Ever since we met in 2005, I have waged a long campaign to convince my husband that he should watch ABC’s reality show “The Bachelor,” or its equally delightful companion “The Bachelorette.”

“Hey, look,” I’d tell him.”Hot chicks in bikinis!”

Sometimes this strategy worked, but it really only captured his attention for a few brief moments. He would grumble about how dumb the show was, or make jealous comments about the Bachelor’s inevitably ripped abs. When we dated long distance, I called after each episode, sharing with him the latest Bachelor gossip, like:  “He got in a hut tub with six girls and ended up Frenching two of them.”

I make no bones about the fact that these shows are trashy entertainment, pure and simple. And I love it.

Sometimes after a long day’s work, all you really need is 12 silly girls and one tool to make fun of.

Mark did a good job of at least feigning interest and could probably pass for a Bachelor fan in casual conversation.

Until this year. I think this falls under the Be Careful What You Wish For category.

This season features Brad Womack, which for those of you who don’t know, is at his second go-round of being The Bachelor. Last time, he rejected his final two women, which I never had a problem with, but apparently it generated outrage among women worldwide. As an added bonus, he’s from Austin.

I convinced Mark to watch the first episode with me, promising that there would be 25 hot chicks to oogle. First out of the limo is what Mark kept calling “Girl in the Green Dress,” who gives Brad a nice slap in the face, supposedly for his sins against women. After a careful review of all 25 women, Mark selected Girl in the Green Dress as his favorite.

As the weeks wore on, I noticed Mark was unusually excited about Monday Night Bachelor Watching. He even seemed interested in engaging in a bit of post-show analysis and armchair psychology.

One week I hadn’t gotten around to watching the DVR-ed episode by Tuesday night. I fell asleep at 10 p.m. and was awakened at midnight by the unmistakable strains of Sad Bachelor Music, the music they play when a girl is dumped.

Was Mark watching The Bachelor without me?

“Mark,” I mumbled from the bed. “Are you watching The Bachelor?”

He admits he is.

I couldn’t believe it. Not only had I converted him, but he was so into the Bachelor he wouldn’t even wait for me to watch an episode. I puzzled over this for days until I realized it must be about The Girl in the Green Dress.

Her name is Chantal and she’s Mark’s pretend girlfriend. Here is her picture:

Chantal O'Brien

The truth is, I find it very cute that Mark has a TV crush. I’ve got my own, starting with Matthew Fox from Lost. But I think no matter how cute a guy was, it wouldn’t force me to watch a TV show I didn’t like.

Which raises the question:  Does Mark just like Chantal, or does he secretly like the Bachelor?

I think he secretly likes the Bachelor. For instance, he disclosed to me that he recently spent some time on the World Wide Web searching for Bachelor spoilers. That’s an open-and-shut case of Bachelor obsession.

Now that I’ve got a full Bachelor convert on my hands, I sometimes wish I didn’t.

Here’s a sample of the comments from the peanut gallery of Mark:

“Whoa, look at those.” (Some girl’s boobs).

“She’s hot!”

“Dude, you’re making a mistake,” (When he keeps what Mark thinks is an ugly girl).

When I watch the show with girlfriends we carefully analyze the behavior of the women and man, or men and woman, as is the case with the Bachelorette. Who got too drunk, who is desperate, who has Daddy issues, who really just wants to be on TV. I try to explain this to Mark…that women don’t watch the show to drool over some guy. We watch it to make fun of other women and feel better about our own lives. But he doesn’t buy it.

Meanwhile, Mark is a lucky guy. His “girlfriend” Chantal? She is the rumored front-runner.

That means I get my Bachelor buddy for three more weeks. Now if only I could train him to overlook each girl’s “assets” and focus on their personalities. A girl can dream, can’t she?


What Mark wishes he was

Mark and I don’t have an XBox, Wii or PlayStation. We don’t have smart phones. I just got my first laptop two years ago; and only last year ditched my Motorola Razr, which apparently is so 2005. Perhaps we will finally get an iPad or e-reader in, oh, about 10 years. Just in time for their extinction.

