With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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Within the first ten minutes of the hike, the weight of my brand-new backpack was digging into my shoulders.
I had packed it a couple of days earlier and then walked around the house with it on, saying, “This isn’t so bad!” (That was before I’d added the food and water.) On the map I had traced the Baxter Creek trail up the side of Mount Sterling with my fingertip and said to my husband, “We can do it.” There was an easier way to make the climb, but this route was supposed to be more scenic.
Once we started the hike, though, the steep slope was no longer an abstraction. My legs strained to take each step in the June sun. We had already devoured our lunches. I had run out of water and was sucking on lollipops for energy. I felt small and pathetic.
Did I mention this was our honeymoon?
Some things seem so easy on paper. The map hadn’t shown the roots and rocks we could trip over. It hadn’t shown the dips and curves that could make knees buckle and ankles twist.
It also hadn’t shown the overlooks where we would stand, arms around each other, and gaze at the valley below and the cloud-shrouded mountains beyond. It hadn’t shown the caterpillars that crossed our path, dazzling us with their colors, or how the light filtered through the dense leaves above our heads. It hadn’t shown the rhododendrons that created canopies for us to walk under or the rainbow that would greet us at the summit.
This is marriage, I thought, as we pitched our tent and rubbed each other’s sore muscles and laughed about the day; as we tried and failed to suspend our packs from the trees, away from bears; as we ran to our tent when the sky opened up; as my husband unwrapped the emergency blanket to stop my teeth from chattering; as we lay together, sweaty, filthy, and exhausted, ready to face whatever the next day would bring.
I spent my wedding night at a hotel somewhere in Hartford, Connecticut. Bob and I had a suite with a hot tub in the living room. While my husband was in the bathroom, I poured a glass of champagne, slipped into the tub, and waited for him to join me. The bubbling water felt luxurious against my skin. Then I heard a dripping noise. Drops were steadily falling from the faucet on the other side of the tub. Annoyed, I put my big toe into the faucet to silence it — and quickly realized I couldn’t get my toe out. It was stuck.
“Bob, I have a situation here,” I said, starting to panic.
He came out of the bathroom, saw my predicament, and began to laugh.
It wasn’t funny. My toe was throbbing and wouldn’t budge.
“I’ll call the front desk and see what they can do,” he said.
Frustrated, I started to cry.
Bob said the maintenance man was on his way.
“I’m naked in here,” I pointed out. But what could we do? At least they couldn’t see much with all the bubbles.
Fifteen minutes later the maintenance man arrived, along with the hotel manager. They assessed the situation and said they would have to take the faucet apart, which would mean shutting off the hot tub — and the bubbles.
Bob gave me a towel to cover myself, but it kept floating away while the maintenance man worked.
Finally he got the faucet apart, and out came my puffy, bruised toe. Within a few minutes the bubbles were back on. The manager said he would send up another bottle of champagne on the house.
I’ll bet I’m one of the few women who can say that three men saw her naked on her wedding night.
Lynne M. Friend
I wanted to go to Europe for our honeymoon, but my fiancé was keen on the Caribbean. After months of debate we compromised on Hawaii.
When I look at photos from the trip, I see a woman of twenty-five in a sundress with an orchid in her hair, standing shoulder to shoulder with her tall, handsome new husband. On the surface everything looks beautiful: The lush Kauai foliage. The Maui surf. The grand historical buildings of Honolulu. And us — the young lovers at a luau, a waterfall, a palace, a volcano.
But the pictures don’t show one of my most vivid memories of that trip: the night my groom walked into our hotel room at 3 AM, followed by a meowing stray cat. While I’d slept, he’d gone out and gotten high on the beach with a local. I thought, Who is this man I just married?
A dozen years later I lay in bed in the home we’d built together. This picture, too, is lovely: The master suite with skylight. The antique bed from a country inn. The smoky green walls.
My husband tiptoed in past midnight. I heard his wallet and his loose change being deposited on the dresser, the whisper of his clothes being removed, the groan of the mattress as he slid in beside me. And once again I thought, Who is this man I married?
This time it was another woman that had kept him out late. He ended up marrying her. They honeymooned in Europe.
