Everyday Romance

Summer, 2008, at a house party. Both of us more than a little tipsy.

Drinking tea together that we collected during our travels.

Daydreaming about which room we should put a second AC unit in, but secretly enjoying nights of laying around in our underwear in front of the fan complaining about how hot it is.

Watching shows with me like Counting On or Call the Midwife, even though they are the last things he’d choose for himself. Likewise when he gets me to watch Paranormal Alien Investigation Cover-Up Conspiracy Cops, or whatever it is.

Calmly accepting that I refuse to use weedkiller in the garden, even though it means a lot more work for both of us.

Never getting mad when I let the dogs have a tiny taste of every food I eat, even if it’s expensive caviar or sashimi or something.

Adhering to his silly rules about sock pairing – they are all grey and exactly the same except for a tiny strip on the toe that can be red, blue or green, which nobody would ever see, but apparently it makes all the difference.

Scratching each other’s backs at the exact spot that we can’t reach ourselves.

Putting up with (and ultimately enjoying, even if he won’t admit it) the way I like to do Christmas.

Eating sour warheads because it amuses him so much to watch the faces I pull.

Kitchen hugs, couch hugs, car hugs, garden hugs, bed hugs, just got out of the shower and only wearing a towel hugs.

Watching him play with the darling dogs and always wanting them to live their best lives.

No judgment from either of us if it turns into a tortilla-chips-and-salsa-for-dinner kind of night. No judgment from him on my coke zero addiction either.

Reading through the cards and letters he’s given me over the years – he says he’s not a writer, but those are some of the sweetest things I’ve ever read.

Speculating on ridiculous hypotheticals, like what names we would pick if we had quadruplets, or how much money we could make if we started a truffle farm, or what airline a publisher would make me fly if I went on a book tour.

Patiently teaching him things to say in Chinese for our next big trip, knowing that he’ll probably forget them by tomorrow.

Hunting down my favourite milk-flavoured bun from BreadTop and bringing it home on a plane, all the way from Sydney.

The Losing of Wisdom

Break from scheduled programming – I’ll be back with the Japan posts shortly. But for now…

It’s a right of passage that I have luckily never had to endure (fingers crossed), but Nathan has his wisdom teeth out today. The whole saga started with a bad jaw infection in October and the decision was made that they had to go. Which is when he discovered that he actually has five wisdom teeth – ridiculous. I’m sure it’s evidence of being part alien or something. Last time he was on painkillers this strong, he wrapped himself in a blanket, smiled and told me that he was a “newborn baby caterpillar”, so we’ve had some interesting conversations since he’s been all doped up. It’s his first general anaesthetic and we were both so worried. I wait by the phone with bated breath whenever the dogs get their teeth cleaned, but this was harder. It must have been disconcerting for him that his most recent example was me, having eye surgery, and recovering so badly that I got put in a private room and still needed a nurse to help carry me to the bathroom about six hours after waking up. This time around, he did much better than me. But the best part is that he’s home again with me, and I can take good care of him. I have been an incredibly diligent little nurse for him: changing his ice packs whenever they get even slightly warm, making sure he has all his pills on time, keeping all the television and air con remotes in reach, and loading him up with all the custard, jelly, ice cream, baby food and soup that he can handle.

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Diddums!

Wedding Weekend

We went to a wedding on the weekend. A big one. Every gorgeous pink and white flower in town. All the hand appliqued lace onto custom fitted tulle. So many bridesmaids. Flower girl dresses so voluminous they could barely fit through the door. The reception took up an entire ballroom at an upscale resort hotel. And then there were more details: gold charger plates and hot pink napkins! cheese platters with candied baby figs! not one wedding cake, but three! foil printed invitation suite with pretty envelope liners! tiny bottles of fancy tequila! five and a half hours of professional photography! champagne topped up as soon as I took a single sip! somebody to place my napkin on my lap and roll it up neatly every time I left the table!

