Though we’d been going together for two years, Dr. M (who was just M at the time) and I were comfortably content with our separate living arrangements. She and her daughter, Rachel, lived in a small house in Venice; I lived in a condominium in nearby Ocean Park.
We sanctified this set-up by having holes drilled in two twenty-five cent pieces, each wearing one on a chain around our necks, as tangible signifiers of the domestic situation we enjoyed:
Corny and silly. The cornerstones of our relationship. Or at least two of the stronger pillars.
As we grew closer, however, there were these spontaneous, mutual stirrings towards “a next step.” The quarters were eventually put in a drawer (we still have them), and M and Rachel moved in. A little scary, but it felt like it was time.
Our “next step” was a resounding success. We were, literally – we actually said these words, tempting the Fates, but we said them anyway – “The Couple That Never Fought.”
It is not in my nature to be able to say, “This is really good” directly. But I wanted M to know it was. What I needed was a signal, to tell her I was happy. Corny but clear. Silly yet precise. But unspoken. Without me even in the room.
I’m sitting in the bedroom, pondering gestures. And then it comes to me. I had once heard something about toilet seats. (I know that sounds like a leap but it isn’t.)
Regular readers are most likely aware that I’m not now, nor was I ever, a worldly type of person. What I knew about women, especially living with women – Does Mom count? No? – There was not much to draw on.
When you live alone, as I had for the majority of my adult life – I’ll be honest – you don’t think a lot about toilet seats. But I had this vague memory that… …leaving them up, or leaving them down, one of them was the right thing to do. I remembered that.
But I couldn’t remember which one it was.
I gave no thought whatsoever to toilet seat practicalities – what the whole “Up” and “Down” thing was really about. I was focusing on the gesture. But exactly which gesture it was I hoped would convey the message I was too shy to communicate in words
I just didn’t know.
I was firm on the toilet seat gesture itself . The only thing left was to decide on the direction:
“Up”? Or “Down”?
It wasn’t that tough. Whichever decision I landed on, I had a fifty-fifty chance of being right. Finally
I decided on “Up”. (I know. But I didn’t back then.)
Why did I choose “Up”? It seemed like a salute.
“Down” was just down. I mean, hey, the seat was already down. How would she know that I’d done something?
I walk into the bathroom. I lift up the seat. I walk out.
I return to the bedroom, exceedingly pleased with myself.
She’s going to be so happy.
Finally, M comes into the bedroom. I’m reclining on the bed, thinking a big hug can not be far away. Accompanied by those three words we all want to hear.
M utters a different three words. Not “I love you”, but
“I’m moving out!”
“Why?” I cry in shock, anguish and surprise, none of the feelings I was hoping to enjoy.
“Things were going so well,” she explains, her anger flecked with hurt. “But now you’re taking me for granted.”
“What do you mean?” I honesty have no idea what she’s talking about.
“You’ve started leaving the toilet seat up! It’s over!”
Thankfully, it wasn’t over. We got past it. And tomorrow, we celebrate our 27th anniversary.
I was thinking of some way to honor this milestone. Something I could do to express …you know...
I only know this. Symbolic gestures are not an option.
A special “shout out” to a newly-minted twenty-six year old who happens to look like me. You know who you are. And you know how I feel about you. Happy March two-oh Birthday. The day before our anniversary, one of them being the first day of spring, which to a guy who grew up in a cold place, was always the best day of the year, now for more reasons than one.