When my husband and I married, we did not have jobs. He had just finished grad school, and I had quit teaching so that we would be free to move wherever we wanted. We spent our first two weeks as husband and wife living with my parents and typing his thesis: one hundred pages, no mistakes or correction tape allowed. (This was before word processors, so each error meant tearing the page out and starting over.) We typed while listening to my parents’ thirty-year marriage dissolve. When the thesis was finally finished, we left on our “honeymoon.”
We drove my Chevy Malibu from Nebraska to California. It was both a road trip and a job hunt. We had little money, so there would be no honeymoon suites, no candlelit dinners, no extras of any kind.
In Wyoming we could find only one place to stay, a hotel that had once been a grand old place but was now run-down. The deposit for the key was more than the cost of the room. There was a drunken ruckus going on in the streets — cowboys blowing off steam. I was pretty sure we’d get bedbugs or be hit by a stray bullet.
The room had a twin bed (no bugs), a bare light bulb hanging from a cord, and an antique wardrobe. When we opened the wardrobe, we were hit by the smell of cheap wine. The cupboard was filled with empty bottles. In the shared bathroom down the hall I found a tuna can nailed to the wall to serve as an ashtray. Definitely a classy joint.
Our lives turned out like that trip: not easy. We’ve weathered a lot, including the loss of two children. It’s almost forty years later. We’re still together.
Overland Park, Kansas
Growing up, I knew which failed birth-control method was responsible for each kid in our family. I was rhythm, Peter was diaphragm, and John was cervical cap.
When my parents married in 1952, my mother was an ambitious Pratt graduate on her way to a New York City design career. She had no intention of having children; she and my father had never even discussed it, she told me. Then my oldest brother was conceived on their honeymoon.
A year later my mother was unhappily pregnant with her second child. She tried briefly to do freelance work before giving up and pouring her copious creativity into raising her kids and making a beautiful home. I came along a decade after that, closing the door on any midlife escape she might have planned.
“Don’t have children,” she would tell me. “I mean, I love you, but having kids ruins your life.”
Whenever someone would announce a pregnancy, she would say, “Oh, no!” She thought she was being darkly funny, but to me it was mortifying. Though I never doubted that she loved me, I felt I had to be extra good to compensate for ruining her life. It was a great surprise to find out, as an adult, that other people’s mothers had wanted to have them.
My parents look so happy in their honeymoon pictures. My father was tall and handsome, my mother girlish and lovely in her white bathing suit. She had no idea when those pictures were taken that she would not get what she wanted out of life.
Keene, New Hampshire
My husband and I did some “swinging” in the early years of our relationship. One night we picked up a young woman at an Irish pub and brought her home to our bed. Another time we had a foursome with friends after a party. Though we knew this made us odd, we both found something erotic about watching our spouse with someone else.
When we got married, we didn’t tell our friends and family that we’d arranged to honeymoon at a swingers’ resort. The plan felt clandestine and mischievous. Three days after we exchanged vows on the beach, we entered a world of nudity, drugs, and orgies. It was like something out of a movie — and it didn’t disrupt our relationship. If anything, the experience strengthened our attraction and spiced up our sex life. We look back on it as if it were a dream.
These days we’re raising a small child in a cramped house. It’s hard enough for us to have sex at all, let alone pick up extra partners. My husband has gone gray. We have laugh lines instead of tan lines. We’ll probably never go to a resort like that again. But I’m sure glad we did.
Williamsburg, Virginia, was not my idea of a romantic honeymoon destination, but it seemed rude to object to the plans that my new husband, Tommy, had made. When he pulled into the parking lot of the Econo Lodge, my heart sank. I was honeymooning at the Econo Lodge?
Still, we were married, and we were checking into a motel as husband and wife. I was ready to spend the afternoon making love.
As soon as we entered our room, Tommy spied an enormous fruit basket provided for newlyweds by the motel management. Excited by the unexpected bounty, he immediately bit into a pear.
Not in the mood for fruit, I sat on the edge of the bed and watched. I think he ate an apple after the pear; I’m not sure. I do remember thinking that I would have gotten more attention if I had been a banana.
There was no lovemaking that afternoon. If there was any on the whole honeymoon, it wasn’t memorable. When we returned home, sex remained an infrequent event.
