Saturday Night — I’m hiding in my closet, trying to squeeze into a pair of off-brand Spanx. The dress I bought earlier today is a little see-through, and my Victoria’s Secret shaping slip needs some backup. The Spanx are a second layer of security, to protect my nether regions from exposure and to hold my wobbly bits in place.
I bought the shaping hose when I was much younger and leaner, and as I struggle to pull the hose up, a horrifying realization crosses my mind: it may be physically impossible to get the tiny elastic band over my thighs. After a few moments of arduous labor, when I finally pull the shaping hose over my hips, I’m sweating a little, and I’m slightly concerned about my circulation. When I pop the elastic in place, a feeling of immense triumph washes over me. It gives me the perfect dose of adrenaline, and I am able to disregard the fleeting, trivial discomforts of being girdled. Cramming myself into a pair of control-top pantyhose never felt so good.
I know I must look ridiculous, with a pair of cropped pantyhose pulled up over my navel, like some weird female version of Steve Urkel. “Well, I’m keeping the magic alive,” I think, giddy with mixed feelings of self-congratulation and good-humored self-degradation. Ridiculous or not, I feel very pleased with myself. I adjust the hems of the shorts and pull the hose tighter against my thighs. I feel sleek, sexy and ready for a date with a computer programmer named Kevin.
An hour earlier, I had scrubbed down the counters and vacuumed the living room. We had plans to make pizza together, and I didn’t want him to see a single crumb on my counter. I had showered, dressed, and my makeup was done. I was doing my hair when he came back from buying the groceries.
He tried to come in the bathroom, which I had preemptively locked.
“You’re not allowed in here!” I yelled.
“Are you pooping?” he asked.
“NO!” I screamed, mortified.
“Okay, I’ll let you poop,” he said.
“I’m not pooping. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” I yelled.
“Fifteen minutes? What am I supposed to do?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Cut vegetables or something!”
I fell in love with Kevin while watching him chop vegetables. We were in the kitchen of his shabby college apartment, and he was preparing vegetables for a spaghetti sauce. He has paw-like hands, broad and strong. You would expect fingers so thick to be clumsy, but they’re anything but.
I remember the exact moment clearly, watching him slide a knife through the green skin of a bell pepper. Love finds us in the strangest moments. When he cut that pepper, I saw the best of him outlined in a single motion. I saw ease and precision, the confidence of a capable man. But I also saw something unexpected, a strength paired with grace and tenderness.
When I first fell in love with Kevin, we had been dating for four months. I was crazy about him, but he wasn’t ready for anything serious.
That was five years ago.
Today, we’re having a dinner date in our apartment. I’m wearing a new dress, not because I want to impress him, but because he deserves the best of me. He proposed to me eight months ago, and we’re getting married in April.
“Oooh, sexy lady!” he catcalls at me when I come out of the bathroom. I strike a pose and laugh before giving him a kiss on the cheek.
“I pretended we were dating, and I cleaned the house so you wouldn’t see my messy apartment,” I tell him.
“Oh really? That’s funny because I spend the afternoon at the pool and had my maid clean the apartment before you got here.”
I laugh and slap him on the arm.
We’ve lived together for over a year now. It’s been a slow (and sometimes tough) transition, but my ideas about romance have changed a lot since my single girl days. Home-cooked meals, good jokes, quiet moments snuggled together — the small, everyday actions and gestures that express our love and support for one another — these are the little romances that bring us closer.
But every now and then, he’ll surprise me with dinner, and I’ll wear a new dress. We’ll take a trip or listen to a new record. We love to delight each other, and that’s what helps us keep the magic alive.
How do you keep the magic alive in your relationship?