He was late. I wasn’t surprised. He is often late. He’s unorganized, loves to sleep, and lives out of town. It’s forgivable, but annoying.
I calmly applied make-up to my starting-to-show-my-age face. I would turn 33 at approximately 4:10pm that day and wanted to look my best despite that to celebrate the day of my birth, my friends and I were mostly exercising, beginning with kayaking on Lady Bird Lake. But you never know when will be the perfect opportunity for a photo, and since my boyfriend who was also to be joining us was late, I applied make-up to my already hardening face.
It’s not like he didn’t know what time to be there. After all, I had sent out three detailed emails with the schedule in the days prior to my birthday. Weeks before, he and I had agreed that he would take the day off, we discussed the festivities to be planned, and I sent out reminder emails to the parties involved with explicit instructions on what time to be where and with what in tow.
This is what happens when a woman who’s OCD dates a man who’s ADD; inevitably one of them ends up overcompensating either with organization or minute attention to inordinate detail. Because I’m the one who’s OCD, I had them both covered.
Not only that, but I’d gone over my birthday wish-list with him so there would be no repeat of Halloween or Christmas (neither of which near-catastrophies I care to rehash now). The list was, of course, posted on my blog for the whole world to go over, but since he rarely reads my blog I knew that was a base I needed to cover. Additionally, we’d gone to visit several stores that had clothing or other items I fancied, and had perused the merchandise together. We’d even gone to my favorite piercing salon that sells (real!) diamond nose rings which avid readers of my blog will remember I have been coveting now for years.
But the morning of my birthday, he was late. So late, that I left without him for the lake.
“Don’t cry,” I told myself. "Don’t let him ruin this day. You get to choose your own attitude; you choose how to respond to this." Michelle called to ask where I was. “I’m close,” I responded, “but the boyfriend’s not with me.”
He called when I had almost reached the kayak rental booth. “I’m at your house.”
“I’m at the lake.”
“Should I grab your bike?” (We were going to bike, after kayaking, to Opal Divine’s on 6th Street).
Chris and Michelle were waving as I began down the path toward the lake and the long row of kayaks. “Happy birthday!” they cried, cheerier than normal.
“You can ride with Michelle and I’ll kayak by myself,” Chris said, relieving any anxiety about me now kayaking alone. “I’m sorry about poopy-head.”
“Poopy-head’s on his way.”
Chris and Michelle are real troopers. They’ve seen me go through more men and been more accommodating and supportive and hospitable and a million other adjectives that describe what the best friends of a serial dater must find themselves embodying lest they perish in the process. They’ve been cordial to the ones they’ve hated and grieved the ones we loved and lost. They would make the most of this for my sake. And we would all be in the water together.
“Don’t worry, I won’t start the clock til you enter the lake,” the guy with the newspaper working the kayak stand told us. He’d managed to pick up on the fact that it was not only my birthday but that we were killing time trying on different life jackets and posing for pictures with paddles while waiting for my boyfriend.
The boyfriend arrived shortly thereafter. He was anxious and visibly frustrated. And his clothes weren’t exact kayak appropriate, but part of the tardiness had been that he wasn’t able to finish his laundry. I tried not to be short with him, but found my usual biting criticisms chomping at the bit when trapped in a small kayak in the middle of a huge lake with a boyfriend who was an hour and a half late and kept paddling a different direction than I wanted to go.
But we had a great time despite the minor grievances. We even got to see the last few minutes of some repelling dancers rehearsing off the side of the old Light and Power building. Yes, there are people in Austin who do synchronized repelling and spinning and leaping while 200 feet above the ground, or better yet, above water.
After returning the kayaks when our hour was up, we hiked back up to the cars and got out the bikes to pump the tires and be one our way. However, the tube was punctured on my bike. So Chris and Michelle headed on (since we were behind in the schedule and were meeting people at the restaurant) while boyfriend and I decided what to do. We chose to throw the bikes back into his jeep and just drive to Opal’s.
Lunch was super. Gabe, Bethany and Tessla were there waiting, and once our waitress spotted us, I ordered my favorite drink (a Texas Red), my favorite appetizer (the Divine Quesadillas) and my favorite meal (a Tuna Sandwich on wheat with no onions and of course French Fries). Yum! Of course, I checked in those of us without privacy settings on Facebook, and uploaded a picture of the delicious beverage. Plenty more pics (hipstamatic and regular) were taken of Tessla gobbling down her mac ‘n cheese. And the quote of the day was delivered by Gabe: “Ann, have you ever considered rapping?”
Awesome. Not even going to give you the context.
Once full, we decided it was time to head to our next activity: stuffing our stuffed bodies into swimsuits to lay out by Chris and Michelle’s apartment pool. We said good-bye to the Chances who had to return to work and we took off, Chris and Michelle on bike and boyfriend and I in our cars.
