And yes, I said, yes, I will Yes.
Back in February a lifetime ago, now I got my first tattoo. Surrounded by friends, I sat, waiting, for a man with tattoo-festooned arms to ink a design onto my arm. A simple design, so simple that this East Village professional was a little annoyed that he had so little to do. Yes. In small, plain letters, on the top of my left wrist, I had yes permanently inked onto my skin.
Why? There were, of course, so many reasons. I wanted it placed there so I could look at that word instead of a watch. Whenever we look at our watches, we are saying no. I want to be somewhere else. Oh god, Im late. I wish this would end. They are all ways of denying the moment as it exists. I felt a shift happening in my life. I wanted to look at yes instead.
In February, I had just finished my first book proposal and sent it off to New York, hoping a fabulous literary agent would like it well enough to sign me. I had been writing this site for nine months, and I was waiting for something to be born. I had been writing all my life, and I knew it was time to jump into the world of full-time writers. I didnt know the way, but I knew what I wanted. I wanted to say yes to what my gut said,d what my life wanted. I wanted to say yes.
But I was starting to say no. Not to writing. Never to writing. But I was ready to say no to dating. At 39, my 40th year loomed large. Even though I had rich stories of loving relationships and horrendous blind dates both, I just couldnt seem to find anyone to match me. The entire process exhausted me. It seemed my energies were going elsewhere into writing, into food, into helping people through both of these means. I was ready to throw away the possibility of ever finding someone to marry.
However, after my trip in New York, I decided to open myself to it, one more time. Several friends of mine there looked resplendently happy with partners they had met through online dating. Even in the bitter cold, I noticed couples walking down the streets of Manhattan and felt jealous. And at the core of me, there is always hope.
So I remembered the end of Molly Blooms soliloquy, the last line of James Joyces Ulysses, a book so important to me I had read it four times. Thinking of her husband, with whom she has been struggling, she remembers again when they met, and how he asked her to go out with him, and she said, And yes, I said, yes, I said, yes.
I said yes. I said it on my wrist. I went home, I signed up for Match.com, and I tried again.
At the end of April, I met the Chef.
yes with an underline
When I was a high-school teacher, I wrote words all over the margins of my students papers. Sometimes they were directives to change confusing sentences. Sometimes I encouraged them. But once in a great while, when a student wrote a sentence so authentic and direct, so startling and real, I ceased to be the teacher correcting a paper. I became again another human being, responding to a connection I felt in that writing. And then, I wrote yes, with an underline beneath it.
I felt that way the day I met the Chef. April 26th, in the late morning, at a coffee shop filled with sunlight. And when we saw each other, we both recognized each other. When we began talking, we felt like friends. Sure, there was enormous physical attraction, but that was not the deepest flavor. Instead, we felt comfort. We laughed, mostly. We slipped into the conversation like sliding into warm water, and we havent left yet.
Talking with him felt like keeping my hand wrapped around a warm cup of coffee. That conversation tasted like potato-leek soup, like apple crisp, like goulash just out of the oven. We wafted vanilla and sugar between us. We devoured each others words, and every one of them felt like yes.
And when he hugged me, at the end of our first date, I almost started crying. It felt that good. He held me, his arms strong around me, pressing me into him. And in that moment, I honestly felt all the loving that would follow, all the days together, all the laughing and comfort. That moment is when I said yes to him.
Six months later, he says to me, nearly every day, with awe and appreciation in his voice, I have been waiting for you all my life. And I want to write yes, with an underline, in the air. I feel the same. There might be other lifetimes between us before this. Who knows? I only know yes. I only know how much I love him.
Soulmate is a word I once would have thought read like a cliché in my students papers, back when I was alone. But Im not a teacher anymore. Now, I believe in soulmate, now that I have found mine.
Yes with an exclamation point, which is laughter
When I laugh, uncontrollably, I shout out yes! Laughing is one of the places I feel most alive, all my senses open, everything playing. That was in my mind when I had the tattoo put on me too. Yes!
The other night, after a day full of writing for me, and a day full of cooking for the Chef, we were cuddling on the couch. A gorgeous dinner, glasses of good red wine, South Park on the dvd. We have a South Park love, we like to say, which is just as terrifying and hilarious as you can imagine. We love its daring, its wordplay, its bawdy humor. We love laughing, and it makes us laugh.
The Chef and I skip down the street, spontaneously, frequently. We are ridiculously silly. We call each other ten times a day and speak in silly, high-pitched voices to say not much at all. We have a thousand inside jokes. We tease each other relentlessly. And mostly, we love laughing with each other, our bellies full of giggles, as much as we love eating together, our bellies full of food. Its one of the ways we are alive together.
