“Coupling”: Deleted Scenes

March 19, 2007 at 5:54 pm | Posted in Essays | 5 Comments

cheers.jpgThe Boston Globe Magazine runs a relationships column every Sunday called “Coupling.”  I don’t think it’s so red hot.  In an average month, I’d say one of them is good, one sucks, and two are just ‘meh.’  But apparently all four are better than any of the crap that I can muster, as my submissions have been rejected on two separate occassions by two separate editors. 

So now I’m left with four relationship-centric essays that I have nothing to do with.  I figured I’d post one here today to hold you over until I can come up with a real post.  That should not be far off.  I’m about to take Lucy the Dog for a walk, where surely inspiration will transpire.

Until then, utterly mediocre essay rejected by the Boston Globe after the jump!

The Hardest I Love You

I could never relate to those made-for-TV moments where the smooth-talking Lothario fights with his first “I love you,” a challenge that reduces him to driveling fool.

It begins with a wincing, sour expression that precedes much stammering and agony. Wrestling with the language like a patient emerging from a coma, the sounds are painfully pieced together. I uhhh…I luh-huhhh…I luhhhv…I luhhhv you? I love you? I love you.

Finally, the romantic surrender. And with three critical words, the lion has been tamed. Cue the happy music.


I’ve had little trouble articulating that phrase that turns Sam Malone into Steve Urkel. By rough count, I’ve told at least nine women that I loved them. It’s not a large number, but it’s significant when viewed in the context of an unimpressive dating career. I meant it every time, at the time, and I never struggled to say so

My first, at age 15, was Heather Donahue, who gave me the Led Zeppelin box set for Christmas. That was all it took. We’d been ‘going out’ for about a month, during which time she waited patiently for me to find the courage to kiss her. I never did. But I did love her, and I had the nerve to say so over a pay phone in the church gymnasium on a Friday night. That she dumped me shortly after New Year’s should come as little surprise. I said “I love you” after a month. On the phone. I never kissed her. And I spent Friday nights at youth group in a church gym. Go figure.

Ten years later, my wife received the last first “I love you.” We were lying in bed and the words came easily, though by then, I better understood their weight. Overwhelmed by joy, Ashlee said nothing in response, burying her head in the pillow like an embarrassed little girl. The morning sun reflected off her hair, and she peeked up and smiled and I felt pretty sure that I’d gotten things right this time.

I had, and now I have an Ashlee and a whole new set of parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts who I am supposed to love. Who I do love, very much. But I can’t tell them.

We’ve been married for two years, and I’ve yet to say “I love you” to Ashlee’s parents. Doing so should be easy, especially given my history of using the phrase with reckless abandon. But this is a much different assignment. And the moment has not presented itself.

Perhaps I can blame this on my own parents. Prior to our simple wedding, there was no need for a traditional rehearsal or rehearsal dinner. Had my parents insisted on hosting a formal meal, I could have stood at the head of the table to offer a sappy, predictable toast. I would have started with mom and dad, artfully expressing my deep love and gratitude for them. And then I would have moved on to my “new parents.”

“Thank you for throwing what will surely be a wonderful party,” I’d say. “Thank you for embracing me as part of your family. And most of all, thank you for Ashlee, who reflects the best in both of you.”

At that point, I’d raise a glass with a confident grin. And just as Ashlee’s mother started crying, I’d say, “I love you guys.” The deed would be done, and I bet I’d even see a tear in her father’s eyes.

Today her father watches Fox News and her mother cleans things and I sit on the couch obsessing over how to subtly say “I love you” without sounding ridiculous. I play out different scenarios in my mind, and imagine their reactions.“You love us? It’s about time, you ungrateful lout. What put you over the top? Did I do an extra good job of changing your oil? Did you realize that every time you try to do the dishes, I make you put them down? Was it the cash in your stocking? NOW you love us?”


When we left their home after Christmas, I shuffled out the door with the gifts and the luggage and the dog, and Ashlee’s mother kissed my cheek. “You drive safe and call when you get home,” she said. “I love you.”

Without turning around, I hastily yelled back, “Love you too!” It was barely audible. But I got one word closer than Thanksgiving, when I’d simply responded, “You too!” Presumably, I will one day add the “I,” and this dilemma will be resolved. But even then, it will only be a reply – the emotionless conclusion to an obligatory exchange.

That will not do. These people deserve better. I have to put myself out there. Look them both in the eyes and lay it on the line. I’ve loved them for longer than I knew six of those girls. Yet here I am, the tongue-tied boy, squirming under the burden of my own feelings.

Something’s gotta give. Maybe I’ll make them a mix tape.



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  1. I love you.

  2. no really I do.

  3. i do too.

  4. I was wondering what it was going to take to get me to post.

    At first I figured it would be not getting a greeting among “loyal readers” in Condi’s Got Rhythm. Quite a snub, considering I was more or less ordered to become a loyal reader. But I quickly chalked it up to not having an official blogosphere name and moved on.

    To this post. And its attached comments. Comments which moved me, unexpectedly, to post my own feelings. So let it be said: I feel incredibly uncomfortable.

  5. […] all will be well.  I will spend the weekend with my wife who I love and her parents who I love.  (Don’t tell them.)  And then, in three weeks, […]

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