“Let’s head to a bike shop to get a tube for your bike first though,” he suggested and I complied. We found a local bike store and once inside began perusing the items. We quickly found the tube we needed and then had to hold each other back from buying everything else we might ever need for a bike. That store was very dangerous.
“I don’t have a bike lock.”
“You need a new seat.”
“I love these pink handles.”
“Let’s ask about bike pumps.”
In the end, we left the store with a tube and a bike pump, despite my objections. “Why do I need a bike pump when the only time I ride my bike is when I’m with either you or Chris, and you both have pumps I can use?” But he bought it anyway because sometimes he’s just as bull-headed as I am.
When we got out to our cars, he handed me the tube and bike pump and said, “Happy birthday,” sheepishly shrugging his shoulders and managing a smile.
Oh my god, he didn’t get me a real present.
“Thanks,” I said, and hurriedly closed the door on my car and blinked a few times before pulling out of the parking lot and heading on to Chris and Michelle’s.
My heart sank. He didn’t get me a present.
He bought me a tube and a bike pump which I didn’t even want. He bought me a present he wanted. Wanted me to have, but still - something I didn’t want or need. I’ve been talking about the importance of this birthday for a month and had the whole day planned, pro-actively, to make sure I spent it doing things I enjoy with people I enjoy, and he showed up an hour and a half late and couldn’t plan ahead enough to buy me a real present, something meaningful that suggested he cares?
I was dying. While I know presents are not the point of birthdays or holidays, they are nevertheless important to me. I’m a gift-giver. I love picking out things that are special that I think people will like and when I have money, I buy those things, write a little card, and give the gift. I love it. And I love receiving gifts the same way. It’s my love language. I blame my father who spoiled us as little girls with presents hidden in the pockets of trench coats, sitting in the carseats when we opened the door, discovered at the end of treasure hunts with clues we had to decipher to find. But right now, I was blaming the boyfriend. My no good, never on time, couldn’t plan ahead if his life depended on it, lazy ass boyfriend who I know just slept all day on Monday and even came into Austin on Tuesday for a voice lesson (and could have just swung by Parts & Labor my favorite store to grab a tee-shirt or necklace), didn’t get me a present.
I got a bike tube and pump that he bought in front of me and handed to me at the car.
I have to end this, I thought. I can’t keep getting disappointed at every holiday. Hell, we broke up once over Christmas, why not break up for good on my birthday?! Seems sadly perfect! It's just that I can’t keep doing this. I know I’m high maintenance, but I’m not that horrible of a person. All I want is for him to take off work one day and show up on time with a present in his hand. Surely some boy somewhere likes me enough to bring me a present on my birthday!
My mind began reeling through the dates I’ve had over the last few years. None of them very notable and none of them lasted very long. Then my mind moved to sadder more far away places, and played over the men who made it into the small corners of my heart and left a little bit of themselves inside. I grew more frustrated and even frightened. “All I want is a diamond nose ring!” I cried out loud in my car choking back the tears. Is that too much to ask?
I felt like Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping. All she wanted was a stamp in her passport that said “Italy.” All I wanted was, well, a nose ring. And love. I guess we both wanted the love presupposed behind the stamp and the stud.
We arrived at Chris and Michelle’s and I got out of my car resigned to the fact that I would have to break up with the boyfriend… tomorrow. No sense ruining today with that. I mean, I’d bought us tickets to the theater for later that night! I was just going to have to put on my game face and get through the rest of the day.
“I got you one more thing at the bike store,” the boyfriend said, getting out of his car. “While you were in the bathroom.” He handed me a small box. “It’s a patch kit.”
“Thanks,” I replied, un-enthused, and opened the trunk of my car to get out the cooler for the pool.
“Open the kit.”
“So you can see what’s in it.”
I was so pissed. I pulled open the box. Why did he have to show me how the patch kit works right now? I don’t care about this! Could he be more clueless?
I pulled a little plastic bag out of the kit.
“What’s that?” he prompted me.
I looked again, and against my will, a smile began to creep onto my face. “Is it a nose ring?” I asked, incredulous. He began jumping up and down, pleased not only that he’d pleased me, but surprised me too.
“But I’m so mad at you!” I said, smiling through my shame. “I thought…” I trailed off.
I thought. I thought. I thought. All I ever do is think. I analyze and over-analyze and assume that people will never change and that I’ll never find love. Not that love comes in a 1/8 caret stud that gets shoved up one’s nose, but it’s the symbolism of the matter. I assume and judge and exhaust myself while hope battles despair inside my brain and resignation wins in my heart. Or because I can’t stand to be made a fool, I end up alone again.
But not right now. Right now I am not alone. I may feel a fool, but I'm not alone. Right now I may be a repentant and embarrassed girl who will cry if she wants to on her birthday, but at least I’m with a man who, as it turns out, loves me anyway. A man who loves me despite my lists and organization and obsession with holidays. A man who loves me enough to hide a real diamond nose ring in a bicycle patch kit while I’m in the next car over practicing my break-up speech.
No wonder they say fools fall in love...