I remember riding with my father to the church on my wedding day. Daddy had said, “You don’t have to do this, you know. We could just keep driving.”
I wonder if he sensed something that I didn’t.
Wilmington, North Carolina
For our honeymoon Matt and I spent two weeks exploring Iceland. In a picturesque port town in the north we decided to take a whale-watching tour. We chose a schooner called the Opal because it was carbon neutral and ran on renewable energy instead of fossil fuel.
We saw six humpback whales feeding, with porpoises and dolphins jumping all around. As our ship made its way back to harbor, we admired the distant mountains and counted the waterfalls flowing from them. Suddenly we came to a halt. The captain announced that the engine was no longer working, but help was on the way. Meanwhile the crew would be releasing the sails. The winds were not in our favor, however, and we sailed parallel to the shore for about an hour. Finally two men arrived in a small boat and told us our options: stay on the schooner until another ship could tow us back to shore, or board a dinghy that would take us to a different whale-watching vessel.
Matt and I soon found ourselves gripping the sides of a dinghy on the cold, choppy waters of the Greenland Sea. When we reached the other ship, sailors were waiting with a gangway, but the man steering our boat waved it away. The sea was too rough for the gangway, he told us. We would have to grab the side of the ship as soon as we were close enough. Adrenaline flowing, we steadied ourselves and reached out when we were told. Burly crewmen helped us aboard. “Aren’t you glad to be on a working ship!” one said jovially, but they looked tense during the transfer.
Another couple of hours of whale watching later, we were back on land. “You know,” Matt said to me, “I wouldn’t have boarded that dinghy if you hadn’t.”
I looked at him incredulously. “But I only boarded it because you were going to!”
I don’t know what lesson to take from this: that we should learn to communicate better, or that our relationship will endure because we would not leave each other’s side.
A year after the wedding, my husband and I set out on our honeymoon. We camped in Wyoming, soaked in hot springs in Idaho, and drove on to Washington State, where, in a friend’s bathroom, I peed on a stick and saw a faint plus sign appear. I was four weeks pregnant.
I decided to wait until my husband and I were on the road again to tell him, so we wouldn’t have to hide our excitement from our friends. I kept my secret for three and a half days before we left.
We followed the coastline south through Oregon. On a beach there, while the cold air whipped around us, I gave him the good news. We snapped a photo of ourselves and headed back to our campsite, where we made love to celebrate.
He saw the blood first.
The bleeding persisted, accompanied by cramping, as we continued down the coast the next day. We soon found a hospital, where a doctor confirmed that I had lost the baby.
That’s what I’ll remember most about our honeymoon: not reading Harry Potter books to my husband while he drove, nor getting poison ivy in California, nor rafting the lower Salmon River. I will remember what it felt like, on that chilly beach in Oregon, to have a life growing inside me, and what it felt like to have that taken away.
Megan L. Hartford
When you decide on a Monday afternoon to get married that Friday night, honeymoon plans aren’t a top priority. Linda and I had been living together while I went to graduate school and she worked at the university. Getting married just wasn’t a big deal to us.
It was nearly midnight when we left the restaurant after the wedding ceremony. The car wouldn’t start, which we should have taken as a sign. We considered going home, but then the engine turned over, and we headed north to Niagara Falls.
At the Holiday Inn the college-aged desk clerk, Eileen, looked tired as she asked why we were visiting the falls.
“Honeymoon,” we said.
I noticed that all the people in the lobby were wearing short-sleeved bowling shirts with sponsors’ names on the back, such as “Black’s Excavation” or “Phil’s Collision.”
“Convention’s here,” Eileen said.
The first room we had was six floors above the dance club, but we could still hear the music and feel the tremors in the walls. When we complained about the noise, we learned the club didn’t close until 4 AM.
We returned to the front desk, and Eileen moved us to the ninth floor, where I thought we would be safe from the noise. Then the floor vibrated. A low, distant rumble intensified in pitch, and then bam!
I looked out to see two guys in cowboy hats with feathers in the brims retrieving their bowling ball and setting up pins at the end of the hallway.
We packed and made our way to the elevator after waiting for another ball to careen by. In the lobby I threw the room keys on the desk, and Eileen tore up our reservation. We drove home, pulled off our clothes, and immediately fell asleep. It was our least romantic night ever.
