I love Project Runway. I love marriages. This bit of fiction combines the two.
How Project Runway Saved My Marriage
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” -Mignon McLaughlin
I fell in love with my wife during Project Runway.
Ironically, we were watching the show when Polly got the call. She wore an ivory sweatshirt decorated with dried dog slobber and spaghetti sauce stains on the collar. Her hair was in a frizzy ponytail and she hadn’t shaved her legs since Friday. I could file my nails on her prickly legs.
“If Blayne says “liscious” one more time, I’m switching to ESPN,” I said. She lifted a stern finger, about to lecture me, when her cell phone busted out Taps. It annoyed the heck out of me.
“Why don’t you change that stupid ring tone?” I said to the TV.
“It’s going to play at your funeral if you tell me that one more time.” She flipped open the phone.
“Hello? Yes, this is Polly. What? Mm-hmm. No. No way.”
I looked at her. Her eyebrows were lifting off her forehead.
“Of course I can make it in May. This is for real? Holy crap. I’ve made it? Thank you thank you thank you.” She bounced up and down on the couch. I smiled. She looked awkward, in a cute way, when she did that.
Her eyes got serious as she listened, trying to remember the details. It seemed like she said, “Thank you so much,” for the last four minutes of the conversation.
She closed her phone and looked straight at me, wonder in her eyes. “I made Project Runway,” she said.
“No. Really?” The comment flew from my lips automatically. Sarcasm was not the best way to congratulate someone.
She lunged off the couch and headed for the other room. “Blimey. I’m gonna call someone who cares.”
I changed the channel to ESPN.
One Day You’re In, and the Next Day You’re Out
All the books on marriage looked the same to me. Ten Commandments of Marriage, Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, The Seven Principles for Making Your Marriage Work, 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married. Would the publishers not accept numberless titles?
Banished from home, I went to find solace at the bookstore. After another brawl about our relationship, I was the first to throw down the towel. I picked up How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. Sounded good to me. I would rather swallow a jellyfish whole than talk about our marriage. My blood pressure rose just thinking about it.
All afternoon she had been packing for New York. She tried on outfit after outfit, as if training for the fitting room Olympics. She was talking to herself. “Can’t forget my seam ripper and thimble. Need to practice smocking. Oh, this plaid is good on me.” I laid down on the bed and watched her change. Boy was she hot.
“Boy, are you hot.” I raised my eyebrows several times.
She looked at me as if I’d suggested we adopt an alligator.
“Are you crazy?” she said. “I have lists and lists of things to do right now! What about some help? What a guy! You don’t think about anything else.”
“You’ll be gone for so long. All I want to do is make love with my wife.”
Then we had a very hot exchange. But it wasn’t sexual.
After fifteen minutes Polly looked down, pale with anger, her bottom lip jutting out. “Don’t you dare call what we do making love,” she said. “You are just in it for yourself.”
That made me so mad I grabbed the nearest thing to me and threw it as hard as I could. The glass vase shattered against the bathroom door.
The second the vase left my fingers I regretted my act.
That was when I left.
I wanted a question answered when I went to look through the books on marriage. Was there a way to not be in it for yourself? I picked up a latte and wandered through the aisles, eyes glazed. What could I do to be in it for her?
This half-hearted attempt at marriage did not suit me. Yet I didn’t feel strong enough to be the husband that she wanted me to be. I had to decide. Was I in or out?
The moment I wondered if my life would be better without her I knew the answer. I meant business when I said my vows. I wasn’t going to break them.
My eyes caught on a furry, plush owl. I picked it up, it was pretty cute. So without even looking at the price tag I bought it for her.
I came back to an empty house. My footsteps sounded loud to me as I entered our bedroom. Her suitcase was there, but not her. She must have gone out for a drink. My stomach clenched. The next morning I would be gone to work when she went to the airport. Our last parting would be this evening’s fight.
