We had just gotten into bed, exhausted. It was not especially different from most other days. We both worked. We shared the tasks of getting our 3 and 5-year-old daughters to and from daycare. The house had to be taken care of. Meals had to be made and cleaned up. We had to go shopping to have meals at all. The kids were growing so fast they constantly needed new clothing. When Barney or Elmo came to town, we took them. And that's just the "A" list. It was a miracle we were only exhausted and not comatose.
"You know," said Paul, "there is this thing we used to do, I don't know if you remember it, it's called sex."
He had a point. Our love life was on life support.
"So, I was thinking that on your birthday, I would treat you to an entire day of foreplay and we'll see where that leads."
"Let me get this straight, big spender, you're going to spend all day Saturday arousing me so that by Saturday night I'll let you do whatever you want? Whose present is this?"
"If it requires me to have sex with you to please you, I'm willing to make the sacrifice."
"What did I do to deserve such a husband."
"You do mean that in a nice way, don't you?"
"I need some sleep."
I awoke Saturday by myself, without the assistance of a nagging child. As I stretched, I felt someone kissing my cheek, Paul, I assumed. He put his arms around me and slid over.
As he moved to kiss me on the lips, I objected. "We don't have time now. I need to get the kids up and get them breakfast."
"They're in the kitchen eating. We should have a good 10 to 15 minutes before they descend on us."
That was enough time for deep, passionate kissing; temperature-raising, skin-flushing kissing; goose bumping, nipple-teasing ... "Hold on. We don't have time for that part. I'll get so worked up I won't want to stop and we don't have time."
"But it will build the tension."
"Damn right it will build the tension. I'll get a set of blue ... whatever it is women get a blue set of."
"Just a little bit?"
"Just a little bit."
I was getting worried it had been more than a little bit, when we heard the little noisemakers scurrying up the stairs. "Okay, we've got to stop now," I told him. I got off the bed and had taken two steps when I saw him do it. "What on earth are you doing?"
"I'm stripping the bed."
"Why? To what possible purpose could you be stripping the bed?"
"So I can do the laundry. After you take your shower, of course."
Where was I? Who was this man? He looked like my husband but his behavior was aberrant. There was only one possible explanation. He was having an affair!
I moved in a daze to the bathroom. No, there was another possible explanation. I was dreaming.
After my shower, the insanity continued. He came into the bathroom, gathered up my towel and the clothes from the hamper and disappeared out the door.
I put on my makeup and entered the bedroom to look for a sweat suit so that I could begin my busy day. There was so much to do.
But there he was, smiling, cheerful. "No sweat suit today, honey. Get dressed up. Go shopping. Go get a facial. Relax. Do whatever you want. I'm going to take care of the kids today."
"But the house is a mess."
"Don't worry about it. I'll figure something out. Go. Enjoy."
Had I missed a press release about the new movie, The Stepford Husbands? No matter. The next time I got this opportunity might be never. "Okay, I will."
I hummed as I looked for an especially appealing outfit. I was going on a date – with myself.
What to do? Too many choices. I was accustomed to having only one choice. Now, I could do almost anything. It was nearly overwhelming. Paul had made two good suggestions. Facial and shopping. Come to think of it, there was no reason I couldn't do both. I could do both and see a movie. I could have a lunch I didn't have to make or clean up. I could relax on a bench by the river and watch families having fun, bikers, skaters, runners, rowers practicing on the river, ducks looking for leftovers. I could just do nothing, away from family and cleaning and responsibilities. It was delicious.
I decided to try for a facial first. It would be pretty hard to get an appointment on such short notice so the sooner I called, the better. I called Sondra's Salon. My in-laws had given me a gift facial there a few years back. Sondra's had no openings but took my cell number in case somebody cancelled. I needed a cell so Paul or daycare or the parents could contact me at any time with an emergency I needed to attend to before the other things I had to do first. But today Paul wasn't going to call and Sondra's might. I drove to the mall in which it was located. That was as good a place to shop as any and, if an appointment became available, I would be right there.
Shopping was not as much fun as I imagined it would be. I'm too disciplined. There were lots of things I would have loved to buy. But then I might not be able to afford things I needed to buy. Two kids, a mortgage, car loans and a barely furnished living room warned me against profligate spending. I could, however, profligately window shop. And I did. I lusted to my heart's content. The purchases I made in my mind would have required an entourage to carry them to my car. To top it all off, Sondra's called. After indulging my shopping fantasies, I got to relax and be pampered.
My facial was satisfying in another way. As I waited I got to listen to gossip. I didn't know the people, but it was like listening to a soap opera which I never get to do because I'm out working. All the tension fled my body as I lay there and let their secret recipe avocado-cucumber mask slowly dry on my face. I smiled as I remembered the melodramatic tales of woe around me. I thought of my loving husband who had freed me up to have this experience, my wonderful children and the job I loved going to every day. What better birthday gift than to realize how lucky I am to have such a happy life? Not perfect, but very good.