But the silence was exquisite.
On one of our first dates Carolyn and I went mountain climbing. After two hours of hiking the steep Chimney Tops trail in the Great Smoky Mountains, we arrived at a nearly vertical rock face. Signs had been posted warning that some hikers had fallen to their deaths there.
I’m afraid of heights — well, to be precise, I’m afraid of dying as a result of falling from a great height. Embarrassed, I confessed my phobia to this woman I wanted to impress. She was disappointed, of course. I sat at the bottom of the rock face while Carolyn scampered up it like a mountain goat — a very attractive mountain goat.
A couple of years later we were back in the Smokies for our honeymoon, and Carolyn suggested we try “indoor skydiving.” This would be my chance to redeem myself, to demonstrate to my bride that I could master my fears and match her spirit.
Indoor skydiving involves a vertical wind tunnel four stories high. A giant fan beneath a metal-mesh floor produces winds strong enough to lift you off your feet. The oft-repeated refrain of the training video we watched at Flyaway Indoor Skydiving was “You could be injured — or even die.” The narrator paused dramatically before the “or even die” part. My confidence began to waver.
Next we had to sign the legal release form that said, “Neither I nor my heirs will sue Flyaway Indoor Skydiving regardless of what happens to me.”
We were asked to empty our pockets and remove all jewelry, since anything that fell off and hit the fan blades would be shot back up at us like a bullet. Finally we donned nylon jumpsuits, goggles, and foam earplugs. We were ready to step into the roaring wind tower. My bride went first while I watched through a window made of thick glass. It comforted me to know that, when I died in a few minutes, she would at least be able to bear witness.
My turn came, and I stood in the center of the floor, the huge fan blades whirring below me. Two staffers, there to spot me, cupped my elbows. The fan revved higher, and I leapt in a spread-eagle posture, as instructed. I lifted off. I rose. I was flying.
Twenty-six years later, I haven’t landed yet.
Cullowhee, North Carolina
Doug and I were not having a conventional wedding. We wanted a “hand-fasting” ceremony in which our wrists would be symbolically tied together. A dear friend would officiate as our priestess. For our honeymoon we were going camping in Nova Scotia.
A couple of months before the date, my mom and dad shyly offered us a honeymoon cruise as a wedding present. They had bought the tickets for themselves, but because my mother was dying, they wouldn’t be able to take it. I hugged them both and accepted their gift. The thought of being pampered on an ocean liner sounded good to me.
My mom died a few weeks later. On our hand-fasting day Doug and I stood under the spreading branches of a beech tree on the property where Doug’s family had lived for fifty years. His mom had died unexpectedly six months earlier, so we had two ancestor chairs filled with silks and flowers for our mothers.
Two days later we left for the Tahitian Islands. The ship’s crew gave us special treatment when they learned we were on our honeymoon. Our favorite waiter, a handsome Frenchman, called us “the lovers.” Whenever we confessed that the cruise was a wedding gift, people would tell us how lucky we were. Yes, we would agree, we were blessed. But the irony was inescapable: we were having a romantic honeymoon in an idyllic setting as a result of my mom’s illness and death.
Fifteen years later lung cancer brought Doug’s life to a swift end, shocking our family and friends. He died in my arms the night after Hurricane Sandy had chased us from our home. He and I had teased each other about being “the lovers” throughout our marriage. The honeymoon had lasted a good, long time.
Robin Rose Bennett
Hewitt, New Jersey
I have been married for eighteen years. If I could go back and give my younger self any advice on the occasion of his wedding day, it would be this: Don’t quit smoking just before the honeymoon.
I was forty and had tried and failed to quit on many occasions; each time I could go for only a few days without a cigarette. By the fourth day of our honeymoon in Lake Tahoe, I’d begun to hate my bride. I had quit for her sake, so in my mind it was she who stood between nicotine and me. I made a plan to slink off, buy a pack, and smoke somewhere by the lake, like a child hiding from his parents. I would sit and inhale the sweet poison in the thin air of the Sierra Nevada.
