A nice restaurant makes my wife look amazing

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I was having dinner with Mel on a cruise ship. This was the first night of a seven day cruise through the Caribbean, and each night we were scheduled to have dinner in the dining room, probably the nicest restaurant we’d ever been to. I was in a button up shirt and slacks. Mel was in a nice off white shirt, with a brown skirt, her short brown hair curled. She looked beautiful, more so than in I’d seen her look in a long time.


This is not to say that she didn’t always look beautiful, because I always find her breathtaking, but there was something different about that dinner, and I think it was the setting. Behind her were windows looking out on the ocean. The sun was setting in orange and red and yellow. Behind me was a large crystal chandelier that cast just the right light, and below, on the first floor, musicians played acoustic versions of contemporary songs.


This was a our 11 year anniversary, and I suppose, over the years of college and kids and struggling to make ends meet, a fine meal for us has always been something like The Olive Garden.


And even though things had gotten better in the past year (I’d gotten a new, better paying, job), we’d stuck with going to the same kinds of places. Or should I say, I’d stuck with the same places. I’m not the kind of person to get dressed up. In fact, I felt a little out of place when we first entered that restaurant on the ship. I like things simple, which could easily be translated to, I like things cheap.


This isn’t to say that I see myself as cheap. But I do worry a lot about money. After my father left, I learned a lot about what it means to go without. My mother struggled, and I saw that. I can still remember her sitting at the dinner table surrounded by bills, her hands in her blond curls, trying to figure out how she was going to pay for it all. And I remember thinking that I’d never do that to my wife or my family. I’d never make them struggle like that. But the fact is, I don’t really understand money. I don’t really understand how to get it, or how to use it, so I try to hang on to it because it seems slippery and mysterious. And I think that’s why I’d never really taken Mel out somewhere nice. I mean really nice. A place like where we were eating on the cruise.


This was the biggest vacation we’d ever been on (this includes our honeymoon which was spent in a small cabin in central Utah.) The cruise was a high point, and after we’d gotten our salads, and ordered our meals, I leaned across the table, took Mel’s hand and said, “I’m sorry.”


Mel looked at me with a furrowed brow. We’d been talking about the ship, and the next day’s excursion to Haiti before we ordered. Nothing to be sorry about.


“For what?” she said.


“For never taking you someplace like this before. I’ve never taken you out for a really nice meal, and now that I can see how amazing you look in this setting, I realize what I’ve been missing… What we’ve been missing.”


Mel didn’t jump on the opportunity to say, “I told you so.” She didn’t say I was a crappy husband for never talking her out to a fancy meal, which was obviously long over due. She just shrugged and said, “I love you.”


There was simplicity in her eyes. A soft look of understanding that only comes from sticking it out with a marriage for a number of years. The one thing I can say about our relationship is that we work together as a team. We discuss the numbers and the budget together. There are no secrets (at least not that I’m aware of). She knows as well as I do where we stand financially, and I think I could see in her eyes that she understood why we’d never gone anywhere really fancy. Because we’d never really felt like we had the money.


And although I appreciated her compassion for our situation, what I realized by actually getting dressed up and going someplace nice, is that it wasn’t really a waste. In that moment, it felt more like an investment in her. In me. In us. I’d never looked at it like that before. Sure, I’d heard people tell me something similar, but I’d never taken the time to do it, so I didn’t realize how a nice restaurant, no kids, could look so good on my wife. I didn’t realize that her voice could go so well with the music, or her smile could match the sunset, or blue eyes shine a little brighter next to a chandelier. I know this all sounds a bit mushy, but in that moment, I felt warmth in my heart. I felt a simple resurgence of love for my wife and all it took was a change of setting.


We finished and left. I don’t know if this changed Mel’s expectations of going out. I don’t know if she expected more from me. If she expected this sort of treatment all the time. She was still the same woman I’d been married to for 11 years. I knew that. But what I do know is that as we walked around the ship, looking out on the ocean, I couldn’t get the way she looked in the restaurant out of my mind.


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  • KC

    This post made me a bit teary-eyed. Beautiful post here. I’ve been reading your blog posts since I saw your article yesterday on scarymommy. I was just reading, and not commenting on anything, content with enjoying what you have to share. But this one compelled me to leave a comment. Posts like this is a very good way of–to borrow your and your wife’s analogy–“pulling the weed out of the garden.”

    The way you write–humor mixed with sensitivity–is something that I really wanna read. It’s not boring. It’s not crass (by my standards, anyway), but still humorous. Can be mushy sometimes, but not overly dramatic. Some are maybe sanitized (who doesn’t?), but there’s still that honesty. Anyway, just wanna say I enjoy your posts.