The most romantic thing you can do: Be kind
As I unpacked the box of Imodium from my weekend bag I thought – Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen.
I organised every element of our third wedding anniversary getaway. I chose the destination – Whitstable and then Margate – I found the hotels, I booked the restaurants, I packed a dress that was going to require ironing before I wore it – the very definition of ‘putting the effort in’ – and put everything in place for the perfect mini-break.
But there are some things that you just can’t plan for, and food poisoning is one of them. Yes, on Thursday afternoon, the bloated feeling I hoped was just down to excessive cheese consumption turned into more quality time with our hotel bathroom than I would wish on anyone. To say this food didn’t agree with me would be an understatement. This was the Brexit to my Remain – it wanted to leave and it wanted to leave right NOW. And as much as I can try and joke about it, I was gutted. I’d been looking forward to this trip for weeks and to lose a third of it to sickness was just very annoying.
When you’ve been together a long time, you start to feel like you need to book in time to be romantic. You schedule hours, days and weekends during which to be your best selves – to watch sunsets, to sip cocktails, to eat dinner without the telly on. To pay the other person your fullest attention and remind them that you really do love them more than your phone/X-Box/cat.
But as wonderful as that kind of organisation can be – and it really can – things don’t always go to plan. And what matters is how you deal with that.
Leon has a lot of experience in this area as I have been accidentally unwell on numerous profoundly inconvenient occasions. It happened on our honeymoon when a dodgy plate of rice caused me to get as close as a human being can to exploding, it happened last year in Malta when I stupidly forgot to drink water in 34 degree heat and discovered just how well a body responds to that (not well, not well at all), and it happened right here in our house when the first oyster I ever consumed ensured that it would also be my last.
His response is always the same – concern, a couple of gentle reminders that freaking out will only worsen my predicament, and then relentless (slightly irritating at the time, totally wise and sensible in retrospect) instructions to drink copious amounts of water to ensure my continued survival. He then amuses himself doing whatever he likes until I improve. He doesn’t get cross that I ruined the holiday or start asking me for an approximate time at which I’ll be ready to hit the gin again, he just offers quiet reassurance that I’ll be back on the Pringles before I know it and that he’ll be there to peel off the lid. And for that I will always be grateful.
Romance doesn’t always look how you think it will. They don’t tell you when you take your vows that at some point in your life the words “I bought the rehydration sachets you asked for” will be the most romantic sentence you’ve ever heard, but it will, believe me, particularly if your stomach is as weak as mine.
Being romantic isn’t all about buying candlelit dinners and cocktails, although I do recommend a health dose of both. It’s the little acts of kindness that show you care – the text to say ‘Good luck’ before a tricky day, the reassuring hand squeeze across a train carriage table that promises everything will be fine, or the early morning walk into town to buy raspberry flavoured salt replacement solutions that will gradually bring your patient back to life. They may not make it into the photo album, but these are the moments you’ll remember.
This anniversary may not have quite gone to plan but we certainly won’t be forgetting it in a hurry. Not only did it teach us to always choose a hotel that’s near a Boots, but it also reminded us that if we’re kind to each other, we can handle anything. And that’s something I’m up for celebrating every year.
It’s a shame that we missed out on the dinner I had planned and that we didn’t get to see another sunset together, but I can only hope there will be plenty more to come.
And on the plus side, I never did have to iron that dress. Every cloud has a silver lining, you know.