Sadly, they finished with me a little before two. It wasn't sad that it was a little before two, but that they ever finished. I could have lain there forever.
There was still time for lunch. Whatever cleaning needed to be done back at the house could wait until next weekend. I would pretend not to notice. Today was too much fun to spoil by going home early to put the house in order.
I had a chicken ceasar salad. I didn't have to cook the chicken. I didn't have to buy, tear, wash or spin the lettuce. I didn't have to measure the olive oil, crush the garlic, get out the measuring spoon for the lemon juice, measure the parmesan cheese and I didn't have to coddle the egg. I didn't have to clean all that up. My only responsibility was to eat it when it came. While I waited and while I ate it, I could people watch. It was wickedly delightful.
After lunch, I made a few more window-shopping "purchases" before heading home. I felt no disappointment at ending my reverie. The day had exceeded my most exorbitant expectations.
I walked in the front door and the place was quiet. As surprising as that was, I was shocked when I looked at the floor. It had unmistakably been washed. Properly. Not just run over with a mop, but scrubbed where it was needed. Paul wasn't having an affair. Clearly I was in the wrong house.
The kitchen was even more shocking. Not only did the floor sparkle, but every counter top was perfectly clean, as was the table. I didn't think he even knew we had counters, let alone that they could get dirty. The stovetop was clean and there were two pots on it. Then I noticed the smell. I lifted the cover from the heavy pot and confirmed that the aroma was lamb. My favorite. In the other pot was mashed potatoes and kale. We didn't have kale. We didn't have lamb.
I put the lid back on the pot and rushed to the refrigerator and opened the door. Somebody had done the shopping. I didn't care what it had cost, and how many people he had hired to do it. I wanted Paul like I had never wanted him before. More than I had on our honeymoon.
I wandered up to our bedroom in a state of shock and arousal. The floor had been vacuumed. The bed had been made. Incorrectly, but it had been made.
I looked in the bathroom. The towels had been washed and hung up. Incorrectly, but they were hung in the proper place.
If I died this minute, my life would have been complete.
I realized as I awaited the return of my family, that I had nothing to do. There were things I could choose to do. But there was nothing I had to do. It was a bewildering feeling.
I called to catch up with some friends I had not had the time to talk to lately.
At around 5:30, I heard the car pull up outside and went down to greet them as they came in the door. They looked as spent as if they had wintered at Valley Forge with General Washington. That was great for the kids. They would go to bed early and leave me alone with who the hell was this guy anyway.
"Hi, hon. We were at the playground. I'm going to take these guys upstairs and get them cleaned up. I'll set up for dinner when I'm done."
"Just a second." I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a serious kiss.
"Ooo," the girls said in unison. I didn't care if this scarred them for life. It was all I could do to keep my hands off of him.
I set the table for dinner. I knew he wanted to do it but I was beginning to feel almost unnecessary. For some reason, I had never enjoyed setting the table more.
I don't know how he did it, maybe he's really good at following recipes, but the lamb was delicious. It may have been partly because I knew he was not that fond of lamb that I enjoyed it so much.
He cleaned up and I took the girls into the den for a game of Candy Land. By the time he finished, they were just about nodding off.
"How did you accomplish this?" I nodded my head in the direction of the girls.
"I got them to help me. I ran them ragged at the playground. My plan was to exhaust them"
"Great plan. Let's get them into bed."
There was none of the complaining, the bargaining to stay up a few minutes longer. No bedtime story was required. Moments after their heads hit the pillow they were gone. Julie didn't even last long enough to say goodnight.
"It doesn't really matter, but I'm so curious to know how you did all this. Who did you bring in?"
"Nobody. It was just us. They helped pick things up. They carried up the towels. You know it's not hard to get kids to help. It's harder to get them not to help."
"You did the laundry, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning?"
"Planning. It took around a week and a half. I had to research how to clean things. I got suggestions from your mother. We went shopping while the floors dried. When I put in dinner, I took them out to exhaust them. Planning."
"How did you get the floor so clean?"
"Hands and knees. Scrub brush and Brillo in a few spots."
"You are the sexiest man alive."
"You're not so bad yourself."
"Now let's get you into bed."
"That's a great idea. I'm so tired I can barely stand."
"No, no, no. You can't titillate me this way and leave me hanging."
He sat down on the bed. "I'm so exhausted I don't even think I can get my clothes off."
"No problem. I'll do it for you." I stripped him with enthusiasm. I stripped myself even more quickly. I got into bed and pulled him down with me.
He yawned. I think he was faking. I wasn't sure. "I'm really tired babe. Can we do this some other time?"
"I'm not kidding Paul. I really need you now. Not want, need."
"Oh, well. It is your birthday." He smiled mischievously.
"You stinker." But he had delivered what he had promised.