Every relationship has certain important “firsts.” The first date, the first kiss, the first fart. There are different schools of thought, some suggesting you space out these firsts and some suggesting it is better to just get them all out of the way at once. (Such as the story Brooke’s father told us about his first date with her stepmother, where, while driving, he accidentally cough/farted. He wasn’t sure whether she had only heard the cough or if she heard the fart as well. It led to much speculation about whether she liked him despite the fart or whether she liked him because she hadn’t heard the fart. Of course, she had – the moral of the story being, foremost, take care when coughing on the first date, but more importantly if you really want an accurate barometer of a relationship’s potential, isn’t overcoming a fart on the first date maxing out the scale?)
Two weeks ago, Brooke and I had one of the most profound firsts of our relationship1. – our first vacation together. The first vacation is monumental, even more so than the first time you spend the night together. Because when you spend one night together, everyone still has their guard up. You’ve worn your best underwear. You sneak out of bed in the morning to fix your hair. You can hold in that poop until you leave. It’s more like an elongated date than a glimpse into each other’s personal lives. But when you’re with the other person for every moment, days in a row, in an unfamiliar land where the only person you can talk to is them2., and inevitably you will have to make some kind of noise in the bathroom, this is when things get serious. Inevitably you will catch her putting on perfume and think, “So that’s how she does it!” Vacations are the great magic killers.3. You learn a lot about a person, and you expose a good amount of yourself in the process.
For example, Brooke had always mentioned how she didn’t like to fly. “That’s pretty common,” I thought. “Lots of people don’t like to fly.” Then, the closer we got to the airport the more nervous she got. It was like taking a puppy to the veterinarian, where they are excited to pack a bag and go in the car, but then when you pull up at the office the dog suddenly starts freaking out. Luckily, Brooke had the foresight to get a prescription for Xanax to calm her on the plane. However, being so riled up just at the prospect of being in the terminal and watching the jumbo death traps rolling around outside, she took her Xanax well before we even boarded the plane. She washed it down with a drink at the bar and ate a large plate of quesadillas, which I only mention because it is something else I “learned” – while some people get so nervous that they lose their appetite, Brooke’s appetite seems wholly unaffected by any outside influence, impending death or otherwise.
As we boarded the plane, Brooke seemed happy. Once in her seat, that happiness quickly turned into drowsiness. Before the plane even finished loading, she was fast asleep on my shoulder.
Unfortunately, the runway was crowded that afternoon. So crowded that, unbeknownst to Brooke, our plane spent a good amount of time taxiing. With the utmost precision of timing to render the medication completely useless, Brooke woke up forty minutes later, literally just as the plane was about to take off. It was like waking up from the best part of a dream to find a ghost actually in your bedroom. As the plane rocked and shoved upward, Brooke grabbed my hand. After one particularly heavy jolt she informed me rather loudly that, “We’re all going to die,” which not surprisingly caught the attention of a little girl sitting across the aisle from us. I looked over and smiled and shook my head like, “No, we’re not going to die,” which didn’t seem to comfort her. In fact, I may as well have told her that Santa Clause didn’t exist, because heck, what’s a pile of presents magically appearing under your Christmas tree when face to face with your own mortality?
When all was said and done, the plane landed safely, and though we had lost a friend in that girl, we had gained a new level of intimacy. For a short time, I even had an upper hand in the “overexposure” category. Right up until our first day at the beach when I “forgot about my legs” while putting on sun block, leading to a scene wherein Brooke entered the bathroom to find me with a towel wrapped around my waist and my foot up on the toilet seat while I rubbed a thick layer of aloe lotion onto my leg. Touché.
That girl’s future psychiatrist: 3
1. If you thought I was going to say we had sex for the first time, Hi, my name is Dan. We haven’t met.
Not to say that sex isn’t a special first, and totally worth holding out for (a little), but it’s no where near as important as the first vacation. For one thing, you’re probably drunk. Even with an appreciable dedication it’s extremely difficult to stay drunk for five straight days. Plus, if you’re doing it right, sex is fun. It’s like going to the carnival with someone for the first time, only with less clothes and more self-consciousness.
2. I’ve always wondered if it is the height of a sophisticated relationship or the mark of a ruined relationship when couples make friends with other couples on vacation. In admitting that you need more than the other person to keep you busy for a week, are you building character through honestly addressing your shortcomings as a team? Or are you screwed because if you can’t even go one week on the beach, try going one year in a partially renovated house with a toddler who doesn’t seem to be getting any cuter and in-laws who always remark about the “unique odor” of your living room whenever they come over?
3. This is why vacations are centered around distraction. Where to eat, what show to see, what museum to go to. Or, in the alternative, if you decide to have a “relaxing” vacation, it involves the beach. Because if you are going to catch a glimpse of someone clipping their toenails, they may as well be in a bathing suit for the rest of the day.