So, the other night, we were cuddling on the couch, happy and sleepy. Just before I fell asleep, he looked at me, with that devilish glint in his eye, and then he attacked me. His fingers reached into all the places he knew would most move me, and he dove in with full force. He tickled me. He tickled me so hard I thrashed and screamed, giggling and saying, Stop! Stop! He knew I didnt want him to stop. It felt good, in that delicious thrill of a way that the love of your life deciding to be a little kid and give you enormous delight feels good. He giggled at me, thrust his face into me, and made me explode with giggles. I laughed so hard I started shouting, Yes!
Yes to being alive.
I first thought of this tattoo after I survived my car accident. Wracked with pain, unable to spend more than a few hours out of bed for months on end, I made the conscious decision to maintain my joy for life. When pain seared my bones, I reminded myself where the pain came from, and how easy it would be for me to not be here. I was alive. It was enough.
When I lay on the couch a year later, weak and enfeebled, back to pain but a different kind, not sure why I was withering away, I still noticed the early spring light coming through the windows. I still said yes to life. When I found out it was celiac disease, and all I had to do was stop eating gluten to find my health again, I never thought of all the foods I had to live without. I thought only, yes. Yes to being alive. Yes to all the foods that do not contain gluten that I can eat. Yes to food and being awake and my body healing.Yes to all of this.
The other evening, the Chef stood at the same window where I strained to see light in the midst of illness. I was across the room, typing. With enormous enthusiasm, he urged me. Sweet pea, come look at this sunset! I ran to him and saw the purples and oranges streaking across the sky. He put his arm around me and squeezed my shoulder. Struck again by his un-jaded appreciation of the moments of beauty in our lives, I said to him, I love how much you adore life, my love.
He looked at me with his eyes wide and said, Of course I do. Im alive. Whats not to like?
We both understand near-death experiences. We both seize opportunities as they rise. We dance in the kitchen. We kiss every chance we have. We see every day as an adventure. And we eat our dinners with such enormous gusto that you would think it was the last meal for both of us.
We both know. It could be the last meal. We never know when we are going. We like being here now.
Yes to every moment as it arises.
After a difficult life, years of loneliness, a near-death car accident, and discovering that I cannot eat gluten, I have learned. I have learned to say yes to every moment, accepting it as I can, instead of always decrying it, wishing it were something different. After all, every moment is the only time I am ever going to live that moment. I had yes tattooed on my wrist to remind me.
The Chef knows how to live this way too. He lives in his body, instead of dwelling only in the ether air of his brain. Spending all day living in his senses chopping onions, making veal stock, dreaming up soups and fish specials for hours at a time makes him practical and alive. He doesnt think too much. He just greets the day as it arrives to him. I never thought Id meet a man like this.
He sticks with me in the hard moments and they do happen, even though they are infrequent because he knows that I will stick with him. We are committed to each other.
When we are running, and I am sweating and panting, near exhaustion and ready to give up, the Chef comes running back toward me. He sees the doubt in my face, and he steps to my side and touches my belly. We smile at each other, no words necessary, and fall back into rhythm. I have another reason to keep going.
We want to have babies together. We knew that from the start. The Chef loves children. He smiles at every child under five on the street, and they all smile back. He has ten nieces and nephews, who are some of the dearest people in the world to him. He held the first one in his arms when he was thirteen years old, and he says he knew at that moment that he wanted to be a papa.
We began talking about having children only a month after we met, on a bus ride going home. Spontaneously, with no real intention of having this conversation, we began talking about how much we each wanted to have children. At a certain moment, I turned toward him, and said, Are you talking about children theoretically, or are we talking about our children?
Here was a moment, arising unexpectedly. He could have denied it, and shied away from this conversation. But not this man. Instead, he says yes.
I want to have children with you, he said.
We giggled and kissed. And then we began talking about our children. These children are going to love food, I said. We bandied back and forth about all that we wanted to give them. And then, taking a moment, his eyes filling with tears, he said, We are going to teach our children to love humanity.
Yes, yes, oh yes.
I also wanted yes tattooed on my wrist because yes is what we humans cry out in the middle of the night. Its what we say in the middle of ecstasy. Its how we affirm we are alive.
The Chef says yes. He takes care of me. I take care of him. He holds me, in the middle of the night, in the morning. He holds me when I am sick from accidentally getting gluten. He holds me when I am tired at the end of the night, my head on his lap as we lay on the couch, he stroking my hair. I hold him back too. We say yes, together.
Yes through a magnifying glass.
The most powerful reason I wanted that tattoo in February I didnt admit to anyone at the time. It felt private, a little silly, and all mine. But still, it was there. It had been since I was fifteen and first became a Beatles fan.
The story goes that when John Lennon first met Yoko Ono, he met her at one of her wacky art shows. As he toured around the strange white shapes, he came upon a ladder in the corner. At the top of the ladder, the ceiling. On the ceiling, a magnifying glass dangling down. As he climbed up the ladder, he expected to see something in the magnifying glass like Stop the War, or Fuck You. He expected it to be incendiary and confrontational. Instead, when he reached the top of the ladder and peered through the magnifying glass, he read, in teeny tiny letters, yes.