It was all so lovely and dramatic and huge and detailed that I couldn’t help but feel like the smallest, dowdiest, mousiest, most ‘not a big deal’ bride ever. Part of me wants to be The Biggest F*cking Deal for just one day, but then I picture myself having a total meltdown like Carrie Bradshaw in the bridal shop in season four, screaming “get it off, get it off!” while ripping at the giant meringue of tafetta and tulle around her. I still don’t know what we’re going to do, and at this point we’re about ten and a half months out. We need to get our skates on.

But back to the weekend – I don’t know how to describe it properly, but I’d never seen a dress before with lace placed onto tulle in such a way that it was seamless all over, and the motifs created perfectly symmetrical patterns over the bride’s shoulders and arms. It was amazing, even Nathan couldn’t stop talking about this dress. One of the groom’s family members from New Zealand performed the haka for the couple, which was super exciting. We danced and danced, we did the Elaine and got many strange looks, and Nathan did his famous mobile phone advertisement interpretative dance (it’s all about the facial expressions, I’ll film it and share some time!). The music was good, the food was really good (no chicken, yes!), everything was perfectly lovely. I would be lying though if I wasn’t looking around at such a grand affair wondering what people would think of my more modest plans in comparison.

There will still be champagne. Everybody will be well fed, there will be good music. I guess we will get bonus points for having ultra cute canines in the bridal party. At the end of the day, the core of it will be exactly the same – a promise and a party. I will bet that I was noticing every single detail on the weekend more than anybody else, looking at it all through ‘bride glasses’, and that everybody else only really cared about the “I do”s and whether they were having a good time afterwards.

Moral of the story: whatever we plan will be great, because at the end of that day, we’ll be married. And that is the goal, that’s the point of it all.

Also, some photos:

curls

I curled my hair while I was still in pajamas and Nathan took a photo – the juxtaposition of this with the photo in my last post is too funny. He calls it ‘Little Bo Peep’, I call it ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’. Also, it took literally about ten minutes for all those curls to fall out. The perils of straight hair!

pretty

See? It was really pretty. The centerpiece was crowned with a huge bunch of ranunculus (ranunculi?), so top points from me. Plus they positioned the cheese platter right in front of my place card, so I’m pretty much indebted to the bride and groom for life.

every time

He does this…
Every.
Single.
Time.
anybody tries to take a photo of him.

Lucky he’s cute.

We’ve Got The Funk

Whenever Nathan flies, I watch his plane on radar. It’s a ritual now; I am always terrified that something bad will happen if I forget, and it will be because I forgot. He’s in the air now, and I’m monitoring the altitude and speed like it’s my job.

He has been away all week. The dogs are absolutely depressed. Nathan says they do the same thing when I go away, Posie particularly. They wander around the house, lost, with sad eyes. They don’t want to play, have no interest in food and don’t seem to enjoy it as much when they get cuddled. They sleep all day, but patrol the house all night, like they think Nathan can protect them while they sleep but I can’t, and then it becomes their job to protect me. I guess that says a lot about where they think I fit in the household pecking order.

I guess this whole household has been depressed this week. Too much junk food, not enough sleep, too little fun. I always tease Nathan about how he eats terribly when I’m not around – he’ll eat things like supermarket brand frozen pre-fried chicken in a box and call it a meal. Sad bachelor food, I call it. But sometimes I’m exactly the same. I think we both fall into the trap of considering ourselves, individually, not worth the effort of basic care and compassion. This morning, a tall and very heavy box in the kitchen tipped over and grazed the back of leg as it fell, dragging against my skin all the way down my calf. It hurt so much I wondered if my leg was broken. Now it’s just a lovely bruise, but the kind that throbs with hot pain even when it’s not being touched. I left the box where it fell; we can deal with it later, and I don’t want to risk it falling on me again. Normally the dogs would be fascinated by a strange object like a huge box laying on the kitchen floor, but they haven’t given it a second glance – that’s how down they are. I gave them a pizza crust each this morning and found them uneaten in their beds hours later. When the household is in disarray, they don’t even have an appetite for pizza.