That day we went for a drive around the alpine lake: just a happy couple on honeymoon, enjoying the fresh air and beautiful surroundings while the husband contemplated setting his eyeballs on fire. When I looked at my wife, I didn’t see the woman I’d fallen in love with. Out of my head with nicotine withdrawal, I saw only a cruel and heartless captor denying me any comfort. She made the mistake of asking why I was in a foul mood, and I unleashed my anger and frustration, howling and cursing to the point where she sobbed, “Get your cigarettes, then drive me to a bus stop!”
I pulled into a convenience store, and we both sat in silence for a moment. Part of the joy of smoking is the casual nature of the deadly act, but there was nothing casual about this. If I smoked, our marriage could be over. Cigarettes would never taste good again. Hating the entire smirking universe, I went into the store and stood in line at the counter. Beside the checkout was a reach-in freezer filled with frozen treats.
A minute later I walked back to our car holding two small cups of ice cream with disposable wooden spoons. No cigarettes. My wife took hers quietly, and we ate our ice cream sitting next to each other. The awful moment had passed.
Frank Thomas Armstrong
we married in our late thirties and honeymooned in Costa Rica: white-water rafting, zip-lining, and hiking by day; romantic dinners and watching the volcano erupt by night.
On our final morning my husband and I were ready to return home. Before heading to the airport, we stopped to shop for souvenirs but found nothing worthwhile. When we returned to our car, our suitcases and cameras — with all the photos from our trip — were gone. We spent the final hours of our honeymoon in a police station, filing a report and worrying that we would miss our flight.
I chose to look at the bright side: We had enjoyed a wonderful honeymoon. We were both unharmed. Though our belongings were gone, we’d had our passports with us. And going through customs without luggage was comically easy.
A few weeks later we discovered that we’d conceived our first child during that trip. We’d brought a souvenir home with us after all.
Los Angeles, California
After the wedding my new husband and I began driving from central Florida to Miami, where we would board a ship for a honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas. At the halfway point he sheepishly announced that he was “feeling queasy.” I chalked it up to nerves, the heat, and too much champagne at the reception.
We checked in to our hotel (the cruise ship left the next day), and he vomited for three solid hours: in the toilet, in the wastebasket, on the carpet. Nothing helped — not ginger ale, crackers, or a cold washcloth, and certainly not the thought of his twenty-year-old virgin bride on her wedding night.
Shortly after midnight I decided to take him to a hospital. This was in the sixties, before cellphones and GPS, so we drove until we spotted a hospital sign. As we dragged ourselves into the emergency room, I asked my husband not to tell anyone that this was our wedding night. Shooting me a look, he pointed out that since it was now after midnight, it was no longer our wedding night. The ER staff brought him back to an examining room while I remained in the waiting area. Thirty minutes later I heard laughter and knew he had revealed our newlywed status. The cashier called me to the window and said my husband had been given an injection that would “put him out for the rest of the night.” She stifled a laugh. I took the checkbook from my purse, paid the bill, and drove my husband back to the hotel, where he fell into bed and snored.
By the next day he was feeling better, and we managed to board the cruise liner without incident. Then whatever bug had assaulted him hit me, and I began puking. The ship’s doctor insisted we remain in our room — to protect the health of the other passengers — and drink lots of apple juice. No miraculous injection for me.
Three days later I felt well enough that we weakly made our way to the dining area for the first time. As we sat down, the entire roomful of people broke into applause. Apparently they’d been informed of the newlyweds on board and thought we were pale and exhausted from four days of nonstop sex. None of them knew I was still a virgin.
© Karen Tweedy-Holmes
Just as last call was announced, a young woman walked into Fat Harry’s in New Orleans and stepped up to the bar beside me. She’d spent all her money during Mardi Gras, she told the bartender, and she tried to get a beer on credit. The jaded barman said he would go broke if he gave free beer to everyone who asked for it. Seeing an opportunity, I bought the poor woman a pint of Guinness and offered to walk her home.
Her name was Carmella, and she was couch surfing with a stripper at a Victorian house. Standing on the home’s elaborate front porch, I asked if she would be interested in a bike ride the next afternoon. She said yes, kissed me lightly on my lips, and disappeared inside.
Around noon the following day I parked my Harley in her driveway. The sun sparkled off the shining chrome. Carmella came walking up the sidewalk and started to laugh.
“Something funny?” I asked.
“I was expecting a bicycle,” she replied.
