It’s weird to think that the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me went largely unnoticed until this past weekend. I realized it while standing in a hotel suite, wearing a long cotton-candy pink chiffon dress, and putting on some lip gloss.
I was getting ready for a wedding I was in, and I’d gotten to know a few of the bridesmaids pretty well over this whole wedding-planning week (because we were dealing with things such as trying to support the bride when she found out her mother-in-law was going to wear a long white crop-top dress to the wedding. Oy.)
While putting on our makeup, one bridesmaid saw a pill bottle on the counter and said, “What’s this?” I’d set it there while digging through my make-up bag for mascara earlier, and I’d forgotten to put it back. I guess she didn’t know whose it was (there were a lot of us going in and out of that bathroom), or she was just being super nosy. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and call it the former. I hadn’t even noticed the bottle because pill bottles are such a non-noticeable part of my life. It would be like someone coming up to you, looking at your hand, and saying, “Look! A fingernail!” You’d be all, “Oh yeah, fingernails. I forgot about those because they’re always with me.” That’s me and pill bottles.
“Oh, that’s mine,” I said, grabbing the pill bottle and putting it back in my bag. She looked at me questioningly, because I guess not everyone sees pill bottles as such a common commodity. I was afraid she was going to burn her hair off with the curling iron while she stood there waiting for me to answer her questioning look. I’m bad at lying and also pretty bad at saying, “None of your business,” so I said, “It’s no big deal…I have this tiiiny brain tumor that seems pretty bent on ruining my life, but I’m on it. It won’t kill me. I just take a crap ton of pills.” I threw the pill bottle back in my bag and started putting on blush. At that moment, my face was a bit red without it.
“Wait, whaaaat?” The bridesmaid (thankfully) uncurled her curl and stood there with one piece of hair curled and pupils about as wide as her open mouth. I hate this reaction, which is the one I get every time someone finds out about my health problems. At least she didn’t say one of my least favorite lines, which is “but you look so healthy!” Like I should apologize for not looking sick enough to have a tumor or bipolar disorder or any of the other issues I have. SORRY FOR TRYING TO HAVE A NORMAL LIFE. MY BAD.
I shrugged it off, because usually when I pretend like something is no big deal then people tend to roll with it. She picked up another piece of hair to curl. I dug around for my lip gloss. Finally she said, “Wait…I know Elle said you had health problems in college…was this it?”
“Yep.” I was still trying to avoid this conversation. She didn’t catch it or didn’t care.
“Wait, so…you’ve been with your husband since you were seventeen….he’s been with you for this entire time?”
“Yep, since day 1. I got the call the day after I moved into college.”
“Wow, that’s so romantic.” She shook her head and unrolled the hair she was curling. I stopped halfway through applying lip gloss, my lips in a perfect “O” of surprise even though I hadn’t been surprised until that moment. I stopped and stood up, lips halfway glossed, and looked at myself in the mirror. I had never heard my story called “romantic” before. There’s nothing romantic about MRIs. There’s nothing romantic about blood test after blood test after blood test. There’s nothing romantic about countless doctors with countless treatment plans, most of which don’t work. There’s nothing romantic about panic attacks or delusions where I think people are trying to kill me. There’s nothing romantic about the extraordinary amount of drugs I’ve had to be on. Nothing, I tell you. Nothing.
Maybe there is something romantic about a guy who is willing to stand next to me through all of that. It’s romantic that he is willing to take me to appointments so I won’t be alone. It’s romantic that he will bring me water and hold me when I’ve been so terrified that I cried until I threw up. It’s romantic that he has never once complained about how difficult it is to be with me, even though I know it has a specific and difficult set of challenges. There is something wildly romantic about that, and I’d never put that word to it until that moment.
It’s far more romantic than the fresh roses currently sitting on my dining room table. It’s better than the cute notes he leaves in my bags when I travel. I’d take that over any line from any movie or any surprise date he has ever planned. It’s the most romantic thing that’s ever happened to me, and I didn’t even know it.
While watching the bride and groom take their vows, I thought back to mine. I thought about how when Andy said, “in sickness and in health,” he meant it. I thought of how he’s made good on that promise again and again and again, far and above what should be asked of any man. Then I cried.
Too bad about all of that makeup I put on.