My friend Kelly (whose blog has become one of those "must-read" blogs around our house for its Diet-Coke-spitting wit and sparkling writing style) ran afoul of some solid male logic this week.
Read about it here. (Seriously. Go read. It's hilarious. I'll wait.)
Back? Good. So ...
(Memo to Kelly's husband, Rob: You seem like the kind of guy I'd like as a friend, and I absolutely agree with your reasoning. Except, you know, for the whole being tragically, irretrievably wrong thing. But it's OK. This, too, shall pass. Other, lesser men have made mistakes like this, and within four or five generations, it will have almost faded from family lore. By then, it will be this adorable story about an ancestor who one time suggested to his wife they take a room with what were back then called "twin beds" in this place called "Paris", and how that one teeny suggestion dogged him for the rest of his days, until he died. And even then, she had it engraved on his tombstone as a warning to husbands everywhere. "Look," they'll say, "It says: "Here lies Rob, who one time - can you frigging believe this? - actually suggested we take a room with twin beds in PARIS, for God's sake! May he rest in a peace that he never got in his lifetime." Poor bastard.")
But I'm sure, now that he has been shown the error of his ways (Memo to Rob: if you're not used to being shown the error of your ways by now, you're still "a newlywed" by definition.), that Kelly and Rob will have a lovely time in Paris. It's really hard not to. Although their experience will have to go a long way to top the one I had this past May.
It actually started as a tour in England with my shows. I had three weeks of touring booked, my wife took time off work, and we decided that the timing was right with school and everything else to take the girls with us. Erin is 24, Allison 21, so how many more opportunities were we going to have for a family vacation?
Not many, for sure. I mean, as it was, this was the first family vacation we’d had in about eight years, and truth be told, it was a working vacation. But still, it was time away from home, we were all together, and it promised to be a lot of fun. You know, if you adjust your definition of “fun” to include “five people tooling around England in a van screaming at one another.”
And there were five of us. Me, my wife, our two daughters ... and Erin's boyfriend, Matthew. He’s been around for six years, and at some point it became clear that he just wasn’t going to go away.
Which is fine. He’s a nice enough young fellow, a chef in a fine restaurant, and my daughter loves him, and I figured if he could stand almost a month in close quarters with the rest of us, that’s pretty much what you’d call a baptism under fire.
And he did survive, although I suspect he’s been somewhat scarred by the first three weeks. You know, the ones spent on tour in the van.
My wife and I tend to split the front seat jobs evenly when we’re on the road. She navigates, and I drive. Well, to be perfectly accurate: she navigates, I question her navigation, she gets deeply and horribly offended and tells me exactly into which bodily orifice I can deposit the map ... and then I drive. And get lost, because she was right and I never should have questioned her, and she gets the opportunity once again to explain to me the error of my ways. (See "Memo to Rob", above.)
This makes for the occasional tense moment in the car. And in our family, we do not handle tension in the traditional Canadian fashion, which is to quietly seethe and hope for the rotation of the Earth to make things better.
No, in my family, we argue. Loudly.
(No, louder than that. We’re talking "stick-your-head-inside-the-cowling-of-a-jet-engine" loud.)
And, truth be told, the yelling isn't always G-rated. Or PG. Or R. In one instance, we were travelling from Nottingham to the tiny village of Bishop Norton (how can you not love British place names?). The trip included a complicated series of switches from giant motorways to what are called "A" roads, to "B" roads. I asked my wife whether we needed to get off at the next exit.
"No, really. It's coming up in half a mile, and we're going 70MPH. Do I take this exit?"
"Seriously. If you're wrong, it's okay. But I need to know if I turn RIGHT NOW."
"Don't yell at me."
"I'm not yelling, I'm just - oh, shit. Okay, we're past it. So, is it the next exit?"
"I think that was it."
What I said next is unimportant. Allison, who was sitting quietly in the back seat making entries in her Journal, wrote down the exchange as follows (verbatim, from her Journal):
DAD: "Blahblahblah jerk-jerk-jerk blahblahblah"
MOM: "Shut up. Fuck off. Eat shit. And die."
DAD: (pause) "There's really no possible response to that, is there?"
So I’m sure the boyfriend was relieved when our time in England - and our time in the van - was done, and all that was left was a four-day excursion to Paris at the end of the trip. We were all looking forward to it.
Paris was indescribably lovely. The weather was spectacular, the city itself is gorgeous, people seemed nice enough and not at all what stereotypes had led us to believe. It’s everything you always dreamed Paris could be - no wonder it’s called “the most romantic city in the world”.
All of which had me thinking: "This guy’s been dating Erin for six years. The conversations have gone from “ ... if we get married ...” to “... when we get married ...”. And here we are, in Paris. The City of Lights. The City of Love. Romance Central. I mean ... if you were ever going to ... Nahhhh."
"But then again ... if he’s not smart enough to propose here ... do I really want him muddying up my family’s gene pool?"
I broached the topic with Allison. She simply said "Dad, if he goes up the Eiffel Tower without a ring, he's coming down the fast way."
The last night in Paris, we went to see the Eiffel Tower after dark. We took along some baguettes, some cheese, wine, and made a little picnic on one of the huge lawns.
The tower is incredibly gorgeous at night ... subtly lit for fifty minutes out of every hour, then all of a sudden going black ... and then a dazzling display of thousands upon thousands of sparkling lights for ten minutes.
During one of those displays, the young man turned to my little girl and said “Let’s take a walk.” They wandered away.
“This is it,” said Allison.
“Oh, my God, how romantic,” said my wife, dreamily.
“I wonder if there’s a bathroom around here somewhere?” I asked, because romance is romance but, you know, the world doesn’t stop turning.
I went off in search of a bathroom in Paris at night, and let me tell you, it may be the City of Lights but it sure ain’t the City of Plentiful After-Hours Rest Rooms. When I got back after a half hour or so, Erin was standing beside her sister, waiting, her left hand stuck deep in her pocket.
I think it’s safe to say nobody was fooled by this clever ruse, but I appreciated the gesture. She wanted everybody there.
And when we were, they announced they were engaged. There, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, he’d asked my daughter to marry him. (She made him go down on one knee to do it. That’s my girl.)
And he did. I mean, Paris kind of forced his hand. How could he not? But still. They got engaged at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
Walking back to the hotel that night, she looked deliriously happy. He had a big grin on his face. I was that kind of bittersweet, happy/sad/wistful I always knew I would be when this day came.
I thought of her as a little girl. I thought of all we’d gone through to get to that day.
But mostly, as I walked the streets of the most romantic city in the world, arm in arm with my wife, I thought, “I wonder if there’s a bathroom around here somewhere?”
Hey - the world doesn’t stop turning.