Falling in love at 41 has been the same as falling in love every other time. In the first few weeks, there was the inability to sleep, the twitterpation, the feelings of mania as I realized I was spending time with someone amazing. And with time, that mania stretched out like a cat in the sun into feelings of comfort.
Falling in love at 41 has been completely different than falling in love every other time. The last time I fell in love was over a decade ago, and this time, I’ve found someone very different than that time or any previous experience. This time, because we recognize traits in each other that we both have wanted out of a lover forever, we fell quickly. We both have weathered life and have come through still liking ourselves, and our ability to like ourselves has made loving each other happen as naturally as breathing.
We both agree on what home means, and we’ve found part of it in each other. His ability to really listen makes me a better listener. His kindness is profound; I hope to match it with my own. We leave nothing off the conversational table: money, religion, sex, family, disappointment, pride, we talk about it all. We deeply appreciate the best in each other, and in doing so, hope to become even better.
Both of us are wise enough to know a relationship isn’t just two people, but two people and all the ways their lives connect with the cast that populates their individual theaters. Introducing each other to our friends and families is to bring to our people another person to love them, to bring further stability and goodness into our communities.
All this is mushy talk. True, yes, but terribly mushy.
So, here is something else this incredible man has gifted me. With him, I’ve gained the ability to make the best damned salads.
Oranges and diced celery with shallots, cilantro, and smoked almonds, tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Butter lettuce with sugar snap peas, strawberries, mint, cilantro, and roasted peanuts, tossed in a citrusy, gingery, garlicky dressing. Slaws of all kinds. Greens and vegetables and fruit and nuts and herbs with abandon. I go into the kitchen not knowing exactly what will end up in the bowl, but what does end up in the bowl we greedily consume. They’ve been delicious.
He says to me, “You should write a book about salads.” I say, “No one will read a book about salads.”
Besides, I know what goes into these salads, and you can’t find it in any garden or farmers market, not even the best. You can’t find it in a specialty grocery store. It’s his smile and my laugh, him sitting on the corner of the counter while I cook, and his doing dishes after dinner. It’s listening to the stories of each other’s day. It’s us.