From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul

The One Who Got Away

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved—loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.

Victor Hugo

I think every woman has one—that ex-beau who niggles his way back to consciousness after a family fight, a bout of stretching the weekly paycheck or even after the oaf you really married leaves his dirty socks smack in the middle of the living room floor.

You know the guy I’m talking about. And who cares if you can list fifteen reasons that you’re glad you didn’t marry him?

So what if he talked too much—or was too shy, too arrogant, too possessive? So what if he gambled and his relatives borrowed money? This man would never do a strip tease on the rug and he’d have too much couth to yell if you forgot his mother’s birthday or spent ten bucks over budget on bedroom drapes. Best of all, he would understand and cherish your finer emotions.

Even knowing you really wouldn’t want him doesn’t make the man less desirable in times of marital stress. Believe me. Like the fish that got away, the guy I almost married has had moments of near perfection.

The only problem with my romantic past is that, after twenty years, I was fated to meet “him” again at a wedding.

I knew he’d be coming, and let me tell you, there’s nothing like knowing you’ll meet an old boyfriend to make you feel young again. Or regress to adolescence.

After buying two dresses, both of which looked ugly, I had a row with my husband over the expense. I got a perm—row number two—at which point, my hair frizzed and looked terrible. I hadn’t been vain enough to wear a girdle for fifteen years, and the one I found in the attic was two sizes too small. Talk about depression!

More than anything, I was positive I would (a) break out in zits, (b) catch a red-nosed cold or (c) come down with the plague the morning of the big event.

Unfortunately, no disaster occurred and, tightly girdled, I tottered off on heels I usually have sense enough not to wear. I also wore enough makeup to have supplied Detroit.

The makeup might have caused row number three had I been listening to my husband on the way to the church. I was too busy worrying about the wrinkles that even creams couldn’t hide. What if my dream man didn’t recognize, after all, what really were laugh lines in disguise?

The amount of time I’d “hogged the bathroom” (that much of my husband’s complaints got through) made us late and the church was packed. Craning my neck and missing half the ceremony, I couldn’t spot my old flame. Tension grew until finally, at the reception, there he was!

He was blue-veined, pudgy, short. So short that he never met my eyes when we talked. He was too busy trying to hide the thin spots of hair—not quite as robustly auburn as I recalled—by tilting his head back and staring at some illusive spot six inches above me.

The man— my ideal!—was prudish, opinionated, a bigot. The sort of yo-yo who’d not only shed socks in the living room, but wear two pairs a day so he could shed them in the kitchen, too. How could I have imagined he would understand me?

I walked away from that reception deeply thankful to be married to a fine, tall man who had hair and lacked racial opinions. By the time my husband and I arrived home, I’d forgotten all about my dream man. And as I shed the girdle and sluiced the makeup from my face, I vowed to tell my real man much more often how much I appreciated him, flaws and all!

Margaret Shauers

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