Basically, Mark and I are living in the Middle Ages while the rest of the world is in in the Renaissance.

What we do have is Flight Simulator. Mark has never gotten over the fact that he isn’t a pilot. As a kid, he wanted to join the Air Force, and I’ve never gotten the full story on why he didn’t, but I think it had to do with a growing interest in journalism.

Whenever we are outside and hear the distant roar of an airplane, Mark will stop whatever he is doing to stare into the sky. He even does this when we’re in the car, which is a bit troubling because I’d prefer he concentrate on things like the accelerator, brakes, wheel and large glass window in front of him.

Much to Mark’s delight, Flight Simulator gets pretty close to making him feel like an actual pilot without having to pay the big bucks for real flight training. If I had to guess, he’s probably logged close to a 1,000 hours on the game in just the last few years. Flight Simulator has different planes to fly, from a tiny single-engine to luxurious business jets on up to a Boeing 747. It also incorporates real-world weather conditions. To me, it would be extremely tempting to go on suicide missions in the middle of a blizzard, but Mark seems to take his computer flying almost as cautiously as he would in the “real world.”

I actually love his Flight Simulator habit because it gives me uninterrupted time with my boyfriend, the TV, and my other boyfriends, Winston and Stanley, our cats. But occasionally I eavesdrop on Mark’s pilot chatter…and it is hilarious. First of all, the air traffic controllers are sending him instructions over a scratchy-sounding “radio.”  There are times when Mark is scrambling to find a pen and a piece of paper, which really makes me wonder what on Earth real pilots do. Do they need to take notes in the middle of flying a plane? I’ll find scraps of paper lying around with indecipherable notes scribbled on them about flight paths, runway altitudes, and navigation settings.

Then he begins to talk to himself, especially in moments of flying frustration. It’s extremely amusing. The other day I grabbed a notepad to write down what he was saying.

“This stupid Boeing is moving too damn slow,” he muttered. “It needs to MOVE.”

A few seconds pass. “DAMMIT! Now I have to circle again.”

He gets what I would call “plane rage,” which, again, causes me to wonder if “real” pilots do this.

I can always tell when he’s about to crash because his finger will start rapidly pressing on one button with increasing urgency. Tap-tap-tap-taptaptaptaptap. And then he stops, looking so very disappointed that his plane is now smoldering in the Appalachian Mountains.

“I messed up my altimeter settings,” he would explain, as if I knew what that meant.

His obsession is not without collateral damage. It’s not just that Mark crashes sometimes, which he does, but it’s that I’m getting a peek into the mind of  a pilot and the dance of coordinating plane take-offs and landings…and it’s scary, people. Really scary! Did you know the most gut-clenching part of flying for the pilot is landing, not taking off? Mark tells me taking off is a cinch compared to landing. Thanks! Now I know to save my freak-outs for landings. I was also surprised at how much influence air traffic controllers have over the safety of your flight. It’s a miracle there aren’t more accidents, with all those instructions being thrown about while multiple planes are being juggled for takeoff and landing. And what if, just what if, one bad egg with homicidal tendencies gets in there?

But, hey, if marriage is about anything, it’s learning to love whatever your partner is into. OK, that isn’t true. Basically it’s learning to live in the same house while sometimes pretending the other doesn’t exist. I watch the Real Housewives of Atlanta duke it out while Mark sits with his laptop behind me, responding to the commands of a very bossy computer voice . Each of us is in an undisturbed zone of contentment. And that kids, is the secret to a happy marriage.

Coming out

I was looking for things to read on the Internet to occupy time between interviews, otherwise known as “surfing the Web.” I stopped by one of my favorites, a blog called Dooce, to check in.Heather has a lovely, sarcastic wit that I could never hope to match. Not to mention thousands of followers who have enabled her and her husband to simply blog full-time. A few posts in, I read about her struggles to feed her oldest daughter.