She wrapped her arms around my waist, and we flew along the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, a twenty-four-mile bridge leading out of New Orleans. On the north shore of the lake I parked in a rest area, and Carmella climbed off looking like a child who’d had her first ride on a roller coaster.
On our second date we went to the Maple Leaf Bar and Laundromat to see R & B singer Percy Sledge. Carmella and I arrived early and exchanged stories at a small table near the stage.
She told me how she’d recently fled Tucson, Arizona, in an empty boxcar and ridden four days and four nights across the Southwest, disembarking at the infamous French Quarter. My intuition told me that she had left something (someone?) behind in the Sonoran Desert.
I shared my experience in the United States Merchant Marine: two years hauling cargoes up and down the Mississippi River and around the Gulf of Mexico. Then Percy Sledge took the stage and sang passionately about the kind of love that had been missing from my life.
Our third date took us across three state lines. For her birthday Carmella wanted to lie on a beach — any beach. I suggested the Florida Panhandle. We packed light (the only option on a motorcycle) and headed east on Interstate 10. As we crossed the border into Mississippi, it began to rain, and I offered to turn back, but Carmella was enjoying the shower. When we reached the Florida coast, we were soaked.
I took an exit for a town called Destin. A VACANCY sign flashed in front of the last motel on the beach. Another sign in the window read, HONEYMOONERS WELCOME. While I rented a room, Carmella walked down to the water’s edge. By the time she came back, I had moved our bags into our suite. Without a word both of us began shedding our wet clothes. We were soon sprawled across the queen-size bed in each other’s arms.
In the morning Carmella announced that she wanted to go for a swim and ran out the door with only a bath towel wrapped around her. I pulled on my pants and followed. Halfway across the deserted beach she dropped her towel, and I discarded my pants. We dove headfirst into the breaking waves and came up gasping. The cold salt water was invigorating. Afterward we lay on the sand, feeling the sunshine on our bare skin.
Suddenly a shadow fell across our naked bodies, and I looked up to see a sheriff standing over us. I pulled on my pants, and Carmella wrapped herself in the towel. He wanted to see our identification. I pulled out my driver’s license while Carmella went to our room for hers. While she was gone, the officer asked what we were doing in Destin. Hoping he was a sentimental type, I said we were on our honeymoon. He told me to go back to the motel, get dressed, and meet him at his squad car. As I walked up the beach, I had a strong suspicion that we were going to spend the night in jail.
Carmella and I got into the patrol car, and the sheriff drove east out of town. I really began to feel uneasy when we turned off the highway onto a dirt road that ran through a dark pine forest. Finally the car stopped at the base of a tall dune. I thought this might be the end for us, but if Carmella was as frightened as I was, she didn’t show it.
Then the sheriff pointed out the path over the dunes to the local nude beach.
Carmella and I never married, but we’ve stayed together for forty-one years. Every year we celebrate the anniversary of our meeting at Fat Harry’s and our “honeymoon” on a Florida nude beach.
Rodanthe, North Carolina
My fiancé and I were saving ourselves until marriage. For three months prior to the wedding we had spent every night in his apartment, lying side by side in his double bed, wearing pajamas over our underwear. We would talk until we fell asleep holding hands. Our only sexual contact consisted of a few chaste kisses.
This shared vow of chastity was one of the many things I loved about my fiancé, who was gifted in both art and mathematics and had a promising career ahead of him after college. Though we’d never even French-kissed, I felt certain he was the love of my life. I fantasized about the pleasures and delights of marriage and imagined I would be a passionate lover. I could hardly wait.
We got married the day after my twentieth birthday, in 1962. Once we were settled in our hotel on our honeymoon, my husband presented me with a wrapped gift. He had chosen “something special” for me to wear on our wedding night, he said, and he instructed me to go into the powder room to change.
In the bathroom I opened the shiny gold box. Inside was an expensive, floor-length negligee set, with a white-lace gown and matching peignoir. I slipped the gown over my head, let it fall to the floor, and regarded myself in the mirror. Except for my face, hands, and feet, not one inch of my skin was exposed — not even my neck. A high collar came up to my chin, and long sleeves covered my arms. With the bouffant skirt, I looked like a giant marshmallow.
