Updated: Feb 25, 2022
Nothing tests your relationship quite like traveling.
And as I stood there pleading with the United Airlines ticketing agent not to make me open my luggage in full view of the entire conglomerate of passengers, thereby showcasing my expensive collection of undergarments, I realized traveling with my boyfriend of seven months would be unlike any other trip I’d taken with my ex.
In my three years in the bowels of Dating Hell and after a fairly messy divorce, I developed some Commitment Commandments, if you will - a series of tests or bits of wisdom I embedded into my core. At the top of my list? Take a trip together before you take the final trip down the aisle.
When my cousin Maggie was dating a dude with a serious 70s ‘stache while in college, I warned her: “Listen, travel together. Preferably somewhere overseas. Find out who they really are when they’re out of their comfort zones and off their routine. If, after a week of being up each other’s ass, you still actually like one another - you might stand a chance.”
This trip to D.C. fulfilled the first commandment. I joked with co-workers a few days before we departed that this was our do or die moment. “We’re either coming back engaged, or one of us in a body bag,” I laughed.
Happy to report Ant Man is still very much alive. And while we are most definitely NOT engaged (no need to send bubbly or presumptuous text messages my way - the last post certainly garnered enough of those). But it did confirm, for both of us, that this thing we’ve got going, might actually have the staying power of a healthy dose of Viagra.
We’ve both been in serious, albeit failed, relationships. And neither of us are keen on making the mistakes of our past - frankly, we’re too old for that shit. Even more so, we both have two kids involved here. So, if we are thinking of moving toward that Everlasting Altar of Love, we can’t afford to eff this up.
So, here’s what I learned about my man on this trip.
He can’t lie for shit.
Not even a white lie, folks. Let me paint a picture for you. Checking into United Air and the not-so-friendly man at the counter informs me my bag is overweight. I have two options: pay the $100 convenience fee or unpack my bag and remove some stuff. Now, I have two dilemmas here. 1) I don’t have a carry-on big enough to remove the excess and store it somewhere else and Anthony’s carry-on didn’t have a TON of extra space either. 2) And the REAL reason I wasn’t planning on opening this bag - I had a week’s worth of lingerie and gadgets all perfectly laid out right on top. And as open as I am about my sex life, I didn’t need this 60-something man’s judgment as I found a new home for all my shoes buried at the bottom. I opted to pay. The man pointed me to another woman back at the checked bags area who would help me sort out payment.
“How much does it weigh?” she asked.
“Eh, I think he said it was about a pound- a pound and a half over,” I shrugged.
Without skipping a beat, Anthony pipes in “Nope! It was 3.5 pounds over the 50.” I glared at him and realized he wouldn’t be playing along here.
The woman hoisted my bag onto the scale. It was nearly 5 pounds over. “Take some stuff out,” she suggested.
“Ma’am, can I speak to you woman to woman? You see, we’re taking a vacation without our 4 children. Our first together. I have a LOT of items in there I don’t need the rest of this airport seeing, if you know what I mean. I am NOT opening that suitcase.”
She smirked, laughed, and decided to let it go. Now, Anthony could have lied for me. But instead, he did what was right. Not what benefited him. Not what was easy. What was right.
Later on in the trip while paying the bill at dinner, he realized the waiter hadn’t charged his card enough. Like $25 short. Pulling the hostess aside, he praised the waiter for his good service throughout the night, assured them it was a mistake, and had them correct it, voiding the original and re-charging the full amount.
It might seem like small stuff, but it speaks volumes to his character. I knew in these moments, I would never doubt him or his intentions. There would be no concerns of cheating or misleading me or playing games with my emotions. He literally couldn’t.
He’s not an asshole.
No, but really. Many people you meet - men, women, children - are generally douche canoes. They look out for themselves, are self-centered, and are usually so caught up in their own schedules and busy, they can’t be bothered to get to know the people around them. It was so refreshing to see Ant interact with everyone from bartenders to Uber drivers to cashiers at the museums. We made friends almost everywhere we went - from Marlos @theOpaline who kept our glasses full and had us laughing all afternoon with Limoncello shots and jokes about parenthood to the Lincoln Monument Memorial cashier who gave me crap for taking too long at the checkout before we all joked about how I ALWAYS take forever to get ready and ended up throwing in a few extra goodies as we cashed out.
It’s easy to get to know someone when they’re around their people. Those guys and gals are CHOOSING to be a part of your partner’s life, so whether they’re an asshole or not, those people WANT to stick around for it (sadists). But when you travel, you get to see a side of your significant other you don’t always encounter on the daily. You get some fresh perspectives on their actions and attitudes toward the everyday human - people they’re not trying to win over, people who owe them nothing. I loved watching him spread genuine kindness and authentically engaging with these strangers.
And not in the Ross and Chandler kind of way. Yes, there was sweating, but no screaming. Since we opted not to include our cherubs in this trip, we didn’t have a super scheduled itinerary. What we didn’t account for, stupidly on my part, was that we were traveling to DC Friday-Tuesday on a holiday weekend. Some of the museums were closed Monday, others still weren’t open due to Covid restrictions, and still others we couldn’t get into because I suck and didn’t get timed-entry passes in advance. There were no passive aggressive comments, no snarky remarks, no fights. Each time we had to adjust our plans, I was met with a simple “No worries, babe. As long as I get to spend time with you, I’m good.”
He’s able to take the lead or play back-up, and he’s cool with both.
In case you hadn’t figured out yet, I’m a bit of a Type A personality and tend to take charge in most cases. In the past, I’ve engaged in quite a few pissing contests with men who couldn’t, and wouldn’t, let me lead. But this trip showed me that we could both equally play each part. Ideally, in a healthy relationship, both partners can recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and know when to step into the role. At the Holocaust Museum, Anthony let me lead - knowing I had
more knowledge than the average bear on the subject, he quietly allowed me to go full-on historian. But when we reached the Museum of American History, a favorite stop of his, I let him show me the way. He pointed out his favorite artifacts and rooms, chiming in with his own anecdotes and personal experiences as we walked through.
We’re still figuring out this balance, and by we, I mean me. I continue to struggle with being vulnerable and taking a backseat, but he’s making it easier, knowing I won’t be met with ridicule or shame if I’m not the point person.
He’s not afraid to eat pizza in bed with me.
This trip had us questioning one thing, for sure: are we old as fuck? Or terribly out of shape? We’re still figuring out the answer. After three days of straight walking, we found ourselves back at the hotel room. Sitting on the edge of the bed, contemplating what hot dining spot we should hit up for dinner, reality set in: we were not leaving the room again that day. We DoorDashed $90 pizza from the orgasm-inducing @PiPizzeria, put a towel down on the bed, turned on NCIS, and pigged out. As I sat there in sweatpants and an oversized tee while the lingerie went untouched in the top of the closet, I knew this was exactly what I needed and who I wanted to do it with.
And if it hadn’t been for the unbearable aching in my lower back, the developing shin splints, the grease running down my hand, or the giant Food Baby I was now growing, I may have just jumped his bones. But instead, we both fell back on the bed, groaning for a different reason.
“You want to?” I romantically asked.
“Ugh, I want to, but I’m so fucking tired and full. I can’t.”
And that, my friends, perfectly sums up single-parent dating. And neither of us gave a single shit.
It’s only been three days, but we’re already planning our next adventure. Hopefully this time, there will be more sex and less walking. And our souvenirs won’t include a 5-pound weight gain. Traveling with your other half: is it a hell yes or an eff no? Where are you headed next? What lessons have you learned? What advice do you have for us traveling troupe newbies?