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The Most Romantic Thing A Man Has Ever Done For Me

And I had almost given up on love.

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illustration of couple eating at restaurant, romantic gestures from man
Lucia Pham
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I had given up on love.

It was 12 years since my marriage ended and seven since my ex died. After that, I Bumbled, Matched and blind-dated every chance I got. I was ready for a partner, but I couldn’t find anyone to click with, no matter how hard I tried.

Still, I had a full life — two teenagers, a challenging career as a writer and a bevy of irreverent, vino-friendly ladies who kept me reading, tasting and traveling.

If life as a 50-something Coastal Grandma who had to Netflix romance was as good as it was going to get, I was mostly content.

And then I met him.

I was at a fancy neighborhood holiday party when my friend Kara murmured, “Don’t look, but there’s a smokin’ hot guy over there, and he’s totally checking you out.”

I looked.

Much to my surprise, there was, and he was.

Our eyes met across the room — zing! — a current surged up my spine.

Eventually, the tall, dark stranger (who wasn’t wearing a wedding ring) meandered over and introduced himself.

Immediately, I made him laugh, which is my catnip. Just as quickly, we got into the real stuff. As the party glittered around us, we shared gritty details about family addiction, personal tragedies and heartbreak as if we were in a private, sound-proof bubble.

Before the night was over, he kissed me. He took my number and invited me to dinner that week.

We tumbled head over heels in love. For Christmas, he wrote me two long, thoughtfully sourced cards. For Valentine’s Day, he grilled me organic lamb chops and presented me with a stack of gifts, including silly heart-shaped sunglasses. Not that this romantic needed a holiday to express himself. He painted red hearts on seashells that he left in places for me to find, like on my desk or in my coat pocket. He planned a trip for us to Europe, complete with a map studded with color-coded sticky notes to mark historic cities, beaches, and bougie hotels. He frequently told me how much he appreciated me.

Then, about eight months in, he blew me off for our weekly sex appointment. I was devastated. I had gotten up extra early to work out, shower, do a blowout, and put on my royal blue French lingerie when he called to say, “I double booked for lunch, mind if I make you dinner at your place instead?”

I actually did mind. Quite a bit. I was pissed, and I told him so on the phone. We decided to talk at the end of the day.

It was a long day.

We were having our first fight, and I was miserable. I felt like our physical life wasn’t as big of a priority for him as it was for me. That made me feel undesirable. Plus, the fact that he could just cancel on me so easily made me feel like he didn’t respect the pressure I felt juggling two teens and a bustling household of pets in addition to my rolling book deadlines. Yes, he had responsibilities for his start-up and looked after his 84-year-old mother, but his daughters were grown, and his time, compared to mine, was fungible. Lurking beneath my hurt feelings was something darker, a fear that the love bubble had burst and it was the beginning of our end.

Finally, he came over. We were cool with each other, sitting on opposite sides of the bed.

“I can explain,” he said. “But why don’t you talk first?”

I ran through the offenses I had practiced with a friend when suddenly — to his surprise and mine — I started sobbing. It was an ugly cry, and he was seeing it. He crawled over to hug me. I admitted the truth into his armpit, which had finally occurred to me: “It’s so hard for me to ask for what I want,” I choked out.

What I wanted was sex with him. At his place. As planned.

They say when it’s hysterical, it’s historical. My overreaction to our canceled "afternoon delight" tapped into a reservoir of unmet, unacknowledged needs that went way back.

Our romantic rendezvous was the only thing I couldn’t do for myself in my otherwise autonomous existence. I didn’t need a man for money, security or any other reason but to make me feel appreciated as a woman. I let down my guard and discovered I needed that, even after a decade of doing without and pretending it didn’t matter.

I felt so vulnerable that I couldn’t even look at him after I admitted the root of my disappointment.

What did he do? The most romantic thing that any man has ever done for me.

He heard me, and he held me. Without running away or defending himself, he didn't do anything but allow me to soak his t-shirt until all my tears were expressed. We’ve been enjoying our appointments ever since.

What's the most romantic thing a man (or woman) has ever done for you? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships