Ahhh, Valentine's week. Love was in the air.
Champagne and chocolate flowed freely. Thousands of dozens of roses were delivered to doorsteps. Sweet nothings were whispered in countless ears. And he went to Jared! ("He" being the poor sucker on those ubiquitous commercials whose new fiancee can't get off her camera phone long enough to kiss the guy. Come on, woman. The bling is nice, but your girlfriends can wait!)
Yes, the second week in February is the time of the year when manly men who don't eat quiche resort to sentimental, sappy extravagance to express love and adoration for their women, as mandated by Hallmark Cards, Russell Stover and the diamond industry.
Think men resent it? No? Then tell me why the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is delivered the very same week. Coincidence? I don't think so. This, ladies, is retribution with a vengeance!
"Swimsuit 2009" arrived in our mailbox on Wednesday. I know this because my husband discreetly hid it under a stack of bills on his desk. After 29 years, he sensed that after a stressful day at work, the last thing I wanted to see on my breakfast bar was cover girl Bar Rafaeli's nubile body strewn judiciously in 2 ounces of fabric.
What my SI subscriber didn't know was that I stole the magazine from him on Thursday and brought it to work as research for this column. I wanted to see if he'd summon the nerve to ask me if I'd seen it. (It was a little marital test. I've got a million of them.) It took him 24 hours, but he did inquire, rather desperately, as predicted. Test passed.
It's not that I mind him ogling beautiful women in bra tops three sizes too small. On paper, anyway. But, come on, buddy - stop trying to tell me you read it to expand your cultural horizons! That's worse than saying you read Playboy for the articles.
"Seriously, honey," he said on Friday, magazine in hand. "You can learn a lot flipping through these pages. Did you see the ancient Mayan version of the alphabet body-painted on Julie here? Each tile symbolizes a word or a sound. I did not know that. You really do learn something new every day!
"And take a look at Jessica's body painting of ancient mosaic tile representing the Mediterranean. You're the art lover of the family. Notice the detail. And that's real gold leaf she's wearing!"
Pathetic. And it only got worse.
"You can even use the swimsuit edition to plan vacations," he continued, blithely. "Take Naples, for instance. The scenery looks really nice. We should go sometime."
I paged through the Naples spread.
"The only scenery I see here are some out-of-focus cliffs leading to a fuzzy sea. I'd like to see more, but Daniella's cheeks seem to be in the way."
"Look at this charming little bistro," he persisted. "The pizza, the wine! Wouldn't it be fun to eat there, al fresco?!"
"You mean, with the lovely Irini crouching half-naked on top of our table?" I countered. "Naturalmente! Book the flight, signore!"
"Check out the patina on that old wall," he continued, pointing to Daniella leaning into the side of an ancient structure wearing the bottom half of a $300 Emamo bikini. "You love all that peeling stucco and stone, don't you?"
"You're right, I do," I snapped, feeling a rant coming on. "And I love Turkish rugs, too, but I can't see them because buxom half-naked girls with abs of steel and hair extensions are draped all over them. Why do they bother mentioning the swimsuit designers when, half the time, you can't even see the entire suit? And, I'm sorry, but she's not supposed to be riding a Vespa in a string bikini. She'll get leg burns! And where is her helmet? That's just irresponsible. Think of the impressionable children looking at this stuff? And don't get me started on boating without a life jacket!"
My tirade finally finished, he put the magazine down and tried another, smarter tack.
"So, tomorrow is Valentine's Day," he says. "What'll it be? Chocolate? Champagne? Flowers? All three, perhaps?"
The look on my face gave him his answer. He turned on his heel, threw on his coat and walked out the door.
Just then, my daughter entered the room. "Where'd Dad go?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," I replied, "but I think he went to Jared."
And that, ladies, is retribution with a vengeance.
- Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com.