“My older child does not like food. It started when she was eighteen months old with a three-day hunger strike and continues to this day: she won’t eat bread, certain kinds of pizza, or cake. Don’t even bring up the name of a vegetable. Fruit? Are you crazy? Fruit has taste which is the number one property of disgusting!” Heather wrote.

It all sounded a little too familiar. I was once that kid, the picky eater. OK, I could barely type that with a straight face. I am still that kid, only with a slightly more adventurous palette. It is an embarrassing, flawed character trait that I have tried to hide at childhood slumber parties, from college roommates, from co-workers and from boyfriends. Haven’t you heard? Picky eaters are freaks. I’ll never forget the moment a well-meaning co-worker of mine, when we were debating lunch choices, announced to everyone that I was a picky eater, so don’t get too crazy with those lunch ideas!

I cringed. Was it that obvious? I hadn’t even said anything.

Back to Dooce. Heather detailed her daughter’s stubborn refusal to eat certain foods and disclosed that their therapist had told them to stop coddling her and simply make her eat whatever they ate. (A decision I don’t entirely agree with. More on that later.)

It was when I started reading the more than 500 comments that, for the first time in my life, I felt, well, normal.

Scores of mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, childhood picky eaters and adult picky eaters were writing in. “My mother had a cow because my brother wouldn’t eat anything but buttered egg noodles for about three years,” one reader wrote. “So, she always had a bowl of egg noodles on the table and that’s what he ate.” Another reader: “My nephew is a notoriously picky eater as well. He is six. It has been going on for years…He is so picky, he cannot even sit at the table if others are eating something he won’t eat, specifically meat. If he saw anyone eating meat, smelled meat, whatever, he would gag and sometimes vomit.” And here’s another sample from a reader comment: “My youngest (seven years old) lives on PB&J and cheese melted on a tortilla. Every time I try to push food, it ends in tears, gagging, and parental rage.”

I can’t explain how relieving it is to read those words. Hey, judgmental world , I’m not such a freak. In fact, I’m not even nearly as bad as these kids. After trying to hide my picky eating my entire life, I’m finally ready to come out. I’m a picky eater. (Though I’d prefer a PR savvy name-change to “super-taster.”) It’s been exhausting trying to hide it. I will go out to lunch with friends or co-workers at a place I know will be extremely difficult to find something vegetarian, much less something I like, and choke down an unappetizing dish just to fit in. I’ve gotten very good at faking it.

I’m nowhere near as bad as I was as a child. My favorite  restaurant in Tallahassee is Indian. I like Thai, Mexican, sushi and Mediterranean foods. I’ll eat many fruits and vegetables, even broccoli. And I will pretty much try anything put before me so long as it is vegetarian.

But my picky eating identity is still with me. Do I have strong preferences? Yes. Do I tend to eat the same dishes over and over? Yes. Do I love pasta and bread more than anything? Yes. Do I get extremely irritated when Mark buys generic versions of cereal that don’t taste as good as the real thing? Yes.

I don’t remember how bad my picky eating was as a child, so I asked my Mom for a list of foods I ate.

“No fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Mac and cheese. Cheese pizza only. Pasta. Prime stakes (a vegetarian meal). Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts cut off and cut diagonally only. Spinach only from a can.” There’s a few more things I would add to that list: desserts, corn, pancakes, grapes, cantaloupe, cereal, milk. As you can see, I liked my food bland. Strong flavors = bad.

“So what would I do if I was given something to eat I didn’t like?” I asked her.

“You would refuse to eat it,” she said. “You’d sniff it and cry and if we tried to make you eat it you would throw yourself on the chair.”

I don’t remember any of this, for the record, but it sounds plausible.

I am luckier than most other picky eaters in one regard. I had my mother.

My Mom watched my tantrums and understood exactly why I didn’t want to eat certain foods. That’s because she was a picky eater herself. As a child, she went through a phase that lasted years of eating mostly turkey noodle soup. “My parents and I had huge battles over it,” she said. “I would have to sit at the table until I ate green beans. I sat there for hours and cried, I would refuse to eat it.”

