61: Little Black Book

61: Little Black Book

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

Little Black Book

Are we not like two volumes of one book?

~Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

“You don’t want to date him,” my ex-boyfriend Joe said. “It won’t work. He’s too predictable. Steady. Why, he probably carries a little black book in his back pocket.

A schedule. A life-syllabus.”

“He does not,” I said.

“I’ll bet he does. I’ll bet it’s a rule book. A rule book on how to do exactly everything in exactly the right way.”

“Not true,” I said.

We were talking about my new boyfriend, Lonny. Prince Charming. The man I eventually married. And spent the next several years trying to separate from the black book that lived in his back pocket.

It’s not a little black book, really. It’s more of a way of doing things. A way of living. It is, well, sort of like a set of rules. The way to do everything, just right.

Early in our marriage, this caused some struggle.

“Lonny, why is it taking a million years to paint the house?” I asked as I scrunched my toes in the too-long grass and peered up at my new husband, who was dangling, paint brush in hand, from a ladder that was propped against the peeling exterior of our very first home.

“There’s a right way to do things,” he called down. “And it involves many steps.”

“What about the lawn?” I asked.

“If it’s cut too short, it won’t thicken up. It needs to be long. It’s the right way.”

“Oh,” I said. A little hard for me to comprehend. I was a slap-it-together girl. A scrape here, a scrape there, fresh coat of paint. A zip here and a zip there, freshly cut lawn.

Easy. Simple. Fast. Free.

But for Lonny, this was wild. Reckless. Uninhibited. In a not-good way.

After we procreated, the chasm between black-book-living and life-on-the-wild-side deepened.

“Poor little Logan,” I said, as I patted dry the sweet baby buns of our first little boy. I’d just pulled him from the tub and noticed a grisly, red rash. “Lonny, can you please hand me the diaper-rash cream?”

“Sure thing,” Lonny said. He retrieved the cream from the closet and read the back of the tube as he padded across the nursery floor.

I unscrewed the cap and allowed a liberal amount to goosh over our baby’s diaper area while Lonny tickled Logan’s tummy and peered over my shoulder.

“Um, Shawnelle, the tube says to apply to affected area,” he said. “You’ve gotten a little medicine where there’s no rash.”

“It’s all good,” I said. “Won’t hurt him a bit.” I slathered a little more cream for emphasis.

“But the package says…”

I hushed him with a kiss. But I knew, that behind the smooch, he was still concerned about proper rash-cream application.

The years swept by. Lonny and I had four more sons. He learned to endure watching me shake detergent into our commercial-size washing machine without measuring. And I learned to zip my lips when I saw him measure exactly four cups of water into the saucepan, to boil, for the awaiting noodles of his mac-and-cheese. It all worked. Him living life his way. Me living life mine. Despite the differences, our marriage grew, stretched, developed, thrived.

Then one day, a few months ago, as Lonny and I prepared for little get-away, I had a surprise.

“Do you have the folder? With our itinerary?” I asked as I folded sweaters and jeans in the most pristine way. Stacked up, even and straight, just the way one’s clothes should be.

“Sure do,” he said. “What about the emergency numbers, for when the grandparents babysit the boys?”

“In the bottom of their suitcase,” I said. “Under their pajamas. And toothbrushes. And tube of fluoride gel.”

I zipped my bag closed and then reached for the notepad on our bedside table. Packing. Check. I picked up a Sharpie, snapped the lid on the end, where it belonged, and laid a thick, black line through the words on my list. Then I peered across the room at Lonny, working on his own list. Tidy socks, all in a row. I laughed out loud. It was a showcase moment, featuring how like-my-man I’d become.

“What?” Lonny asked.

“Nothing,” I said.

We proceeded through the rest of our to-do chores, side-by-side, in sync, and then left for our romantic trip.

We had a blast.

Just as planned.

Looking over the years, I have to smile. Lonny and I have blended into each other. The things that once drove me crazy about Lonny have become (though diluted, of course) my own strengths. I know, in many other ways, I’ve seeped into Lonny’s persona, too.

Kudos to Joe. I guess he was spot-on. About some things.

Lonny does enjoy living by his imaginary little black book.

But Joe was way-wrong about other things.

Lonny and I worked. I’m still madly, hopelessly, forever-in-love with my black-book spouse.

And Prince Charming’s in love with his, too.

 

~Shawnelle Eliasen

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