The Crazy Irishman posted one of his poems on December 29, entitled, “lady in red, morning after.” Go read it, I’ll wait.
A reminiscent gleam in her eye, a swift delighted memory smile and my draft notation to self: “Tell the story of the evening of the red dress – Christmas time with Rick – maybe for 12/31/2013. Remember the buttons underneath the couch? Grin!”
For those of you squeamish of reading other people’s romantic stories, it is best to stop NOW.
Okay, I gave fair warning. I have loved romantic stories since I was a wee bairn (see, even telling the story can change the language you use). I have a bookcase dedicated to romance novels, located in the bedroom, of course. Bodice rippers! You know the ones I’m talking about. A man and a woman on the cover, usually in full embrace with lots of cleavage on both their parts – his manly hairy chest; her heaving bosom. Right? We’re on the same page here.
Today’s romance novels shame yesterday’s pornography. They’re formulaic. It is mandatory that some sort of sex scene or thoughts of sex occur about every 10 pages. Certain writers draw a graceful curtain between us and the inevitable bedding scene, others… well, others do not and they are extraordinarily detailed and graphic. Grin.
My brother once pulled one down from the shelf, opened it at random and began reading aloud – quite quickly his voice stuck in his throat and then he abruptly closed the book shut and slammed it back onto the shelf where it rested in alphabetic order by author, of course. He was blushing… Grin.
And, as an insert, I think every man should go down on bended knee and thank God every time his woman reads a romantic novel because he gets the payoff.
The first time I met my husband, I was reading a book, having a cocktail at the bar restaurant across the street from where I worked and he lived down the street from it. He said later that part of my charm was never going anywhere without a book. Lucky thing, as he was an avid reader as well of more… masculine adventure stories – “Honey,” He’d lean down and kiss me, “Gotta go. My men are in trouble and they’re facing incoming fire…” We could sit happily for hours, reading our books. He said Dick Francis was a guest on our honeymoon.
So, it was Christmas and we had driven up north to visit and spend a couple of days with Rick’s family. There were traditions, such as Christmas Dinner at the Country Club, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve where the local bar would ring a bell to announce it was time for those attending to get a move on. I had packed a red silk dress, gorgeously tailored, from Nordstrom’s when Nordstrom’s really did have wonderful clothes.
We’re getting ready for the Christmas Dinner event, where I will be introduced to all of Rick’s friends he grew up with, eyed by women who’d wanted or lost him; a bit of a proving ground. We’d met in June, he’d proposed in September and we were scheduled to be married in May. Fast courtship, absolutely. I was 35 and he was 37. We both knew what we wanted and grabbed for it as it came around this time. He’d warned me about his family, but I distinctly recall saying that his family made my family look normal and I hadn’t thought that was possible.
All is well until I go to put the red silk dress on and discover that the waist, which had some sort of nifty little elastisized element, had suffered during the last dry cleaning and the dress was ruined – certainly for that evening. Not to worry! His whole family got into it, studying the dress from various angles, how to repair the damage and still have me looking good. I never forgot that. They were wonderful – weird, but wonderful that night. The dress was repaired with a needle, thread and a prayer. It had lost its mojo. I knew it was damaged and it impacted my feelings about being under the scope of so many watchful, judgmental eyes. The room was gorgeous, the men in black tie, the women festive and elegant in their gowns.
The evening progressed with tons of introductions, lots of bright smiles and we repaired to the gorgeous bar after dinner for brandy or post dinner drink of choice. One couple began to snipe at one another. They had been married for a while and had a lot of anger stored up, which they wanted to share in front of all of us, making it a very uncomfortable time. I was thinking about my red dress, my “when-in-doubt-knock-’em-dead” red dress and how tonight was the last time I’d wear it. It had red silk covered buttons on the front and on the gorgeously designed sleeves. It fell perfectly and had that expensive ssshhuuush sound, a delicate whispery sound when you walked. It was getting truly ugly with the couple. I leaned over to Rick and whispered in his ear, “How would you like to go home, light a fire, and rip this dress off of me?” Rick jumped to his feet, face aglow with enthusiasm, gently grasping me by the elbow and lifting me to my feet. “Guys, so good to see you. We have to go. Merry Christmas!” And, we were out of there, running for the car.
Everyone was asleep when we got home. With a full house, we’d opted to sleep in the living room, using the couch pillows on the floor for a comfy bed with linens and blankets and pillows. We set it all up, Rick got a fire going in the fireplace, cracked open a bottle of champagne and we faced one another in the stillness of the hour with the flames highlighting one another. We toasted to a bodice ripping evening and he carefully put both our glasses down. His hand went for the neck of my red silk dress and he hesitated. “Are you sure, Huntie? I know how much you love this dress. Trust me, hon, you’ll never be able to wear it again…” Rick had nicknamed himself “President of the Lost & Broken Club” as he tended to be a bit rough on things. I reached up and touched his face, “Do it! I’ve waited 35 years for this.” His eyes lit up again with utter, wild joy, “Oh, Hunt, me, too!” and he ripped that red dress right off of me.
Six months later, we were back and once again, sleeping in the living room. I turned my head and began to laugh. “Ha! Your mother is not that great of a housekeeper!” Rick followed my gaze and started to laugh. Red silk covered buttons were still underneath the couch….