“So it was like a hunger strike?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes,” she said. “It became a battle of the wills.”

Her mother, my grandmother, was not a picky eater, but she decided to indulge my Mother. She made her separate meals from the rest of the family. The arguments stopped.

“My mother, in her wisdom, knew I was growing up fine and and that it was not something I could help and wasn’t worth getting into an argument with me,” Mom said. “It was my father who tried to force the point and make it a bigger issue.”

I’ve never met my grandmother (she died before I was born), but hearing this makes me wish so badly I could have gotten to know her.

Even with her empathy, my mother was concerned enough to take me to five pediatricians and ask if I was healthy.

One doctor, who I imagine was weary from all the concerned mothers dragging their otherwise healthy children into his office to ask if they could survive on a diet of mac and cheese and pizza, told her this:

“God may strike me dead for saying this, but I swear you can grow up and live fine without eating vegetables or fruit. Ever.”

And that was that. I ate whatever I wanted.

With my Dad, it was a different story. You see, the world is divided into Believers and Non-Believers when it comes to picky eating. My Dad is a Non-Believer. He claims that as a baby, I would eat anything put before me. According to him, I just loved food. (I’m pretty sure it’s because baby food is all pretty bland). When my parents separated and he moved to Washington, D.C. he wasn’t around as much on a day-to-day basis. He believes that it was my Mother that caused my picky eating. “I remember visiting you at your Mom’s and seeing piles of pizza cartons stacked up and it seemed like all of a sudden your appetite and taste for food changed and radically narrowed to simplified Italian and cereal,” Dad told me.

I disagree. My brother, who lived with me, also ate my picky foods because my Mom didn’t want to cook two meals. But whenever we went out to eat my brother was an adventurous eater, always trying new things and even eating meat, while my Mom, me and my Dad were all vegetarian. It wasn’t my Mom’s cooking or permissive attitude that dictated my eating habits. I liked what I liked,  and had little control over it.

So here is where I give a mini-lecture about what picky eating is, in the hopes that it will turn us all into Believers. Picky eaters are super-tasters, meaning they are much more sensitive to flavors and smells than the average person. I remember when the nacho cheese sauce at the movie theater was too spicy for me. It set my mouth on fire, whereas my father thought it just tasted like melted cheese.

I read an article in a British newspaper once that explained the evolutionary origins of this. Back in the day, picky eaters actually survived better than normal eaters because they were more selective about what they ate. They stayed away from poisonous berries or meat that looked suspiciously rare. By sticking to simple, bland foods, it ensured their survival.

All this adds up to my core philosophy on picky eating: it can’t be helped. It’s either an inherited gene or something that is so ingrained in you that you cannot change it, just as a homosexual person doesn’t “choose” to be gay. My family provides strong evidence toward the inherited gene argument. My mother had four biological children. Two are normal eaters, two are picky. My cousin is a picky eater, but both his parents are normal eaters.

I asked my 16-year-old brother Phillip, my super-taster comrade, to tell me his favorite foods.

“Anything Italian, pizza, pasta, rice, potatoes, quesadilla,” he said. (YUM. Sounds delicious!) “I refuse to eat anything spicy or anything that looks unappealing. I usually don’t like any kind of Asian food but I can find something on the menu like fried rice that I can survive on.”

I asked him what was the most annoying question he got from so-called “normal” eaters.

“People say ‘You’re missing out!’ ” he said. “No, I’m not. I do not like the way that type of food tastes, to me it tastes disgusting. I’m not missing out, my brain does not interpret that taste as appealing, so what am I missing out on?”

The cutest thing about Phillip’s eating habits is he has found a picky eater girlfriend! They go on dates where he orders fettucine alfredo and she orders pasta with no sauce. How cute!

