Dating someone is very different from being single. Obviously, it's nice because you get to spend time with someone you really like, you have someone to go to the movies and dinner with and you have one more person to borrow money from.
But there's also a lot of adjustments. For instance, I had to buy a comb. I also had to stop staring at women. (Technically, I had to stop that about a year ago, but a judge can't really enforce a court order if he's not with you all the time, now can he?)
The biggest adjustment so far, however, has been in the department of Christmas trees.
For the last three or four years, during the week after Thanksgiving, I've put up a Christmas tree in my living room. Putting up a Christmas tree is a very simple task for me. I go to the hall closet, I take out the Christmas tree box, I remove the tree from said box, I place the tree in its base, I set the whole thing on a table and I plug it in.
There's also some maintenance involved. If the little wire branches get knocked around, I sometimes have to bend them back into place. Still, it's really simple, no muss, no fuss.
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend asked me if I was going to put up a Christmas tree. I told her of course I was. She seemed really excited.
Later that night I pulled my tree out of the closet and set it up. When she came over the next day and saw it, I expected her to be pleased.
She wasn't. She told me that what I had sitting on my table wasn't a Christmas tree. I disagreed. Obviously, it wasn't a tree in the botanical sense, but it clearly said "Christmas tree" right on the box it came in. Semantically, she didn't have a leg to stand on.
She was less than impressed with my debating skills, though, and suggested that I should get a real tree and we should decorate it together. Because I am a wonderful boyfriend, I agreed.
I grew up with a plastic tree. It was a big one, mind you, and it looked real, but it was plastic. It lived in a rotting cardboard box in my parents' attic. My dad would drag it down every year at the first of December and my brother and I would help him put it up. And by "help," I mean sword-fight with the wire branches.
So when it came time for me to buy a real tree at my girlfriend's request, I really knew next to nothing about the process.
Did you know how expensive those things are? Holy crap! It's a tree, for God's sake! They're everywhere! Why in the world should one cost $40?
And you know what else? They're really dirty, they shed, they're not all symmetrical like the plastic ones and they don't come with a tree stand. But that's OK. My girlfriend wanted a real tree, so that's what I got her. And all of those problems were solved with some soapy water, a vacuum, some hedge trimmers and a bucket of rocks.
My girlfriend and I went out and bought decorations for the tree together. There was some debate about how many lights we'd need. I though we'd need less than 100. I mean, it's not like we were stringing them all over the house. We were just wrapping a tree a couple of times. She told me we would definitely need 100 and maybe more.
We bought 100. It wasn't enough. They only covered the top half of the tree. The bottom half of the tree was completely bare. It looked obscene, like it wasn't wearing pants or something. I apologized for not believing her.
We made a whole deal out of decorating the tree. We lit a fire, we listened to Christmas music, we even baked Christmas cookies. It was really nice. She seemed especially happy.
It was almost ruined, though, when I tried to put the star on. I took an old metal stool out of my closet and climbed it, star in hand. My girlfriend kept insisting that the stool looked like it was bending under my weight. I told her the stool had been damaged some time ago and it just looked like it was bending.
Right about then, it collapsed right out from under me.
Somehow, I managed to twist my body in mid-air and not land in the tree, sending it hurtling into my fireplace and causing a chain reaction that would end in my house burning down. That would have never happened with my little table Christmas tree.
When it was all said and done, my girlfriend and I stepped back and looked at our tree. It looked really nice, even with half the lights it should have had. And I have to admit, every day when I come home from work and see my tree in the middle of the living room, I really like it. It feels cozy.
So, yeah, putting up a real Christmas tree wasn't something I would have done on my own, but it was still a real nice idea. I have to wonder if that sort of thing isn't the real beauty of a relationship involving yourself with another person who has ideas you'd never have on your own, someone who thinks of the things you don't.
I love my girlfriend for a million reasons. She's smart, pretty, kind and funny. But she's also wired really differently from me. She fills little holes in me that I didn't even realize I had.
Like the need for a Christmas tree. And, hopefully, I do the same for her. We'll see in April, when I run my Easter Donkey idea past her.
Patrick Drury can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org