I put the owl in her suitcase with a note- You did look good in that plaid.
Make It Work
Polly stayed mad at me for two weeks. I called her every day right after breakfast, but she only answered her phone once. And by the curt monosyllable responses, I knew she just wanted to confirm with me she was still mad. Confirmation noted.
But there were glimpses of hope when I sat down to watch Project Runway.
I smiled when her face flashed on the TV screen. She was wearing that plaid shirt.
Her interview started. “I’m Polly,” she said with her sweet smile. “My style is all about elegance and sophistication.” Snappy music blared as images flashed of her past collections. “I’m inspired by Dior’s early work, and by taking morning walks with my husband.”
A handful of Doritos stopped halfway to my mouth. I hadn’t realized she liked those walks so much. I guess I had never asked.
If I were trying to pass a test in Polly-ology, I would surely fail.
My laptop was sitting beside me. I exited out of the fantasy football site and started tapping away some of my questions in an email to her. That night I got an animated response signed love, love, love, Polly.
Her perfect date was to watch the stars in our backyard while drinking white wine with candles lit all around. Not my thing, but for her sake I would try it.
Our backyard was not outfitted for such activity. I went to the hardware store to see what I could come up with. There was a backyard swing on sale. It looked elegant, which she said she liked, so I got it. I bought pillows, blankets, camping lanterns, bug repellant, and vanilla candles.
It took two evenings to arrange it to my taste. I told Polly what I was doing, and she wistfully said, “I’m looking forward to being back home.”
The day I bought the white wine was the day of the disastrous collar. I had coughed up fifty-five dollars for the bottle, then got some beer to make myself feel better. I snapped open a can as I sat down to watch the third episode. The first time I saw her face, I knew it would not be a good show for her. Her cheeks kept wrinkling in concern, and she laughed a lot, which meant she was stressed. The challenge was to make a debutante gown out of cloth they found at Salvation Army. Gowns were her thing- Salvation Army wasn’t. She had very expensive taste.
She was sewing until the last minute. When her model walked down the runway, I thought it was a perfectly acceptable dress. It fact, I thought her dress looked better than what some other crazy-heads designed. But the judges must’ve seen something I didn’t.
“Look at that collar,” Nina Garcia said while critiquing her outfit. “It’s sewn well, but the silhouette is ghastly. It looks antique.”
“Yeah, ya know what?” Michael Kors cut in. “I think the whole outfit is outdated. By a few thousand years. It looks like something Queen Elizabeth would wear.”
The look of sadness and shame that washed over Polly made me want to punch Michael Kors in the face.
“I’m sorry, Polly,” Heidi Klum said. “But this gown has made us question your taste. You’re out. Auf Weidersehen.”
I felt so connected to Polly at that moment, that when a tear slid down her cheek, one also fell off mine.
Thirty minutes later I got a text from Polly. Pick me up at 2:00. Gate 565.
I hired a cleaner, put a fresh bouquet of peonies on the dinner table, ordered take-out from her favorite BBQ joint, and left an hour early to pick her up- just in case there was an accident on the freeway.
There was an accident. A two-hour-long-wait accident. By the time I got out of the stand still I was filled with incredible rage. I drove like I was being filmed in The Fast and the Furious. I was so angry about being robbed of a special meeting with Polly. Instead of a sweet kiss, I envisioned her bitterly walking past me and jumping into the car without a word.
But she surprised me when I found her waiting on a bench by the curb. Her lips were curled in a flirty smile. Glistening hair fell over a flowery dress that clung to her figure. I ran up, apologies streaming from my mouth. But she just placed her fingers over my lips, whispered, “I’m so glad to see you,” and gave me the sexiest kiss.
Good golly, Polly, I thought, eyebrows raised. We looked at each other for a moment. Then she gave me that sweet smile of hers.
As we walked towards the car, fingers entwined, I said, “Next time our marriage is on the rocks, I’m trying out for Top Chef.”