ALERT: Controversial statement coming. Here’s the thing, worried parents. Chill. Your kids will be just fine. I have to agree with the good doctor. Nutritionists have overblown the importance of getting a certain number of fruits and vegetables.

I’ve been told my whole life that I’m not getting enough protein, that I’m not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and that, for goodness sake, take a vitamin! (I never have). Humans have survived for a long time on much worse. What about the diet of gruel and beer people had in the Middle Ages? And are you really telling me that the pork-bellied Midwesterners who survive on Big Macs, steaks and potatoes are so much better off than a picky  eater? It’s all crap. My blood work has always come back flawless, I’ve run a marathon, and I could kick my normal-eating husband’s ass in a race. My brother Phillip is one of the running stars of his school. Fortunately our diet is the perfect runner’s diet, which is supposed to be heavy on carbs.

Some advice on how to deal with it as a parent: encourage them to try new things, but don’t force it. Offer them what the rest of the family is having. If they don’t like it, give them a back-up of something they like, such as a PB&J sandwich. And know that it will get better, and that yes, a child can survive on pasta alone.

P.S. My Mom will be mad if I don’t provide a link to the Adult Picky Eating Support Group. So here it is.

A dramatic re-enactment of my attempt to lift Mark's leg

Almost every night when it’s time for bed, Mark likes to wrap me in his arms, toss a leg over mine and nuzzle his head in my neck.

Now, before you go “Awwww,” let me tell you what this can be like from my perspective:

A giant man jumps on top of you. His leg, the size of a tree trunk, thuds on to the back of your legs. You can’t move. And you can hardly breathe. Each time it happens to me, I ask:  When will it end?

Before marriage, I would never have guessed that our size difference would be more of a challenge than our 18-year age difference.

Mark is 6-foot, 2 inches and over 200 pounds, and I am 5-foot, 4 inches at 113 pounds.

Basically, Mark is like two of me.


As a giant, as I like to call him, Mark likes to store things impossibly out of reach for me. He must derive much joy watching me reach for objects in our kitchen cabinets.  Even when I stand on tip-toes, stretch my arms to their fullest, my fingertips can only barely graze most of the jars.

For awhile, Mark stored my lunchbox on top of our kitchen cabinets. Yes, on top of them. Each morning when I was rushing to get to work, I cursed him as I dropped my head back to look at my lunchbox towering above me.

While it would be easy to just holler for the giant to come fetch my lunchbox, it was never that easy. My dilemma would nearly always occur after he had left for work or when he was in the shower. So, I was forced to improvise.

I would reach inside a drawer and pull out a wooden spoon. Using this foot-long kitchen utensil, I would carefully hook the handle of my lunchbox and jerk it until it fell, hoping it wouldn’t bring down with it an aluminum brownie pan or anything else that might crash to the floor and scare the cats.

I did this for weeks, each time complaining to Mark about how unfair it was that he put things out of my reach. He found it all so cute that I couldn’t reach it. It was infuriating!

Finally, I got a clue that in marriage, disagreements like this are like power struggle skirmishes, and it was important to win them. It was time to show the Giant who was Boss.

One day when he was getting ready for work, I put his wallet on one of the blades of the living room ceiling fan. Now before you start accusing me of husband abuse, let me say that I warned him what I was about to do and told him where I put it.

It worked. He stopped putting my lunch box on top of the cabinets.


And then there are massages. I’m lucky that Mark enjoys giving me massages. And because he’s so much larger then me, lifting my leg or my arm requires little effort. For him, it’s like picking a twig out of the grass. It seems effortless for him to squeeze my shoulders, lift my leg, or twist my hips. I am certainly spoiled in the massage department. Mark probably gives me a massage once or twice a week, which I’d like to think saves us money. I haven’t had to pay for a professional massage in over a year.

Mark once had high hopes that all these massages he gives would mean I would return the favor.

But, honestly, my attempts to massage the Giant are nothing short of comical. The other day, while stretched out on our living room carpet, Mark begged for a massage. “I’m not very good at this,” I warned him. “I told you, I’m not that strong.”

