My relationship with Carly, and the reason we are still together, can be summed up in the story of her dress:
The first time I met Carly, she was wearing this flowing sundress that would have looked adorable on any damsel over 80 years of age. It had a lovely floral pattern that would have been perfect for any couch in your grandmother’s house, and the dress was oversized enough to cover a couch too. Why Carly chose to wear this dress on that day will forever be one of the mysteries of her feminine mystique.
However, Carly was so cute and charming that I had to stomach the dress and ask her out. That’s a story for another day; let’s stay focused on the dress:
I am blessed with a very limited attention span and a terrible memory, so I was easily able to force the dress out of my mind and focus on the better parts of Carly’s wardrobe. I forgot about the dress. Looking back, I now know why Carly had this funny little secret smile everytime she wore her grandma camouflage (grandmaflage™?) – she thought I loved the dress. I didn’t.
Over the course of our relationship Carly slowly updated her wardrobe, and I saw less and less of the dress. But one day out of the blue Carly decided to forgo her hip new clothes to wear this hideous dress that didn’t even fit. I must have looked flabergasted, because Carly flashed me her little secret smile and said something like:
“Don’t you recognize this?”
(“Yes.” I thought, “It’s one of the curtains from the nursing home!”) But I held on to my poker face and played along… “No?“
“This is the dress I was wearing when we first met! *giggles* *smiles* *blushes*”
“Oh! Right! Now I recognize it!” And I did. I tried my best to hide behind a fake smile as the memories came crashing back. All those little secret smiles suddenly made so much sense. And I realized that I would now have to live with this dress for the rest of my life. I couldn’t tell her! Could I? No! Maybe if I were really subtle…maybe if it “accidentally” caught fire? But she looks so happy! I can’t do it…
I think my smile must have frozen into a rictus as Carly asked, “What is it?”
Ummm…. “I’m just so overcome with emotion…you know…remembering how we first met and all…” It’s technically not a lie, right?
And so it went on. Carly only got prettier, but for every special occasion she wore her best dress. We go to Taco Bell and Carly dresses like a supermodel – we go to a white tablecloth place and Carly dresses like…well you get the idea by now. I didn’t know what to do.
I couldn’t tell her! It would devastate her. Right?
That’s the thing about Carly that I didn’t realize until the moment I told her about the dress. She’s tiny but she’s tough. Well, I knew she was tough – the bruises attest to that, but I didn’t realize how well she can handle my overly critical ridiculous neuroticism.
I never wanted to get married because I really believe that if you love something you have to let it go. If it takes a contract to keep you together, then you don’t belong together. I never wanted anyone to stay with me out of obligation. And making love into a contract felt like a cold, bitter destruction of all of the romantic ideals of love.
The night I finally broke down, she had brought up the dress, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to tell her the truth. I expected Carly to be crushed. I flinched, waiting for tears, wailing…and more bruises. But none of that happened.
I told her I hated that dress. She looked puzzled for a moment, and then that secret little smile spread across her face.
That’s when I knew that with Carly things were different. She didn’t care about the love contract, she just loved me. So, I was able to stop caring about the contract too.
…Since we are going to have a contract though, one of her vows better be to “Never wear that dress again as long as we both shall live.”