I like dates. I like birthdays, holidays, and especially anniversaries. Significant dates , like a birthday, show our mark on time, are a cause for celebration (and I do love parties) and also say to the world, hey I made it. Since this blog is about love and long underwear and much of my focus of late has centered around long underwear and its use during the winter months, I think its high time I throw a little love spice into the pot.
I’ve got a special anniversary I’d like to share.
On April 8th of this month, Cole and I celebrated our one year anniversary as a couple. The date is slightly arbitrary because last spring when we finally succumbed to our mutual feelings beyond telemark racing, it was the end of the ski season and we were operating in a slightly beer-induced love phase (doesn’t it usually take a drink or two to muster up the courage to admit that you like someone? Thank goodness for wine and beer!). Plus, I was acting like a stubborn mule and proclaimed for months that I didn’t really want a boyfriend even though I called Cole everyday and I sent him hundreds of text messages daily when I visited my brother and father in New Mexico and missed Cole dreadfully. Cole said to me in May of last year, “For someone who really doesn’t want a boyfriend, you’re acting like I already am your boyfriend.” Cole saw through my act and called my bluff.
Cole, oddly for being a numbers guy, wasn’t so concerned with defining the start of our relationship with a specific date on the calendar, however, I felt we needed a day to declare all ours. A specific date that declares to the world, hey we made it. Plus, Cole called another of my bluffs that an anniversary means presents and fancy dinners. I assured him that this wasn’t completely true. But, then again, I do like presents. And fancy dinners.
We chose April 8th because it was around the time last year when we had official dates–other than my “lets have a beer after skiing” casual attempts at spending more time with Cole. For our first “real” date, Cole took me to one of the more fancier restaurants in town and, I kid you not, wore a sport jacket. Yes, in my little mountain town, there is one man who knows how to dress to impress a woman. And this man, I proudly declare, is mine. I was nothing short of stunned to walk into the restaurant to find my date wearing a beautiful khaki sport coat. He would even stand up from his chair when I excused myself to use the bathroom. What a gentleman. For a few weeks, Cole was known to my best girlfriends as “The Sport Coat Guy”. I’ve certainly dated a lot of mountain men types–some have been wonderful boyfriends, some not–but none of them ever wore anything nice to dinner. Cole is a skier by day and while he does adhere to the Montana dress code of Carhartt’s and flannel shirts, he has the capability (and the wardrobe) to don on the spiffy duds when the situation calls for it. We settled on April 8th because we’d already purchased tickets to a jazz concert and dinner that night and Cole figured we’d kill two birds with one stone and lump the jazz night as a way to celebrate. I got my fancy dinner! And in case you’re wondering, he did, a year later, wear a sport coat.
In this past year of love, we’ve dealt with a lot of long underwear and most of it hasn’t smelled nice. Not only are we partners in a relationship, each other’s best friend, but we’re also teammates. I’m most proud that we were able to train together, travel the world together, and race together and not kill each other in the process. This winter, we only spent one entire day away from each other. One day. We practically spent every minute of each day joined together. We shared every aspect of telemark ski racing together. We even have matching outfits–from our team ski jackets to our race skis, we’re twins. I think we’re pretty lucky and probably very rare to have this type of relationship. It certainly made the decision to commit so fully to ski racing when my best friend and boyfriend is willing to do so as well.
So Cole and I jumped head first into a winter’s worth of training and ski racing. We went to the gym together and lucky for me, I didn’t feel so awkward at the squat rack since I’m completely inept at weight training and Cole was right there to help. But some comments tended hit me a little bit closer to the bone when he’d bark, “Lower! Squat lower!” And I was like, Damn you super strong boyfriend of mine, I can’t get my ass any lower! Go away! As any couple knows, its a fine line between constructive criticism and an explosive battle. We were conscious of this the entire season and tried, or at least I made some attempts, at balancing the Nagging Partner and the I’m Helping You Because You’re My Teammate and I Want You to Succeed roles. Cole was much more successful at it than I was. If he had a bad race, he didn’t take it out on our relationship. However, guess who turned into the whiny brat if she had a bad run? Oh yes, that would be me. Cole would let me rant and rave about how terrible of a skier I was, how I didn’t belong anywhere near a ski hill, and that my thighs should be permanently banned from wearing any kind of spandex. He’d sigh, wrap an arm around my shoulder and tell me that no matter how I finished a race, I was a good skier. If I was being really pathetic, he’d tell me I had a “shit attitude” and that would usually shut me up right quick.
It wasn’t always easy having this intimate and close of a relationship. We didn’t always have the influence of work, friends and other hobbies to maintain a balance between the individual self and our relationship. Our focus, most of the time, was on skiing. And it did prove to be a challenge for us. We slipped, just a couple times, into treating each other more like teammates than lovers. We (or mostly me) had to remind ourselves that we’re not just joined by the telemark turn but also by the heart. As teammates, there’s a bit more of an allowance on how much criticism you can deliver and how much snap you can return. As lovers, sometimes those lines blur and you forget you’re telling your boyfriend that he could have skied stronger that run. Yet, at night we were able to share our true feelings about racing and our other teammates didn’t have this luxury. We could snuggle together at the airport, give a congratulatory kiss at the finish line, and go out and do romantic activities like drink espresso and eat pastries while our teammates negotiated time zone differences and did their romantic bidding via the Internet. Or some of our teammates would try to find love in the eyes of a foreigner, language differences be damned.
Plus Cole was incredibly amazing and generous and would allow me to pass out in airports, drooling on my red ski jacket, legs strewn across his lap, and he’d fight jet lag and fatigue and stay awake to make sure we wouldn’t miss our next flight. And in turn, I would do all of the talking when asked by other passengers or flight attendants why we had funny looking telemark ski boots draped over our shoulders. Cole could remain silent and return to his reading while I launched into my speech about telemark ski racing and our worldly adventures. We also had an agreement on the general level of messiness we’d allow our house to fall into during our extended travels–which, I believe, would cause some major battles between couples who weren’t both devout skiers. We had a high tolerance for stinky long underwear, the smell of wet ski boots, and that our entry way doubled as a ski lockeroom. I’d force Cole onto the skate track and he’d drag me to the gym. We’d both rally to the ski hill to train gates with our good friend/coach Kelsey and no matter how early we intended to leave our house, we’d always show up 5 minutes late. It was always my fault but Cole was always very nice and didn’t leave me behind. We were each other’s best cheerleaders but when we both fell prey to a total lack of motivation (which only happened maybe twice this season) we found ourselves in bed all day, watching three entire seasons of 30 Rock and eating nothing but candy and beef jerky to sustain us.
Well, we made it a year. And I’m pretty damn sure we’ll still be teammates again next year.