I started with an attempt to lift his leg. I had to get psyched first. I tried convincing myself that if I could lift his leg for just 10 seconds, I would win a million dollars.

I slid my hands underneath his left leg and pulled up.

Good lord, his leg felt as heavy as a fire truck.


I could feel my resolve slipping. No, Lilly, I sternly told myself. A million dollars is at stake.


My breathing got heavier. I focused on lamaze-type breathing. Two puffs in, two puffs out. If thousands of women give birth each day, then I can do this.


“I can’t do this!” I cried.

I dropped it.

“You can’t even do it for 10 seconds?” Mark complained. He was incredulous.

“I told you! I’m not very strong,” I explained.

No need to ever lift weights at the gym, his leg provides enough strength training on its own.

This incident with lifting the leg was only about the 1,304th time Mark has tried to get me to give him a massage. Squeezing his back muscles feels like trying to smash a boulder in my hand. Lifting his arms is only slightly easier than the routine with the leg. And his head, for God’s sake, is like a bowling ball. Needless to say, the massages Mark gets rarely last more than a few minutes. And by the end, I’m spent, breathing heavy and with shaky hands.

I can tell that he thinks these are just excuses, which is incredibly annoying to me. I wish there was something I could do to show him how difficult it is for me to give him a massage. I’ve often had the bizarre fantasy of winning the lottery and spending my winnings on hiring Shaquille O’Neal to come to our house, lie in our bed, and beg Mark for a massage. I would laugh hysterically watching Mark try to lift one of Shaquille’s legs. Then, I would get Shaquille to spoon with Mark, just to emphasize what it feels like to have a Giant Man smother you with his body.


Alas, I doubt I’m winning the lottery any time soon. Mark will probably never understand my physical limitations, and I’ll always feel guilty that my diminutive stature means I get tons of massages while Mark gets crappy, abbreviated 10-minute versions of something only slightly resembling a massage. In this marital skirmish, I’ve won, but it’s an uneasy feeling.

So at night, when he’s throwing his tree-trunk leg on top of me, I try to remember all of this. I let the Giant smother me for a few moments before I pull away. Victories are nice, but no marriage can survive with only one winner.

Mr. Fix-it

Mark did the following things tonight:

Bought me a floor-length mirror that I have wanted for approximately five years.

Scrubbed and cleaned the bottom of our shower door for probably the first time in our home’s four-year life.

Put together the floor-length mirror.

Fixed our bedroom TV so that it works for the first time in months.

And put in a new garage door light.

Meanwhile, I watched the Golden Globes, ate ice cream and put away a load of laundry.

As I watched him do all this work, I wondered whether he was going through a manic Mr. Fix-It episode, or if he was just really hoping all this work would get him laid. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.



Home Alone

This weekend, Mark attended a conference in Orlando. He stayed at the Gaylord Palms, a lovely resort near Disney World. He offered to bring me along, pitching to me the possibility of spa treatments, nice dining and vacation-like atmosphere.

I said no.

I’m no fool. I sensed a rare opportunity to have the house to myself, and there was no way I would give that up.

Mark rarely goes out of town for his job. In fact, this is the first time since we moved into this house over a year ago that I have stayed home alone. Unlike him, I go out of town frequently (usually for personal reasons) and each time I walk out of the house with my suitcase I’m jealous that he gets the house to himself. I picture him lounging around, watching anything he wants on TV, taking up our entire Queen-size bed, and leaving dishes in the sink for days.

Before we moved in together, I had lived by myself for six years. And I loved it. I loved being able to leave the house a tad messy, to watch all the bad reality television I wanted, and the ability to crank up the music and dance whenever the spirit moved me. While I love living with Mark, I also crave having time to myself.

You see, Mark is an extrovert. I’m an introvert. So he likes doing everything together. And I do mean everything. He begs me to go along on boring trips to Home Depot. He likes grocery shopping together. Watching TV together. Cooking together. I come home, and there he is! I go to bed, and there is that same guy again.

