In February of 2010, just a few months after we met, my partner and I decided to take a trip down to Florida to spend a weekend at his father’s vacation home. This was a big deal! Vacationing as a couple, especially so early on, has so much potential for disaster. You’re still in the “impressing each other” stage where no one poops, picks their teeth, or says they are too tired for sex. You must always be “on,” radiating attractiveness, and ready to go.
We went through the typical airport awkwardness of taking our shoes and belts off, waiting in line, and spending $75 on sandwiches and margaritas at the Delta terminal’s Chili’s. I didn’t know what to expect when we got there, so I packed everything from sweaters to bikinis, and all of my fake gold jewelry.
The house was pretty big, with three bedrooms, a roof deck, and a swimming pool. We bounced around Fort Lauderdale and ate at the least Brooklyn of restaurants. We drank 12 bottles of champagne in three days. We promised each other we’d try to go back every year while his dad still had the house.
The following spring we happily found ourselves headed there again. I had just started a new job as the PR manager at a digital agency, and my partner was beginning the second semester of his first year of an MSW program. We looked different, rounder perhaps, with more conventional haircuts and less gold jewelry. We went to Epcot one day and drank around the world while eating everything in sight. We rode the Maelstrom five times. We slept-in less, and one day it rained so I spent hours online shopping for furniture for our new apartment. We had to move in a few days after we got back from vacation, which felt fine and fitting.
We returned to Florida again just last week — our third trip. We got in around 3 AM and were pleased to find out that the rental car company had chosen the red Mustang convertible for us. We were there for St. Patrick’s Day, so we joined the spring breakers in their revelry. We made a friend with a young woman named Jen, who liked to hold my hand and drag me around different places –the bathroom, the dance floor, and the pizza restaurant. She told me that she used to be a shot girl, but now that she was 21, she was too old for that. For the first time in my life, I felt like a worried older sister and not a partner in crime.
In South Beach we turned our noses up at the restaurants by the water, where the waitresses bark at you that it’s happy hour and there is a special. Instead we ate tapas at a little Spanish place that felt hidden. By this point we were both so sunburned and tired, we needed to go home. On the ride back, I had a convertible-on-the-freeway-adrenaline-high. While I looked crisp and sleepy on the outside, inside I was erupting. I had spent so much of my twenties searching for and seeking attention, and now all of that seemed to be over and done with — and in a good way. I never thought I’d be here. Let alone, here the third year in a row.
Our final night in Florida, I made a sauce and we watched a movie. We lamented that vacation was too short, and that next year we would come for a week. We always say that, but we never have the time to execute it. Our lives seem to be getting busier, filling up with commitments beyond our control. We are leaping towards 30, and all the expectations are changing. The impressing each other stage is pretty much over, and we have entered nurturance. Nurturance sounds like a lot of work, but I don’t know if it has to be. Perhaps nurturance is a promise, not unlike the one to return to the same lovely place every year, only you promise to go there every day. Or perhaps it is just helping the other person peel the skin off their burned back after another long weekend in the sun, and pretending to not be totally grossed out by it.