He climbed down the ladder and went to meet the artist. Apparently, they spent the entire night talking, two soulmates finally meeting each other. And at dawn, they ate a bowl of cereal and kissed. They were in love. They were never apart.
When I was fifteen, and first read this love story, I thought, I want one of those! As I grew older, I grew more jaded about love at first sight, but some part of me still believed. I still wanted it. Relationships waxed and waned, but none of them felt right. I was still looking for someone who said yes.
And so, when I got the tattoo, I thought of this story again. And as silly as it sounds (and it even seemed so to me), I wanted to mark myself with that love story. I thought, If he is out there, somewhere, that man whos going to love me fully, he will recognize me when he sees me. He will know this story, and he will know.
On our first date, the Chef noticed my tattoo. He recognized it. He told me about this later. I didnt know it at the time. On our third date, as we sat in a park outside Pike Place Market, feeding each other triple cream cheese and kissing, he held my wrist and asked me, Tell me the story about this. I started to say all the reasons I have written here. But I noticed that I didnt want to tell him the John and Yoko story. I wanted him to know it first.
After I had run out of all the other reasons, I started, slowly, And then theres this story about John Lennon .
And Yoko Ono? he said.
Startled, I couldnt talk for a moment.
You mean the ladder story, he told me. I nodded.
I told the story, even though it was clear he knew it. When I finished with they finally kissed, and they were in love, he looked at me with tears in his eyes. And then he leaned in for a really long kiss.
Oh yeah. All right. Boy youre going to be in my dreams tonight.
On the first night we spent together, he looked at me and said, Now its time for you to see my tattoo.
Puzzled, I said, You have a tattoo?
He nodded, then slowly took off his shirt. On his upper arm, he has a tattoo of John Lennon. He got it when he was twenty-one.
I just stared at him. You have John Lennon on your arm, I kept saying. You have John Lennon on your arm.
And you have Yoko on yours, he told me.
That was when I knew. That long phase of my life of not feeling well and wondering at my place in life and being alone was finally done. And the next one, equally long, if not longer of feeling alive and knowing where I belong and loving this man had just begun.
I knew it.
Yes, I will.
The first time he asked me, he did it by accident. It was June 18th, Paul McCartneys 64th birthday. He had been playing me When Im 64 for weeks, so we marked the moment. At the end of the evening, he made us a gorgeous dinner. Pan-roasted beef tenderloin, on mashed potatoes, with a port-balsamic-veal stock reduction sauce, with balsamic onions and soft chevre on top. Ay god, this man. Just before we ate, he started to slice up some bread to go with his meal.
Now, he had been eating bread in my house for weeks. By this time, it was our house, anyway. I never complained if he ate gluten. I wanted him to say yes to any food he could eat. But if he eats bread, or drinks beer, we have to wait until he has brushed his teeth before we can kiss. Just the breadcrumbs in his mouth would make me sick.
And so, that night, feeling particularly close to him, I complained for the first time. Oh, do you have to eat bread tonight?
Without really turning around, he said, Honey, youre marrying a chef. Youre going to have to get used to the fact that hes going to eat bread.
What? I said. I turned him around and looked in his eyes, already smiling. What did you just say?
He turned red, and said, Im going to eat bread.
We danced around in the kitchen, giggling, not saying it. After all, we had both known, and had been hinting at it, since our first night together. But he had just spoken it out loud. Sort of. He would find his time. We knew where we were going. We didnt need to be there yet.
Together, we sat down in the living room to eat our dinner. He put on a South Park, the episode called Cartmans Mom is a Dirty Slut, to be precise. I started laughing immediately, and then I took a bite of the food.
Gorgeous, glorious love. Layers of taste, like years together. Every flavor alive. Yes.
He watched me eat his food, as he always does. And when he saw how much I loved it, and thus loved him, he put down his plate. Oh what the hell, he said. And then he got down on one knee before me.
Yes, I said. Yes.
We didnt tell anyone then. He wanted to ask my fathers permission, and he hadnt met my parents yet. It had only been six weeks since we had met.
A month later, the night I returned home from Sitka after two weeks of miserable missing each other so physically that we both knew, without a doubt, that our love was real he made that meal again. He planned it this time. We asked each other. We slipped these rings on each others fingers, and we havent taken them off since.
And the rest is ours. Some things have to be private.
I havent said it here yet, even though some of you have guessed. I am saying it now. I said yes. So did he. And yes, I said, yes, I will Yes.
Today is our six-month anniversary. He is sleeping beside me as I write this, his John Lennon tattoo above the blanket, his sweet face smiling in his sleep. Soon, he will wake up, and I will read this to him, his anniversary present. And then, I will post it, and we will finally let the world know.
16 July 2007.
And even though it has been months since he asked me, and the rings feel so familiar on our fingers that we could have been born with them on our bodies, he still asks me every day. Every day, he asks me.
And every day, I shout or giggle or whisper or kiss him my answer:
Yes, my love. Yes. Yes, my dear Danny. Yes, I will marry you.