Growing up, I had certain ideas of what love should be – and a lot of these ideas came from Disney movies. Yes, I know, I act so cynical, but deep inside I wanted romance, to be swept off my feet by a handsome knight, and to have my own Ever After. Whatever that meant – the movie usually ended at that point.
I was twelve when the Little Mermaid came out in theaters, starting the Disney Renaissance of “princess movies” that I would watch with a guy friend I hoped I’d end up with eventually since we both were good artists, and liked musicals and Disney movies and singing together, and dressing up for prom, and . . . I probably should have seen some of the signs earlier. But at the time, I thought it must be me, and that I must be some reject who would never find real love cause here I’d finished high school, and most of college, and had never had a real boyfriend.
If you want to know what I thought a romance should be like, you can just watch the movie Enchanted, specifically this scene. It makes fun of Disney tropes, but Amy Adams is so adorable you have to love her or you’ll die or something.
Then I had a whirlwind romance at what was basically a Renaissance Fair, which didn’t play directly into my fantasies at all, and he was pretty, and he thought I was pretty, and this was surely going to be Ever After. But I happened to be on vacation at the time, and so it was a long distance relationship, and we didn’t have texting but long distance phone calls. So it was on one of those when I asked him once if I was worth it. And he didn’t respond.
I was 21. And as the relationship crashed and burned over the fall of 1997, I figured I would never find love again, and boy was I angry I was cheated. Then in the spring of 1998, a friend, who was about twice my age and really as much a mentor as a friend, took me to church. I didn’t care much for it since women were told to be quiet occasionally and respect their husbands and also you had to get up way too early. Then she told me there was was this guy who asked about me, and yeah I was just that easy to convert, so sue me.
My friend happened to invite us both over to her house and set us up, and I said to heck with convention and asked him to exchange phone numbers. And I called him first, because I wanted to tell him all about my birthday. We saw Mulan on our first official date, and I talked about how much I loved it that a Disney princess finally got to kick butt like a man! Much later, when I asked him if it was okay that I was not the good church wife Susie homemaker type, he reminded me of that first date.
It finally occurred to me why I had so many first dates in conservative Texas.
He didn’t seem like a knight except for all that rusted metal he liked to play with, but he wrote me poetry (not great poetry, but poetry staring me – he has not done this since we dated), and he was kind, and a good guy, and we had fun together on our dates. Since he went to church much of the week, I knew he wasn’t out drinking and partying. He too had given up on love at the ripe age of 25, and bought his own house. In his neighborhood, all these little boys would follow us as we rode our bikes around the block. So kids loved him too.
I thought that was enough for an Ever After, but I really had no clue at the time. It wasn’t until we had years together and had experienced so much and gotten through it, that I understood just what love was, and what made a real, steadfast knight. I have depression and anxiety, which is not easy to live with- I know as I have relatives with it as well. But he has stayed through it all, and I have stayed with him and his quirks (our yard is filled with rusted car parts for one) as he yelled and I cried and we made up again and again.
Now it’s been TWENTY YEARS today, and I can answer the question “How do you know he loves you?” It’s not matching his clothes to your eyes either, sorry Amy. It is:
Repeatedly rescuing you from yourself without getting angry, like when you get lost in a city you’ve lived in or near all of your life, or you lock your keys in your car with it running in the rain in a city fifteen minutes from his work.
Reminding you why you should wait for babies, then upon finding out you are pregnant after nine months of marriage, staying calm and saying “Well, we’re having a baby” while your wife runs in circles, screaming and shouting.
And four years later, doing this all again.
Holding your hair back when you throw up from morning sickness.
Yelling about money, or how much time you do or don’t spend together, or any number of other heated arguments, storming out of the house – and coming back.
Taking the baby out with him alone, and not just because she got him “More attention than a dog!”
Going out after a long day of work and picking up your many prescriptions, and sanitary products, and even extra yeast control medication because “it was on sale”. Okay, the last part’s a little weird.
Confronting a doctor when he’s really an introvert because the doctor missed a strep throat diagnosis on your little girl.
Listening to you cry over nothing, letting you lay your head in his lap, and though he has no words or understanding of what is going on with you, just being there. And when he can’t be, encouraging a daughter to actually stay home from church to “Keep Mommy company.” I never knew he did that till later.
Giving indirect compliments to someone else like: “You should see her draw with chalk on the sidewalk like it’s pen on paper! She makes these girls with all this flowing hair and it’s amazing!”
Voting for the opposite political party but not caring about politics to the point that you smile and say “That’s one happy Democrat” after she comes home from a Bill Clinton speech. Then putting up with the same liberal politics from two daughters.
Living with three hormonal women.
Working hard for years for a low salary that slowly builds up until finally your annoying bosses that never want to work leave and you get to be the boss of annoying kids that never want to work. And never quitting.
Being proud of your wife’s many academic degrees even if they seem to do little for the family money-wise.
Staying calm and loving with each job your wife loses, because “Your most important job is being a mom, and you’re such a good mom to those girls.”
Putting up with your Disney doll collection even if they are all over the house. I mean everywhere. At least they aren’t clowns?
Taking lots of time off work to take you six hours to get expensive ECT treatment for depression, for weeks at a time, in the hope that maybe you will finally get better. Keeping you from falling out of shuttles after you have anesthesia from that treatment and are sure you can walk just fine.
So many more things I didn’t name and finally . .
Still loving her after all these years, and willing to do so for more years to come.
I love you, Mr. Alice. Here’s to another twenty years.