Sensuality, connection, and fun don’t have to be a grand, fancy soiree. The daily, easy sensualities are sometimes the most fun. Last week I was remembering a little fun thing my husband did for me back when we were dating, and I decided to re-create it.
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I saw my husband the first day on campus at Western Washington University in 1993. He was walking across Red Square with his then-girlfriend and I was walking in the opposite direction with my roommate as we headed to a training for on-campus work. Now, at that time, I was a ‘good, Christian girl’ and super excited to be living on my own. You can see my senior picture and a comparison of me then/now on this post. (Check out the bangs! And the henley! And the perm!)
That day, my husband was wearing a mohawk, 8 ear piercings, 2 nipple piercings, 10 tattoos, some mid-calf, black leather, steel-toed boots, a menacing black leather jacket, and a Timbuktu bag (very chic for cyclists in those days). My only thought when I saw him was, “College is going to be awesome.” I was ready for change.
In the next six weeks I had dates with 6 guys, and eventually settled on one, EWD. He and I were together for the next 2.5 years. We were good, honestly. For our age and what we knew of relationships, we were a genuinely good and healthy couple.
Looking back now, though, I see that something was happening in those years. I kept seeing my would-be husband at various places on campus. I always felt a thrill when I saw him, even as I was getting deeper with EWD and feeling certain that we would get married some day. (EWD made the one fatal mistake, though: he asked me to not grow anymore. Sorry, no can do.) The thing is, I knew, even as I was with EWD, that if my husband -then just a cute guy- asked me out, I would have said yes with every part of my being. All those years that I saw him and wanted him, I was laying down the energy of ‘long-term’ as my connection with him. At least, that’s how I see it today.
So, I broke up with EWD about four hours after my husband and I had our first date. (Yeah, a little overlap there. My bad. We both knew we were dead at that point, though- one of us had to officially call the death, and it was me.) Dating my husband was like all of the romantic movies I had ever seen. It felt awesome- giddy, joyful, telling the truth, sharing with each other, having fun, figuring out sex together, learning how to care for each other. We definitely started out as lovers and grew into best friends. We built our love with truth and that also gave us trust. We were also at that magical place where each of us was ready to tell the truth and work at building something; to speak the truth, to learn to fight well, to be open and supportive and work through the shit.
Okay! Enough musing on dating and love! The story!
One of our first dates had been at a bar where all the grad students hung out (he was doing his masters, I was still doing my bachelors), and he bought me the first beer I ever really liked. It was a peach (peche) Lambic. (This is a sweet beer, some call it ‘Kool-Aid’ beer – they wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s still one of only two beer types I’ll drink.) And he remembered this.
So, one night I went over to his place after work. We both worked at a nursing home in town and the work was grueling. There’s nothing quite like hefting 200 lb people out of and into beds for 8 hours to give you really great quads and biceps, though. Anyway, I drove over to his place after my shift, 11:30 at night, and he greeted me with a warm tub full of peach-smelling bubbles and a cold peach lambic. He gently undressed me, with a suitable but not naughty amount of kissing, and plopped me in the tub with a cold one. I felt cared for, seen, loved, wanted. His arms around me, having him sit next to me, relaxing in the hot water and enjoying the smell of the bubbles and the taste of the beer. It was exquisite. It cost him all of $6.
Sensuality + care + love can be simple. It can be remembering what someone likes and giving it to them again. It can be helping someone who’s worked hard to relax. It can just be spending time together, showing we care with our presence. He and I had a great conversation while I was in the tub and then we fell asleep on his twin bed (when you are young and in love, you will put up with some crazy shit, like regularly sleeping together on a twin bed). That whole evening is one I will always remember because it was so sensually delightful, but also full of love and care.
Two weekends ago, my beloved was away with our son. He’d had a long-ass weekend of driving and camping and when he got home Sunday night, he was dead tired. When he got home, I stuck him in the shower and put him to bed. It reminded me of the night with the peach lambic, so I went to the liquor store and got him one the next day. We laughed as we drank it and remembered that night. (Although, there was no peche lambic. Only frambois. Alas… Also, word to the wise, don’t drink the cherry. It really tastes awful.) We remembered the sensuality and our youth and we looked at the long path to today; it was a joy, honestly.
That night with the peach Lambic happened almost exactly 22 years ago. Truly a lifetime ago. We are different people now, yet we are also the same. I sometimes feel bittersweet that we won’t have that memory again, or that the years continue to roll by. But I am also entirely glad for where we are now- making new sensual memories in our new house (I’ll tell you about the one with vodka later!) and I’m realizing that 22 years from now, we’ll be re-living the memories we make today with a smile, too. Sensuality, care, and love can be really simple and sweet- and I’m reminded of how important those moments are to the building of long-lasting love.
Big love from memory lane,
Joanna :: xoxo
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For a week or so, I got this ad on Facebook for a film called “The Dating Experiment” and it was about people trying to date in the modern era. I haven’t watched it yet, but I found it fascinating that young people (even into their 30s) don’t know how to date. In my day, dating was the only way you got to sex. Even if it was a one-night stand, you had to endure an actual date before you fumbled into somebody’s apartment or car or dark corner and got it on. You had to date to get anywhere, romantically or sexually. Times have changed!
If you want to know what dating in the 1990s was like, catch these three films. They definitely reflect my experience as a middle class, white woman of that time. (Also, one of the things I find really difficult for people in their 20s these days is that pop culture does not have a lot of supportive messages for long-term relationships. Like, I’m glad we’ve exposed the darkness and difficulty of relationships, and having boundaries and stuff, but Dan Fogelberg (Longer), Bread (Baby I’m A Want You), Breathe (Hands to Heaven), Terence Trent D’Arby (Sign Your Name), Depeche Mode (Somebody), Sinead O’Connor (Nothing Compares 2 U- my entire freshman year of high school revolved around a boy I loved and this damn song), and the like- they all taught me what falling in love felt like and how to conceive of and live inside a long-term partnership. I think that’s missing these days- the hope and joy of falling in love and working to make it work.)
People have said that Lloyd Dobler was a stalker, but no. He was a 19 year-old boy in 1989 and he was doing the best he could for the times. I would still pick his enthusiastic, unsure, genuine kind of loving over a lot of other dudes any day of the week and twice on Sundays. He was trying his best and he loved Diane so much. I still listen to the soundtrack. (“Maybe the world is a blur of food and sex and spectacle and we’re all just hurtling towards an acropolis… in which case, it’s not your fault.” He was brilliant, our Lloyd.)
Set in Seattle, so it’s dope for that reason alone. Also, you’ll see the original grave for Jimi Hendrix in my old hometown (there is an awful, gawdy version there now). But it’s a real look at what we were doing and thinking in 1993 about dating and being in relationships- all kinds of relationships. Also an exquisite soundtrack from the original ‘alternative rock’ years.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s life is both drastically changed, but also not, in this film about the difference a few seconds can make in someone’s life. (It’s also one of the reasons I take a long ass time to make some decisions.) It’s great in the way that Groundhog’s Day is great. But also, it’s the dating and falling in love and handling it well thing. Not a great soundtrack, but a damn funny character- the best friend of Gerry (one of the main male characters who cannot decide between his girlfriend and his mistress; the best friend is a true delight).
From the time-traveling machine that is my head and heart- Joanna