.
- The biggest weirdo was a majorly accomplished architect working on a high profile restoration project (hint: in Malibu). I adored him until things got whacky. Whacky with a capital W. And I Went along With it. What Was I thinking? I’ll have to really disguise matters if I ever want to write about him in more detail. Whacky. But it was kind of fun. Until it wasn’t.
- The richest was a gun-owning, smart, sensitive guy who lived in the hills. I held said gun in his condo (specifically, in his bed; specifically, naked in his bed; specifically, happy in his bed). It was heavy, the gun. Calm down, this wasn’t a kinky freak episode (à la Janice Soprano). For the record, it was the first and only gun I’ve ever held. And I made him take out the bullets first. His home looked just like a drooly Pinterest board, particularly the master bathroom. He was a good man. Probably still is, somewhere. No desire to find out where.
The list goes on for 35 more men-boys, most of whom never made it past one or two beverages.
And then came Andy. His arrival in my life was unlike any situation I’d ever been in. Wholesome. We met at my best friend’s wedding. You know exactly what happened: I saw his smile across the crowded room and rushed to embody the cliché of it all, not because I wanted a good story to tell, but because I was 100% wild about him. Instantly. And he was 100% wild about me. Serendipitously.
So, two months later, on that sidewalk in Santa Monica when Bill said, “Love suits you. You look fabulous!”
I (the kitten) said, “I know!”
I was that happy.
At 32, all my dreams for marriage and a family of my very own remained intact, however bruised by the search, by the disappointments, by the one true love and the two bona fide faux-loves, by the unpleasantly eccentric and the gun-owning rich, by the sweet and the whacky.
When I met Andy, the search that started with my first crush in kindergarten ended.
Flash forward to now, nine years and eleven months later and counting. We’re in uncharted relationship territory.
The home we made together doesn’t match any of the teenage expectations I had for myself. We haven’t married. We decided not to have children. But I wake up regularly with gratitude for those choices. We often tell each other, “I love our home.” And we say we love each other, too.
Recent years have been rough. Real. Even tragic at times. The complications get complex and the complexities are confusing, and a lot of the time, it’s not fun. But anyone in an authentic relationship who won’t admit the same is hiding.
I find it interesting when people try to convince me that I should marry Andy because they feel it will provide some sort of magical bond. Really. Some of my married friends have actually said to me, “There were nights when I got so mad that if I wasn’t married, I would have left and not looked back.”
So, we should marry in order to force ourselves to stay in situations we would otherwise leave? It perplexes me that someone would say something like that with a straight face. How sad. If I were more confident and less considerate, I would say, “Are you even listening to yourself?”
I look at what Andy and I have experienced together (and apart), at the way we relate, and I’m amazed. I mean, we could do what those married friends of mine mentioned: just leave and not look back. There’s nothing legally binding about us, and nothing biologically binding either. But we’ve persisted. We persist.
Andy’s gifts to me rival those of my parents. One might say, “They should. That’s what partnership is.” I say, “Wow.”
He loves me so much, laughs at my jokes, supports my free expression of whatever it is I need to express on any given day, speaks to me with kindness (nearly always), encourages my many pursuits of happiness. And I love him (so much), too. It feels like he deserves more than I can ever give, more than I know how to give, more than can be articulated.
This spring, a close friend and I sat alone in her car for hours talking about the paradoxes in our lives. She summarized my situation by saying, “Andy’s your family, Ruth.” We were holding hands, and crying–because that’s what we do–and I couldn’t look away from the crumpled straw wrapper on her dashboard. She’s always embraced messiness more easily than I. She squeezed my hand tighter and said it again, “He’s your family.”
It had been a long time since I thought of it that way.
I love my family: Andy.
Thank you, sweetheart.