His plane is three-quarters of the way here now. I can breathe a bit – my anxiety about this kind of thing is so bad that it extends to other people flying, but I know that cruising is the safest part of the flight. He’ll be home soon. The puppies will hear his taxi in the street and run to the window, waiting for footsteps on the gravel outside. The front door will open and they will leap all over the couch, run circles around the living room and bark loud enough to tell the whole street that he’s home. He will dump his bags and they will cover him in kisses. The moment he gets home, this depression will be gone because it’s not really depression, it’s just a funk. We’ll all snap out of it because everything will be in its right place again.

Turning Nine

last night

Can you even imagine nine whole years? Or devoting that length of time to another person? I’m sure you can if you are old or have children or have been married for eons or in the same job for your entire career, but it’s certainly new and exciting for me.

It astonishes me every day how you can travel so far from where you started, metamorphose and evolve over and over, yet there is some magical common thread that is and will always remain the core of the person you love so dearly. It shocks me how it simultaneously takes all the hard work you can muster but feels effortless. It amazes me that my heart felt so full at one year, or five, or even a year ago – yet the depth of what we have just keeps multiplying. I’m sounding incredibly smug, but I just really love the guy.

I wrote some of this on the card I gave to him, but I love: his phobia of anything ham and pineapple; his overgrown toddler feet; the constant evolution of his inner feminist; his terrible Simpsons impressions; the way he plays with the puppies; his hilarious shower monologues; his ability to make people feel at ease; when he forgets to be grim and actually smiles; his encyclopedic knowledge of ancient civilizations; that he introduced me to meat lovers pizza with sour cream on it; all the adventures we’ve gone on together, as well as the comfort in having each other’s back through some of the most horrible things ever. Although some of our flaws are magnified by our pairing (ahem, housework), we are such a great team in so many other ways and probably the best puppy-parents that ever lived. I’m so glad we’re finally getting married next year, after so long of both of us being cynical about whether ‘forever’ was an attainable goal. But as Winona Ryder says in my favourite film ever:

I know our marriage has as good of a chance of being wonderful as it does missing the mark. However, I’m banking on our love for each other to weigh a bit heavier on the wonderful side. As Anna says about making a quilt, you have to choose your combination carefully. The right choices will enhance your quilt. The wrong choices will dull the colors, hide their original beauty. There are no rules you can follow. You have to go by your instinct. And you have to be brave.

To our tenth year, and to being brave.

I love you Bugalugs!

The Early Days

pirate party

We first met in October 2004. I had a crush on him instantly, whereas he was much too cool to pay any attention to “a kid”.

Once, I wore a pink and white gingham circle skirt to a rehearsal for a show that we were in, sitting on the ground with the skirt spread out around me. He looked me up and down and said, “you look like a picnic”. I immediately interpreted this as something dirty and stormed off in a huff, and he spent forever trying to apologize while trying not to laugh at me.

He gave me a ride in his car one time, and as he turned the engine on, Gwen Stefani blasted out of the speakers. He shrugged and said, “I like her”. I thought it was so cool that he could give off this ultra-metal grim manly-man facade, but still listen to ‘girl’ music without any embarrassment.

One night my then-boyfriend took me to an all night computer game party sleepover weekend at a friend’s house, dumped me there with nothing to do, then proceeded to ignore me for the next 48 hours while he played games. I was so bored, and considering we were in the middle of nowhere, I couldn’t even go home. Nathan arrived and saw how ignored I was, so instead of playing games with the guys, he set up a game that he thought I would like and taught me how to play it.

drinking

Years later, when he was in Sydney for work, we would call each other and stay on the phone for the longest time, talking about nothing and everything.

Even more time passed, until one night when he was in Melbourne seeing Black Sabbath with some friends. We played phone tag, he made some excuse to ditch his friends for a bit, and came and found me outside the stadium. Hiding behind a tree, we got our first kiss.

The first time I brought him to my mother’s house, he was wearing tight jeans, pointy shoes, a leather bomber jacket, “latte” coloured hair and a jaunty tweed cap, “like a little fashion model” – according to Mum.