I don’t like to complain to him because his eagerness to spend time with me is one of the things I love about Mark. Often, I go out for a solitary run at night, and he will hop on his bike or grab his running shorts and join me. Each time, it makes me smile to know that he wants my company so badly that he’ll subject himself to spontaneous exercise.

Still, I knew I had to seize on this rarest of opportunities. On Friday morning, I kissed Mark goodbye and headed to work. I was downright giddy thinking of all the things I could do without Mark hovering nearby. All day at work I plotted my big Friday night alone. Should I do a Bravo TV marathon? Should I go see a chick flick? Paint my nails? Go to a club? So many choices.

Like a typical introvert, I chose a night in. I popped a frozen pizza in the oven. I yanked off my cowboy boots and dared to leave them in the middle of the bedroom. (One of Mark’s pet peeves is me leaving my shoes out). Then, I proceeded to gorge myself on pizza while watching approximately five hours of television saved on my DVR. It was a mix of Real Housewives of Beverly HillsDesperate Housewives and House Hunters.

It’s not that I couldn’t do this with Mark around. I could. But he would make critical, snarky comments about the shows, such as: “How can you watch this crap?” Then he would ask if we could watch something “together,” a.k.a. anything but chick shows. Mark also lacks the marathon television-watching skills that I have. Mark, who may have undiagnosed Adult ADD, can’t sit still for more than an episode or two at a time.

In short, it was bliss.

Even better was sliding into bed, knowing that I had left dishes in the sink and my clothes on my dresser. (Another pet peeve of Mark’s.) I’ll save this for another blog post, but, basically, Mark is a neat freak and I am a bit of a slob.

When I woke up the next morning, I called Mark. No answer. I assumed he was busy at work. I took my clothes to the dry cleaners and then called him again. No answer. He sends me a text: “busy. luv u.” Let’s just say that sending romantic texts is not his strength. I wondered what he was doing.

It’s always a bit of a turn-on for me to watch Mark in his element. As he works a room, people seem eager to talk to him and tell him how good he is at his job. He’s great at small talk and putting people at ease. Watching him in action always reminds me of what a catch I really have.

I went about my usual Saturday. I strapped on my shoes and went for a long run around our neighborhood that took about two hours. The sky was a perfect, uninterrupted blue and the weather just right. When I got back, Mark had left me a voice mail message: “Hide your boyfriend,” he joked. “I’m coming home tonight.”

Dammit, I thought. He was supposed to stay another night.

I immediately felt like a terrible wife. I should have been more excited. Was there something wrong with me or did all wives feel like this?

A few hours later, I was sitting in the basement of the Florida State University library, doing a little work research and wishing he would call. My phone vibrated and it was him. My baby. I smiled.

You see, it doesn’t matter how much I crave that alone time, the minute he calls or walks through the door, I’m like butter. I still get excited when I see his Caller ID on my phone, or when he surprises me at work.

He told me he had started the long drive home. I braced myself for another Dammit. It never came. I couldn’t wait to see him walk through that door. I knew I had a good four hours to myself and that meant plenty of time for TV and a little last-minute kitchen clean-up. It’s now nearly 10 p.m. on Saturday and I’m watching the back door for signs of him.

I even have a little flutter in my stomach, just like when we first started dating.

So, I’ve discovered the absolute best part about this home alone  thing.

It ends.

Mark and I both decided to go out for a run today. Because I wasn’t hungover from New Year’s (thanks, mocktails!), I was ready to head out by late morning. Mark, still nursing his coffee and a hangover, wasn’t.

So I headed out around noon for a 12-mile run in our neighborhood.

When I left, Mark was still in his bathrobe, but claimed he would soon be ready to go out for a run.

When I returned two hours later, the sky dark, overcast and threatening to rain, Mark was gone. His wallet, keys and phone were there, I reasoned, so he must have still been out running. I grabbed my keys and headed out in the car to get ice and a drink from Starbucks, as is my usual post-run routine. When I returned, Mark still wasn’t back.

