Breaking the Rules of Engagement.

What a curious thing to remember, today:  24 years ago, on this very night, as the temperature turned, my then-boyfriend and I drove from the south shore to Port Washington the all the way out to Port Jefferson – just to have dinner. He acted very peculiarly as he couldn’t decide where we should eat or when or what. Every suggestion I made, rejected; clearly, he had to decide.  He was preoccupied and a bit brusque. (Not unusual for him, as I came to learn.)

Before we dressed to go out, I asked, “Is this a dinner that requires hosiery?” And he said ‘Oh, yes.’  So.  Fancy and important.  I had some idea of what might be in store but wasn’t certain.  Heels, skirt, blouse, hosiery.  Out the door without any real plan.

When we finally arrived at the inn, happy to find it open post-summer, the restaurant had just served the last table. A waitress with loaded tray,  passed through the dark wood lobby between the kitchen and the grand dining room. My boyfriend launched into begging the maitre’d to seat us – taking the man around the corner – I could only stand in the lobby and guess their whispering – while he basically groveled for table.  I should mention it was about 8:30 PM.  They had every right to refuse us a table so late.  This is how it went with him:  good idea, poor execution.  I knew this.  In the short time we’d been dating, we’d been late to almost every invitation, every rehearsal and run-through, every timed event – because he was chronically late everywhere for everything.  I waited in the restaurant foyer watching the bar crowd boozy and loose, finish wide bowls of oysters and chowder.

20+ years later, I cannot tell you what we had for dinner. For dessert, even though I ‘passed’, I was presented with a small, black ring box holding a lovely diamond shouldered by two teardrop blue sapphires. It very much resembeled a drawing I had made several weeks before, which I was told got “lost in the wash” – and I believed that.

What I did not believe – in that waterside inn at the ferry landing, in that late-night moment, exhausted and leaning into what can only be described as compassionate resignation, with bleary-eyed staff curling around the dining room door frames to peek – was that I was sitting across from this man, about to say yes…to something I truly did not want. After only seven months of dating, including somewhat living together already a month or so, I was SO afraid to hurt his feelings.  From his bended knee aside our table, in front of the staff and other guests, I closed my eyes and exhaled agreement.  The applause and cheering filled the entire inn, but felt inappropriate as they congratulated a groom and his bride, the liar.  The girl too afraid to say what she did, and did not, desire.  I’d let things go too far and rather than risk his anger or a fight or immediate heartbreak and an uncomfortable silent ride home, it was easier just to say yes and give him what he wanted.

20-something years later, in this lovely Indian Summer September evening, shared with a different partner, I say “yes,” again.  To me.

Despite the path and the pain, any other reply than “yes” that night would not have been this life.  For I am in Love with this life, this ‘where’ right now, and the people with whom it is shared.

Happy Anniversary to me, today.  A day that reminds me to be honest with myself, to live, and Love, authentically, without fear.

Fearlessly loving from here.


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