With age comes wisdom in this amusing short story by Brenda Joy.
We are so sure of ourselves when we’re young, aren’t we? But people can change . . .
JUST recently, when I couldn’t get to sleep one night, I made a discovery. That there was something I could count which was even more boring than counting sheep – my ex-boyfriends!
I imagined them standing in a line, like in a police line-up, and in minutes I was off to sleep.
From watching crime movies I know police line-ups are made up of people of similar height and build.
Well, the men in my line-up are quite similar, too: tall with darkish hair, and all rather good looking.
I was always choosy about who I went out with, even as a girl. From the age of fifteen to twenty-three – my dating years – I’d no time for Mr Average, i.e, anyone not tall, dark and handsome!
Now, approaching fifty, I can’t believe what was going on in my head back then. It must have been all those Mills & Boon romances I used to read.
I was so blinded by good looks that I ignored something in very short supply among those perfect specimens – personality!
When I was eighteen I started working in an office where the most popular person was Mike – medium height, stockily built and red-haired. Definitely not my type!
Mike was a couple of years older, very good at his job and someone you could always go to for help.
On the downside, he teased me relentlessly and at times could be annoying.
Looking back, I realise Mike had probably liked me from the start; he took too much notice of me to be indifferent.
He was quite confident, too. I remember the firm’s outing to Blackpool.
“Hey, Lynn,” he said, as I passed his desk one day. “If you play your cards right I might let you sit next to me on the coach.”
“Oh, I’m not going,” Little Miss Full Of Herself said. “I’ve got a date.”
It was true; I had a date with my handsome boyfriend of the time. But he was such a bore that I remember, that evening, wishing that I’d gone on the Blackpool trip.
By all accounts everyone had a ball. I got fed up hearing about it, how Mike (Mr Personality) had led the sing-song on the coach.
And how he snogged one of the secretaries on the way back.
A few years on, when I was twenty-three, working in a different office and obviously much more mature, I met Paul, my future husband. We were married the following year.
Of course he was tall, dark and handsome. No change there, then!
Now, in my living-room, waiting for the three men in my life to come home, I pick up the framed photo on the side table.
There’s me and my lovely husband, our two sons, Nathan and Ben, and our daughter, Ellie.
The boys, both in their early twenties, are tall, dark and handsome and so like Paul when we first met.
Sixteen-year-old Ellie is feisty on the outside, yet still a little girl within.
“Mum, they’re back!” Ellie calls from upstairs.
And here they are, Nathan and Ben, walking up the path with their dad.
Of course, they don’t look anything like him – seeing as their dad is medium height with a stocky build and greying red hair.
Yes, I married Mike eventually. I was going on thirty when we met up again. Mike was still single and I was divorced with two little boys.
Their biological father went to live a single man’s life soon after Ben’s birth, never to be seen again.
Mike is their dad, the only dad they’ve ever known. And Nathan and Ben have turned out to be kind and thoughtful young men, with no signs of vanity, proving that nurture can be more powerful than nature when it comes to bringing up children.
“How was the match?” Ellie shouts as she runs down the stairs and throws herself into her dad’s arms. “Did we win?”
With her red curls, green eyes and creamy skin, Ellie is a mix of Mike and a Rossetti painting. Her looks are those of Rossetti’s women, but her sparkly personality and sweet nature are pure Mike.
Then it’s my turn for a hug.
“Hi, gorgeous,” he says, almost lifting me off my feet and giving me a huge smacker on the lips.
“Ugh, get a room, will you?” Ben says in mock disgust.
We just laugh – me and my very special husband.
When I look back to those days when we worked together, I realise that
Mike was always special, and that no way was he ever Mr Average. I was too young and too shallow to see it.
Mind you, I do remember feeling a bit jealous after the Blackpool trip. For the next few days Mike went out of his way to flirt with the secretary whenever she came into our office.
For a while there I was no longer the centre of Mike’s attention. And I didn’t like it. Shouldn’t that have told me something?
As for my line-up of boring ex-boyfriends, they do have a purpose, after all. Because counting them, when I can’t get to sleep at night, is simply me counting my mistakes.
But I guess I had to make those mistakes so that I’d know the difference when I finally got it right.