One time he constructed this elaborate lie, that his family were actually part of the royal family of a dissolved European nation that collapsed in the nineties – that he was an ‘Emir of Kreblekistan’, but his family had been exiled during war. I was wide-eyed and stupid, and actually believed him for a minute. I googled it and found some results for a place called Karblakistan and assumed that he was just dealing with different romanization styles… but I believed him. My family still laugh at me about this.

Every time I cooked anything for him, his eyes would practically bug out of his head like he had never eaten anything so delicious, even if it was just a salad. He almost cried the first time I made pork and vegetable 餃子 for him.

versailles

We always outdid ourselves at costume parties. Most of the time, our best costumes were thrown together at the last minute from bits and pieces we already had at home. For a Versailles themed party, he wore a shirt he already owned with the collar turned in, borrowed a vest from my mum, I made him a mini-cravat out of some old curtain lace, and he wore a pair of my black velour track pants that were so tight on him that he had to take them off for the drive home. I also slicked his hair into a pompadour-style with little curls at the sides, and drew a beauty spot on his cheek – I wore a vintage wedding dress and ALL the hairspray.

There are too many drunk stories to pick just one (we were in our twenties, after all), but I could always count on him to get me home no matter what pathetic state I was in, put me in the shower, into clean pajamas, and into bed with a big glass of water – with gatorade and greasy food in the morning to chase my headache away.

On our birthday one year (yes, it’s the same day!), we were inspired by one of our favourite TV shows and decided we would have “smarties cereal” for breakfast – smarties and milk. All the colour washed off the smarties and we were left with bowls of sad little white chocolate pellets swimming in grey milk, not the best!

new years or something

It’s nice to have all these little sparkling moments in what is becoming a long shared history, but it’s also nice to know that the best is yet to come.

Tête-à-tête

Last night, we had a fight. By fight, I mean more of a debate. But there were definitely raised voices, impassioned arguments, a couple of potshots, somebody trying to play devil’s advocate, and lots of you can’t be serious and how can you really think that being thrown around. It revolved around politics, war, immigration, refugees and ethics – Nathan called me naive and idealistic, I called him xenophobic and embittered. We traded heated barbs literally for hours until somebody had to go to the bathroom and two tired puppies reminded us that it was 1am on a school night. We stomped off to bed without any resolution. And by the time we woke up, it had evaporated. The morning was smiles and hugs and co-operation and all good things. Everybody always says that you shouldn’t go to bed angry, but in this instance, sleep gave us both some distance enough to cool down. Some things really do need to be resolved then and there, but not this. I know he’s never going to see things from my point of view on these issues, or vice versa. But in the scheme of things, does it matter? It just doesn’t seem like a fundamental incompatibility to me, or to him – just a difference of opinion, on something that will (hopefully) never directly intrude into our relationship. The fact that we could argue so passionately but stick to attacking the point rather than the person… it was nice. Communication issues seem to be a sticking point for so many people, and although we are far from perfect, it feels good that we can disagree without the world ending.

Basically, I like to hope that everybody is intrinsically good. I believe in things like tolerance, freedom, peace, compassion, presuming innocence, and respecting others’ views and right to choose for themselves as long as it doesn’t infringe on anybody else. I believe we have a responsibility to our fellow humans that transcends artificial constructs like the state, religion and culture. I would have been right at home in the Flower Power era. Nathan is a bit more (I would say) hard-hearted about these things, and thinks I’m being too wide-eyed and simple. Maybe I am, or maybe I just feel like the alternative is assuming the worst in people and always feeling threatened by a menacing ‘other’. I won’t budge and neither will he, but who knows how these worldviews could change in a life-or-death situation. I guess at the core of it, we love each other, and that’s so much bigger than not being opinion twins on everything.

Tonight, we remembered our manners and conversation was much more polite. Amongst other things, we talked about which qualities from each of us we would most like to see in our hypothetical future children. My favourite one: he hoped that our kids would be opinionated like me. Coming from somebody who was in total disagreement with me less than twenty-four hours ago, this meant a lot. He would rather we have strong opinions – even if he disagreed – rather than have none at all. There is selflessness and maturity in that, that I really love – when I add everything together about him, and about him and I together, he is totally worth betting forever on.

