So we’re coming up on 25 years of wedded bliss. Twenty. Five. Years. That’s all your fingers and toes with another hand thrown in. My husband, Mark, says it feels more like 26.
“Let’s pretend we’re on a date,” I recently suggested, as we shared a plate of wings at a local sports bar.
“Michelle, we ARE on a date,” he said, not taking his eyes off the flat screen. The Cards were down by 2 and it was late in the game. I should have known better but I kept talking.
“Not a married date. A first-time-ever date. Let’s pretend we just met on one of those dating sites.”
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“But you knew all there was to know about me before you went out with me,” he said.
So much for romance. Still, the guy’s got a point.
I officially met my husband when I interviewed him for an eligible bachelor article some 27 years ago. But I had seen him around long before that. He was the guy who ate at the deli around the corner from where I worked, sipping Diet Coke and reading the newspaper.
From his bad sports coat, I discerned he probably worked at the small’s men’s store across the street. I liked him from the minute I saw him.
He just looked so normal. So grounded. So like someone I should go for. At the time, I was involved with a bad boy who drove me crazy. Mark was a good boy with bright red hair and a nose-mitten voice. My ears perked up when he placed his order. His ears perked up when I placed mine, as well.
“I thought you were dating that guy you always ate lunch with,” he would tell me later. “You two were always arguing.”
“That guy” was my then-editor Jim Dissett, whom I still consider a good friend. Nine times out of 10, Jim and I would bicker about my missing a deadline. The 10th time was always Jim’s fault — but I’ll save that for another column.
This column is about my husband and how we are soon to celebrate our silver anniversary. Back in those “deli days,” I used to daydream about Mark. I imagined he was happily married with a couple red-headed, freckled-faced boys. His wife had short hair and a big bottom, and they used to ride their bikes around the neighborhood. The kids would follow behind them like ducklings.
“Why can’t I fall in love with a guy like that?” I remember thinking, as I nibbled my sandwich. “He looks so stable. So Catholic. So… I dunno. Nice.”
Nice is boring, the devil on my shoulder would tell me.
Nice also can have a wild side as I soon found out
Mark and I eventually crossed paths at a local watering hole, during a Friday night happy hour. He was out with a group of friends and he obviously was single. Gone was the bad sports coat, the Diet Coke and the newspaper. He gave me that look. That “Hey babe, can I buy you a drink?” look. And I knew my entire image of him had been an illusion.
I ran out the door and didn’t see him again until that fateful eligible bachelor interview, several months later.
Life is full of twists and turns and very few things go according to plan. So when one of the bachelors I had lined up for the article pulled out at the last minute, I didn’t let him go without a fight.
“I’m on deadline,” I told the young Belleville doctor, Tim Hipskind. “If you pull out, I’m one guy short!”
Without hesitation, he offered up his friend — attorney Mark Schrader — to fill his spot.
Mark and I met for the first time in the newspaper lobby and we recognized each other on sight.
As I had done with all the eligible bachelors before him, I grilled my future husband for a good 45 minutes, asking every personal question I could think of.
What was his idea of a perfect date? How many kids did he want to have? Did he like chocolate? And what about dogs?
It would be nearly a year before we actually began dating. I still was involved with that “bad boy,” remember? And Mark had a very nice girlfriend. But these stories I will save for another time.
This story will end where it began — in a noisy sports bar with Mark’s eyes glued to a flat screen TV.
“So you don’t want to pretend we’re on a first date?” I asked my husband.
“I want to pretend the Cardinals are gonna win this,” he said.
Then he patted my hand and offered up the last chicken wing.
Twenty-five years married and he still knows how to turn me on.