I soaked in my ice tub, trying to read a book, but my mind kept wandering. Why wasn’t he back yet?

“Mark?” I would call out, just to see if he was home. Silence answered.

Finally, I reached down to pull up the drain. I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. An hour had passed since I got back, and still, no Mark. He should have been back by now.

I grabbed a towel, quickly dried, and left a note: “Mark–I am very worried about you and have gone out looking for you. Please call me if you get home.”

It was raining and my anxious mind was wondering if he had slipped and fallen. The possibilities were endless. My theories focused mostly on The Heart Attack. You see, I am young, vibrant woman. Mark, in my mind, was on death’s doorstep. The pitfall of marrying younger, Mark has learned, is that I presume he could die at any moment.

As I drove out to a trail that I thought Mark might use near our neighborhood, I pictured poor Mark, his hand clutching his chest, lying on the side of the road, a victim of a sudden, massive heart attack. Did someone stop to help him? I hope so.

Two minutes into my drive, I was sobbing. Mark was dead. I knew it. I glanced at my phone. No call.

I cried harder as I swiveled my head back and forth to watch the sidewalks for him. No sign of him. Or of any other runners. I circled around, and headed back toward our neighborhood.

There are a few streets we commonly use for running. I traced them, going down Shumard Oaks, up Salinger Way and down Biltmore. I pressed on my accelerator when I had a clear view of the empty street in front of me. Suddenly, our neighborhood seemed post-apocalyptic. There wasn’t a soul in sight. The rain had driven everyone indoors. There was hardly another car out, which added to the ominous tone the day had taken. Get yourself together, I told myself as the minutes ticked on. You have to be able to think logically and clearly in order to help him. I wondered if his heart attack had hit him when he was on one of our neighborhood’s small running trails, which aren’t easy to get to from a car.

Maybe I would have to commandeer a golf cart from a neighbor. “It’s an emergency,” I would tell them. “My husband is dying!” Granted, I would sound a bit silly if he was, in fact, alive. But better safe than sorry.

I formed a plan of action: By 4 p.m., I would call hospitals to see if an unidentified 45-year-old man in runner’s clothes had been brought in. By 5 p.m., I would file a Missing Persons report. I was sobbing so hard by this point that I knew I would have trouble communicating information to a police officer. Who could I call? I realized that I had no close friends to depend on in crisis in Tallahassee. A co-worker or boss would have to do. My mother could fly in, perhaps.

I was making a left turn on to Mossy Creek, a street with rolling hills and nice homes, when my phone rang. It was him. Through my tears, I told him how worried I was and how happy I was that he was alive.

My sobbing ebbed to sniffles. When I walked into our house, I wrapped my arms around him. It was like he had been resurrected. I was never so happy to see him.

I asked him where he had been, and it turned out we had just missed each other several times. He had taken an unusual route and had stayed out a bit longer than expected. Plus, he had only started his run right when mine was ending. We agreed in the future to leave more information about where we are running.

I could tell he found this all amusing. But he doesn’t understand the burden of being a younger woman.

In all likelihood, I will outlive Mark. Knowing that someday I will might have to experience his death haunts me. And my pessimistic, worry-wart mind is sometimes convinced that it will happen sooner than later. It is the worst part of marrying someone older than you – the near-certainty that you will have to live a life without them.

Mark tried to soothe my fears by telling me I shouldn’t worry about him dying.

For now.

“Worry about that in 20 years,” he said.

Oh goody. I get a 20-year reprieve before fretting if every day is his last on Earth.

Moments like these do have their silver lining. I’m watching Mark take a nap right now, his face smushed against a pillow and his hair standing straight up like a mini-Mohawk. His arms are folded against his chest. (Who can sleep like that?) I’m overwhelmed by how much I love him. His resurrection has a way of making me more aware of what I have, when I have it. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I have what I love most right now. Aren’t I lucky?