Worst of all, the gown had a long zipper in the back, which I was unable to close. I had to ask my new husband — now in his pajamas — to zip me up. He seemed to find this quite amusing, but I was confused. I’d thought the idea was for the man to unzip his bride’s dress.
Once I was secured in the outfit, he told me how beautiful I looked and invited me to lie down beside him. My gown took up most of the bed. We began kissing, and I quickly became aroused, but my husband stopped me, saying he felt uncomfortable. He couldn’t switch abruptly from barely touching each other to going all the way. He needed time. We had our whole lives to have sex, he said. He suggested we simply go to sleep.
We spent the rest of our honeymoon dining at charming seaside eateries, touring art galleries, window-shopping, and holding hands as we explored the town. At bedtime he kissed me good night and went to sleep.
Three months after the honeymoon, when we finally did have sex, my husband discovered he didn’t care for it. Except to have children, he preferred to avoid it altogether.
After our wedding Todd and I took a trip to Seattle, where we did what most honeymooners do: canoodled and ate at fancy restaurants. On the morning of day three my husband emerged from the hotel bathroom with his head almost completely shaven. He asked me to finish the job by removing the hair on the back of his head and neck.
He was doing this as an act of solidarity. My own head would be shaved the next morning to prepare me for brain surgery. Todd figured that if his bride was going to be bald, then he would be, too.
The operation was a success, and a golf-ball-sized mass was removed. Todd was allowed to sleep on a roll-away bed in my hospital room. After all, we were on our honeymoon.
In the months that followed, we returned to Seattle many times for chemotherapy treatments. I tended to feel anxious on infusion days, so Todd would schedule something enjoyable for us to do. He started referring to our Seattle trips as “honeymoons.” When the nurses would see us coming for a treatment, they would ask, “How many honeymoons does this make, Todd?” He stopped keeping track when we got into double digits.
Every time I started a new round of chemo, Todd shaved his head again. We were in it for the long haul.
My parents got married in 1955 and drove from Minnesota to Alberta, Canada, for their honeymoon. The story goes that in each little town along the way, my father went into a drugstore to buy condoms, lost his nerve, and came out with fingernail clippers instead.
I met my husband, Brian, online, and we got to know one another via e-mail. I learned about his favorite cousin, his early memory of the ocean, and the experiences that kept him humble. He absorbed the details of my life, too.
After six months of dating, we planned a trip to Alberta. By coincidence we would be traveling on my deceased parents’ wedding anniversary. The night before our departure Brian came over with a present: a gorgeous silk nightgown — and a half dozen fingernail clippers.
They wanted to go to Tuscany for their honeymoon, but they couldn’t afford it. The wedding alone had nearly ruined them. So they decided to put some money away each month; when they’d saved enough, they would have their honeymoon. They pored over brochures, traced their fingers across maps, and opened a special bank account they called “Tuscany.” They bought an Italian phrase book and practiced their grammar, confident that by the time they had the money for the trip, they would be fluent.
They both worked full-time jobs, having agreed to wait at least a year to have children. They bought a house. They bought a new car. All the while they contributed to the Tuscany account each month, although they had stopped discussing the trip and regarded the transfer of funds as just one more monthly payment. They fought often about money.
More than a year passed. He was ready to have children; she wanted to wait until they were more secure. He wanted to know what “more secure” looked like; she said she’d know it when she saw it.
After two years together they decided to end their marriage. They sold the house. He kept the car. (She’d never liked it anyway.) While they were closing their joint bank account, they discovered they had saved more than enough for their honeymoon. They decided to split the money evenly.
She quit her job (she’d never liked it anyway), took her share, and went to Tuscany alone. She visited the museums in Florence and the cathedral in Siena and the tower in Pisa. One evening at a cafe in Lucca a local man asked permission to sit with her. They talked. (She spoke passable Italian.) He was poorly dressed but handsome. He bought a bottle of Chianti, then another. They strolled the narrow streets and walked along the river together. He asked to accompany her to her hotel, and she consented.
Two months later they married at his parents’ villa outside Lucca. It was a small ceremony. He wasn’t well-off, and she was nearing the end of her savings, but they didn’t mind. They hardly thought about money. And they wouldn’t need to travel far for their honeymoon.
Santi Elijah Holley