First of the First

Great things that have happened in 2016 so far: we got engaged!

Here’s how it went down: I got out of the shower on the first morning of the new year, wrapped a towel around myself and opened the living room doors. Nathan was sitting on the rug, holding both dogs, with a look on his face that was equal parts terror and excitement. The dogs had pink and blue ribbons tied around their necks in little bows; Rupert was the proudest dog that ever lived, Posie looked angry and inconvenienced by the whole thing. I saw a ring hanging from the bow around Posie, immediately figured out what was going on and couldn’t stop smiling. Nathan’s explanation of the setting was that it was just us, our dogs, our home, our little family, and that was what mattered most. I said yes, yes, yes (!) and Posie ran off with the ring, then sulked and refused to look at us. Once we got the ring back, he put it on my finger and we hugged and kissed and laughed about calling each other ‘fiancé/fiancée’. It was utterly lovely.

Apparently he’d had grand plans about doing it the night before, with NYE fireworks. But logistics got in the way — I was tired after work, the dogs would have been upset if they came with us to watch the fireworks, and I would have been worried about them if we’d left them at home. But I’m so glad it all happened the way it did, and what a way to start the new year.

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I know everybody is when they first get engaged, but I’m completely bewitched by my ring. It’s an asscher diamond, my favourite cut; from the top it’s very art deco, but from the front, it has scrolling filigree work and engraving, so it’s very Grand Duchess of Imperial Russia. We designed it together earlier in the year, but I had no idea when he was actually going to give it to me. It’s so hard not to stare at it all the time, and the little halo of sparkles it shoots everywhere is so distracting. I don’t normally wear a lot of jewelry and I almost never wear rings, so it is bizarre feeling this little weight attached to my finger – I’m known to be more than a little clumsy, so I’m always paranoid about knocking it on something. I will have to get used to it, I suppose!

In the days since, both of us keep turning to the other and asking over and over, “Do you really want to marry me? Are you sure?”. I get cold feet about practically everything, but I am sure. Sure, he will handball his dog feeding responsibilities to me, wear socks with holes in them, and try to seduce me with a Jar Jar Binks impersonation and I will think, oh my god – this is really going to be my forever. But I am glad. Good and bad, he’s the one I want to share it all with.

Next stop: wedding planning. Oh god. We are both non-committal and avoidant, hate people staring at us, and hate having to make emotional declarations in front of people. We both come from gigantic extended families. This is going to be interesting.

master of the meat

Round One:

Nathan’s parents gave us a Weber for Christmas. Although it has been almost two months, we still hadn’t gotten around to using it, until last night. I wanted to invite my family over for dinner, but didn’t like the thought of everybody being hungry just in case we stuffed up our first attempt.

Lucky, because we stuffed it up.

The face of disappointment:

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Round Two:

We went crazy and cooked all sorts of things: pork chops, steaks, sausages, ribs. Far too much, but oh the leftovers! Nathan brandished the long-handled tongs and snapped them in the air, like he was a lion tamer cracking his whip. It must be something biological – the primal delight that men seem to take in cooking meat over a fire.

schmalentine’s day

We never really get much of an opportunity to celebrate Valentine’s Day, because February 14th also happens to be Nathan’s Dad’s birthday. This year, we did almost nothing at all, save for a lazy but fairly unromantic brunch the next day.

I’ve seen lots of people making proclamations on facebook about how they don’t need a special day to show their partner how much they love them, that they do it every day. To that, I say: do you buy/make special presents, write a lovely card or come home with flowers every day? Of course not! That’s why it’s so nice to have a day that reminds you to do these things that you might not have prioritized every other day of the year.

For next year, we have grand plans. Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of my favourite movies, and there is a twilight picnic movie screening at the actual rock every Valentine’s Day. I’ve wanted to go for years. This year just wasn’t the right time (with the bushfires, work obligations for Nathan and threatening rain), but next year will be the year!