Kenny and I almost didn’t get married. During our dating year prior to the wedding, he dumped me. Twice.
He’d be quick to jump in here and state that it wasn’t for lack of love. He just wasn’t sure we could go the distance. He’d been married a couple of times before (as had I) and was determined to avoid yet another failed marriage and messy divorce.
Quick background: Kenny and “re-met” at our 25th high school reunion. We’d graduated together in 1974. We never dated in high school, but were aware of each other’s existence through sports. Kenny lettered in everything, and I was a cheerleader for 7 years. “Give me a K! Give me an E!…” pretty much summed up our teenage relationship.
Even in high school, everybody loved Kenny. He was funny, smart, passionate, fearless (did I mention gorgeous?), completely uninhibited, and he laughed at everything. I discovered at our reunion that he hadn’t changed a bit. I was dazzled, and we started dating a few weeks later.
Introducing Kenny to my son, Jake (then 10 years old and wise beyond his years) was a study in male bonding. They were instantly crazy about each other and would spent many evenings sitting in Jake’s bedroom before he went to sleep, talking about “guy things,” which both men steadfastly refused to share with Mom. One night, as I was walking down the hall past Jake’s doorway (okay, fine. I was standing outside listening. Geez, people), I heard Jake say, “What happens if you and Mom split up and I lose another dad?” Kenny replied, “I’d sue for custody.” My heart flipped over and I fell in love on the spot.
But then one night, Kenny announced that we should “take a break.” He’d decided that I needed time after my divorce to date other men and explore other, possibly more lucrative matches. He was “just a painter, and I could do better.” He’d made up his mind, and no amount of discussion would change it. We’ll just see about that, Big Guy.
I gave him a couple of weeks to get his proverbial head out of his butt and realize the inevitable, when Jake asked, “Mom, where’s Kenny?” I smiled and replied, “He’s just been really busy, sweetie. Why don’t you call him?” (Say no to that, buddy.) With the straightforwardness of youth, Jake said, “Hi Kenny. I miss you. We’re going out for pizza tonight. Do you want to come?” There was a long pause, and Kenny replied, “Sure, Jake. Now put your mom on.” I took the phone and heard, “You suck. Be there in 10.” I know. And there’s an extra 20 in your allowance envelope, Jake.
Back together, we dated for several happy months and began to discuss marriage, but Kenny’s fears about me leaving for Mr. Got Bucks somewhere down the road weren’t abating. He was convinced that I was used to a monied lifestyle and would eventually tire of being a contractor’s wife, leaving with all his worldly goods, his heart, and his new son, never looking back.
To be fair, we’d both had our fair share of marital explosions. With four marriages between the two of us, I could see his concern. But let’s recap. My first marriage was a good-daughter-rebellion, 8-month disaster to a musician I met in college. The second was 15 years to Jake’s dad, who found his bliss on Maui, where we moved when Jake was 5. I’d spent my entire professional life as a sales trainer and motivational speaker, and people move to Maui to get away from people like me. Second-Hubs was sun-drenched and deliriously happy. I was bored out of my ever-lovin’ mind. And I had years of dating experience through college and between marriages, so Kenny’s argument that I needed “to see what was out there” was stupid, which I reiterated every time he brought it up.
As time went by, “the talk” became less and less frequent, so it appeared that Kenny had resolved the issue in his mind and moved past it. Apparently this was not the case.
One night, we filled an oversize SUV with 8 friends and headed out for a night of uninhibited celebration at our favorite bar. There was a great band playing classic rock, and we hit the floor as a group. Kenny loves to dance and has been known to bust a move in restaurants, shopping malls, and even in church (oh yes, he did). But that night he was sitting at the table, drink in hand, doing an admirable imitation of Grumpy Cat. Exasperated by his unusual reluctance to show off his goofiest moves, I finally dragged him out to parking lot to demand an explanation.
“Okay, I’ll tell you,” he announced, with voice slightly raised, “You should know that I don’t love you. I’ve never loved you, and I never will love you.” By now his voice was getting louder and he was waving his arms. “We can’t be together. This will never work. Do you hear me?? NEVER.” As his voice and gestures became more dramatic, I just stood there, trying not to laugh. “And furthermore,” he waved his arm at me with a flourish, practically shouting, “I wouldn’t fall in love with you if you were the last woman on the planet. Do you hear me, woman??”
At that point, a group of 30-somethings walked past us, grinning, and one young man looked over at his date and said, dryly, “All she has to do now is Reel. Him. In.”
So I did.
Three months later, we were married (the groom in white, the bride in fire-engine red), and 13 years later, we’re still laughing. Happy anniversary, Kenny. You’re still the best decision I ever made.