First off, I’m sensitive to the offensiveness of the possessive pronoun “my” in the title, as if my wife belongs to me—though I admit, after 30 years of marriage, I do feel we belong together. I also realize how objectionable it is to say I “won” my wife, as if she were a prize or something. Believe me, I know more than anyone my wife is no prize.
That didn’t come out right.
The reason I’m using the word “won” (despite all its afore-acknowledged non-PC-ness) is that I wasn’t the only suitor for my future wife’s affections that year. She was also being pursued (Is “pursued” too predatory?) She was also being courted (Is “courted” too archaic? Oh, the hell with it) She was being somethinged by another graduate student, by an English professor, and I’m not even going to mention the estranged husband (who had more of a legal claim on her than I. Is “claim” wrong here?). I am, however, going to mention her at-that-time four-year-old son, who played a role in how I won his mother.
Anyway, having established my sensitivity, I’m not going to make you wait. I’m not going to keep you on the hook or try to milk the suspense like all those damn Facebook clickbait headlines. I’m not going to stall you with digressions and backstory like so many “humor” writers would do. I’m just going to tell you right now: I won my wife with my bedside telephone.
So with all the suspense out of the way, I probably should give you some backstory. My future wife, Carolyn, and I were both graduate students, and the moment that changed everything, the instant that set us on a path to 30 years (so far) of wedded togetherness occurred during an intimate party in my apartment—in my bedroom. “Intimate” just means “small” here; don’t let your imagination run wild.
So that you’ll understand why my bedside telephone was the key rather than my amazingly rugged good looks, or my dazzling wit, or my Camaro—I should probably confess something. I’m not what you’d call “a good date.” My wife would be the first to confirm this fact. She would do so eagerly and emphatically. She’d tell you I’m a dating disaster.
What saved me was I had a car, and Carolyn didn’t, so I offered to give her a ride to Kroger once a week. We also added in supper at Shoney’s before the grocery shopping—so I, Carolyn, her son, and a friend’s little girl (That’s another story) dined together in a booth at Shoney’s every week for 3 months. A waitress once told us, “Y’all are such a cute family.” And then we’d shop together, again like a family.
But all that came later. To return to the intimate party, I was back at graduate school after 2 years away and wanted to reconnect with an old friend before classes started. So I called Sandy and invited her over for a movie-and-popcorn party. She said she was interested but had a guest, Carolyn, staying with her. I said, “Bring her.” (I knew Carolyn from years before, had had a class with her and disagreements with her (That’s another story) and thought she was cute and had not known she was secretly married back then (because it was a secret,) but that’s another story.) And then Sandy said, “And her son is with her,” and I said, “Bring him, too,” and then Sandy said, “And her twin sister’s here, too,” and I said, “The more the merrier.”
The party went well, and when the movie was over, my guests wanted to keep it going, but it was late, and the little boy was tuckered, so Carolyn asked if she could put him to bed—in my bed—and when she carried him to my bedroom, there on the bedside nightstand sat what she couldn’t fail to notice—my wife-winning phone: my cartoonishly green, white-eyed, red-pupiled, arm-repositionable pushbutton Gumby phone. “You have a Gumby phone?” she said.
A 31-year-old man who uses a Gumby phone is not a great date.
But as I see it, that moment when Carolyn trusted me enough to lay her child in my bed and was reassured by a plastic rendition of anthropomorphic green clay that she could indeed trust me, could see that I was probably a kid at heart myself, someone she could relax around and have fun with and enjoy the company of (for 30 years, or maybe more)—that was the moment I won my wife.
So that’s the story. Gumby.
Or maybe it was the Camaro.