Just because I was wearing a posh frock, I didn’t think I was a princess!
I’ve never looked more like a Christmas tree than on that balmy summer evening, early in our relationship. Not knowing if it was the kind of occasion I’d enjoy, Drew had nervously invited me to be his ‘plus one’ at a banquet held by one of his business associates. My shiny, green, full-length dress complemented Drew’s dinner suit perfectly, but when the penguin and the Christmas tree arrived for the function, they were told: “You are a month early.” Not a day, not a week – a whole month!
Convinced I must surely be about to have a tantrum, Drew hastily ushered me back to the car thinking a scene in the car park was preferable to one in the hotel reception. I, however, felt truly sorry his plan for an opulent evening had gone wrong and beating him up over the diary blunder didn’t occur to me at all. Panic-stricken, Drew assumed I’d castigate him for not only the lack of a seven course meal, but also the wasted time, effort and expense I’d gone to in fashioning myself for the experience.
Unbeknown to him, the dress and shoes were borrowed and the bird’s nest on my head was the result of my youngest daughter’s very first attempt to arrange an updo. I was surprised to realise, later, that Drew had been anticipating a hissy fit from the moment we were smugly turned away. But just because I was wearing a posh frock, I didn’t think I was a princess! Drew though, was brought up to be a gentleman.
After being single for a few years, I was used to operating independently and found his archaic manners amusing. We still trip over each other whenever we wander around town because he has to make sure I’m always on the inside of the pavement, on his left, as though he has to be ready with a free hand to draw his sword and protect me from a violent assailant. When crossing roads together, a squeeze of my hand lets me know he’s decided when it’s safe, the way I would do years before with my children.
I suppose it was mean to ask him: ‘How do these things work again?’ on reaching yet another door keenly opened for me. I’d been utilising doors for more than forty years and was pretty sure I had the hang of it.
If you think it’s your prerogative to be a princess, you might throw back a compliment ungraciously and make him feel he’s actually insulted you.
I’ve now learned something neither of us appreciated before: there’s a difference between being treated like a lady and acting like a diva. I don’t expect to be regarded as more important than him while Drew insists it’s good manners to carry stuff – even if it’s the lightweight paperback I’ve just bought. What I hadn’t understood is that he also expects a woman to punish a man for not getting something right because the world revolves around a ‘princess’. I never was like that and don’t think the women in my orbit are either, so I didn’t recognise the princess behaviour in women until Drew pointed it out.
Some women, I’m told, blame their men for almost everything. Taking the blame is therefore a blue job, no matter how contrived and if you think it’s your prerogative to be a princess, you might throw back a compliment ungraciously and make him feel he’s actually insulted you.
HIM: You look lovely tonight. PRINCESS: So you think I usually look a mess.
Why not enjoy the praise? Why invite discord?
It took some adjusting, but Drew has conceded his right to chivalry, not being a medieval knight or nobleman, and accepts my view of courtesy going both ways in our partnership. I’m left wondering if I’ve made a monumental mistake and considering asking for an occasional allowance of princess-ness as a privilege. I’ve even tested his reaction by exercising this prerogative recently during a conversation about smoking. It went something like this:
DREW: If you gave up smoking, you could afford to have your hair professionally coloured and your nails done every month instead of just an occasional treat.
PRINCESS: Oh I’m ugly am I? Well if I give up smoking, I’ll get fat too and then I’ll have to stop eating which will make me grumpy and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT! Do you really want that?
He didn’t bite because he saw right through me, of course. Since the night we were a month early for our luxury dinner, my cards have been on the table.
My first thought as I tottered after him in shoes ill-designed for tarmac was how hungry we were after fasting all day to make room for a feast. Home was miles away and the only restaurant I recalled spotting en route to the hotel was a notoriously dodgy branch of KFC recently in the papers after a minor celebrity’s father overdosed in the toilet. At my suggestion, Drew suspiciously transferred us there; he still couldn’t believe there wasn’t a storm coming. I allowed him to open the car door and escort me regally up the steps to join the queue, with me lifting the hem of my slightly too-long, ritzy dress.
As luck would have it, a ‘boneless banquet’ was on the menu, so all turned out splendid despite the cardboard box substitute for a plate and the absence of cutlery. He was concerned about me stabbing him with a fork anyway.
Sitting opposite a dapper gentleman wearing full evening dress in a busy fast-food outlet tickled me so much, Drew began to catch on and relax although he kept his back to the room. We couldn’t have attracted any more attention if he’d gone down on one knee right there. Unfortunately KFC don’t do desserts so we then processed to the nearest supermarket to pick up a trifle, resisting the urge to glad-hand passers by who openly stopped passing by to get a good look at us.
The next day Drew’s workmates warned him I might be plotting revenge, which caused him to wobble for a moment, so he called me to check. I only had to remind him how much fun we’d had to convince him he was safe.
Rather than cash in any princess allowance, I’d always choose fun and harmony. Even though some of those doors are pretty heavy.