We that are true lovers run into strange capers; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly. It is as easy to count atomies as to resolve the propositions of a lover. W.Shakespeare
by Diana L. Napier
illustration by Gabriel Guma
quote William Shakespeare
My friends, Victor and Debra, recently entrusted their four-year-old daughter Lindsey to me for the weekend while they took a much needed vacation alone. They must have really needed to get away. They both know my idea of a balanced meal is butter with my popcorn, but the trip was a last-minute decision, and they had nowhere else to turn.
Vic and Deb have always been my relationship Sherpas – romance explorers sent ahead to test the terrain and report back. They not only love each other, they adore each other. But when they dropped Lindsey off, Deb’s melancholy look and Vic’s slumped shoulders indicated something else entirely.
Was there trouble brewing in paradise? Was my idea of the perfect marriage going to hash itself out in some bed and breakfast upstate while I played Go Fish on my living room floor?
At bedtime, I googled Cinderella to read to Lindsey. (Sure the story has issues of a woman’s independence and conforming to male views of beauty, and let’s not forget the evil household chores, but she’s only four-years-old, and that’s better than wolves who eat grandmothers any day.)
As I finished the story and the handsome prince slid the glass slipper onto Cinderella’s size four foot, I reached to turn off the bedside light and quietly closed with the most famous line in fairytale lore: “And they lived happily ever after.” I gently rose to leave, and Lindsey immediately sat up and flicked the light back on.
“And then what?” Lindsey asked all anticipatory-like. “What happened next?”
Next? My little cherub-faced inquisitor impatiently expected me to finish a story that I thought I just had.
“Um, they bought a Classic Six on Central Park West, traded in the pumpkin coach for a Lexus, and pursued lucrative careers in the Arts. Now off to sleep you go,” I said and scurried out of the room. But that was my fairytale, not Cinderella’s. What did happen next? Why did the story end just when the prince and Cinderella met?
Can “happily ever after” really happen?
While I didn’t meet my Prince Charming at a royal ball (it was a friend’s second wedding), nor was I outfitted by a fairy godmother (I wore the same dress to her first wedding), our relationship maintains its appeal year-round. The enchantment prevails through our bright, sunny days and the gloomy, rainy nights; through bitter cold and sweltering heat. Just as the changing position of the Earth’s tilt is the cause that distinguishes fall, winter, spring, and summer, perhaps relationships have a tilt and positioning of their own that characterize the relationship’s season.
In the winters of our romance, though we may have visions of frolicking in the snow and ice-skating at Rockefeller Center while sleigh bells jingle and ring-ting tingle, sometimes it’s flu season. I’d rather hibernate with a venti latte and the DVD boxed set of 24 (season four) than emerge and make nice with my significant other. It’s cold out there. But then, like a cozy fire, he emanates warmth and coaxes me out of hiding to snuggle and rub noses like the Inuits.
Sometimes our relationships are in a renewal phase. I don’t know if it’s hormones, pheromones, or little green gnomes, but like in the spring, something’s up (and I don’t mean the pollen count). We’re what my parents call “frisky” and “sweet on” each other. It’s what we know as “horny.” Although I may have been with my mate for years, like love-struck teenagers, we flirt and flex until we’re flummoxed, and the air is charged with the excitement of new beginnings.
When things are hot and sultry, steamy and tropical, it’s the summer of our romance. Think Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. (If you haven’t seen it, rent it. Trust me.) I like to lie back, close my eyes, and soak up the rays of our passion, the faint taste of an iced citrus beverage just lingering on my balmed lips. Relationships boil, and like the blazing summer sun, it’s scorching. So I protect myself – I’m exposed, and this is the time when burns are most likely to happen. I apply a high SPF (sexy panty factor) liberally and wear a big, floppy hat (because it turns me on).
As temperatures cool, so our relationships settle into a quiet, melancholy calm. We tumble and fall out of the grip of summer, and like leaves shedding from the trees, we drift back to Earth and expose the bare branches of our relationship once again. A slight breeze ruffles our hair and numbs our fingers. There are two things my guy and I can do: either hunker down, gather supplies, and prepare for the encroaching chill, or put on jackets, rake the leaves into a huge, colorful pile, and romp in it. (C’mon, when’s the last time you “romped”?) The leaves are like our memories together over the past year; we revel in them. And then I take a few of the perfect ones home to press into a book for safekeeping.
So maybe “happily ever after” means riding it out through all of a relationship’s seasons – you just have to check the temperature and dress accordingly.
Come Sunday, Lindsey and I were no worse for the wear – she may have had an updated take on the ending of Cinderella, but she was alive and well-fed. And judging by the little slap-n-tickle I witnessed on their return, I’d say Prince Vic and Deberella departed in a cool fall, slid into a sizzling summer, and bounced back into a full-bloom spring.
The weather isn’t always predictable; neither is a relationship. Sometimes a little rain must fall, and you get caught without an umbrella. But rest assured, your summer solstice awaits.