I stared at the plate in front of me. Here was what the menu called Red Velvet Cake, with Nutella Ice Cream and Roasted Strawberry Sauce; raspberry sponge cake striped with white crème, topped with a scoop of chocolate ice cream gently dripping down its side. A little sign, made of chocolate, cheerfully proclaimed, “Happy Anniversary!” More art than dessert, the offering was even more special because we had not ordered it. Our server brought the delicacy over gratis.
She was not alone. This month, all over town, we are celebrating our 35th anniversary, (the number alone seemed to justify the ongoing festivities) and waiters, servers, and hostesses, mostly under 30, are celebrating right along with us.
Can it be that traditional marriage is alive and well and thriving in America, despite its penchant for racier arrangements? To my husband Arthur and me, this milestone feels like a big deal and a proud accomplishment — to be happily married after 35 years and still chase each other around the living room.
Before bringing the check at an established French restaurant, the sort which could be called a neighborhood institution, our waiter sent over champagne in beautifully cut crystal goblets. At another, between courses, the server earnestly inquired about what she described as “best practices.”
My advice was pretty straightforward, “If at all possible, have separate bathrooms,” I explained. “So as not to overwhelm the other person with hair products, cosmetics, and what we discretely term personal grooming tools.”
Arthur’s response was more personal: “We have a practice called JIM,” he explained as she leaned closer to the table, “which comes in handy when one of us is very tired, silly, or simply in the mind to babble. JIM stands for ‘Just Ignore Me!’ and provides the proclaimer a free pass to yammer without consequence.”
Who would have thought that in these unkind times, an aging, white, heterosexual couple with no piercings or tattoos, celebrating 35 years of traditional matrimony, could warrant such positive attention?
In 1987, the year we stood up in the banquet room of a French restaurant one block off Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, Ronald Reagan was president, gas was $1.13 a gallon, and tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova were born.
I never thought I’d get married. It simply was not part of my plan. The career-focused single woman was more my objective, a sort of modern-day New York City Mary Richards in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” That particular image evaporated the day Arthur Herman walked into my life. Seeing me through the window of the tiny 6th Avenue men’s shop where I worked part-time, he came in, bought an armful of expensive dress shirts and neckties, and asked me out.
Was it love at first sight? Absolutely. Arthur will tell you he pursued me. But the truth is, I melted into a puddle the second he opened his mouth. A year and a half later, on Aug. 9, we were married.
We are cut from very different cloths, my guy and I. “Artsy New York Girl With Wild Curly Hair Marries Midwestern Intellectual WASP,” the back flap copy of our story would read. Unlike other couples who went to high school or college together, my husband and I only knew one another for a short time before tying the knot.
Yet it also feels like we grew up together, having married early, and having been together for so long. Our different backgrounds enabled us to rub off on one another. From me, an outspoken New Yorker who is fond of exclaiming, “We cannot have kitchen anarchy!” when he leaves dishes on the counter, Arthur learned to be more upfront and direct. From him, I received a warm welcome into the world of ideas; Arthur taught me to fall in love with literature, and most importantly, to trust my own mind.
I once apologized to a friend for not calling her back during a particularly busy week, explaining, “Sorry, but we are in our own world.”
“And what a world it is,” she replied.
After 35 years, what advice can I give about marriage? Make it your world, and make it for keeps.