I formed a plan to win my future wife’s affection within minutes of meeting her. We were playing co-ed softball. She didn’t mention playing in college, but I could tell she had by the way she moved on the field. I fancied myself something of an athlete, so the plan was simple: I’d make a diving play on the next ground ball hit to either side of me. She would swoon, and a passionate love affair would surely blossom.
The very next ball was hit hard to my left. I dove, hoping to catch both the ball and the love of the beautiful blonde playing second base. Instead, my body bounced like I’d been thrown from a moving van and tumbled with a violence usually seen in YouTube videos titled “Skateboard Fail.”
After skinning back fat I didn’t know I had, it was time for Plan B – I quit smoking and spent the next six months pretending to like distance running and cats. Jogging became bearable, and Pop-Tarts and Parliament Lights ceased being my go-to breakfast. I felt better, looked better, and had a shit-eating grin for guys visibly confused how I ended up with her.
I built a relationship with Summer by getting out of my comfort zone and doing my best to enjoy her hobbies. She reciprocated by doing her best to enjoy country music and having sex with me, both of which led to a unique test in our relationship early in 2012.
Some friends invited us to MusicFest in Steamboat Springs. MusicFest is made up of three things near and dear to the heart of every Texan: country music, good beer, and a vacation in Colorado. We booked a trip and looked forward to three days of skiing, music, and drinking.
Shortly after purchasing our non-refundable tickets, we learned we had inadvertently booked a trip for three. Summer would be six-months pregnant by MusicFest, which would prohibit her from every activity that inspired us to book the trip. But rather than eat the cost of the tickets, we decided to go along for the ride and eat, well, everything else.
Pregnancy is not a team endeavor. We talk about shared experiences, but the husband’s role is merely support. As a caring husband, I exercised moral support the best way I knew how – by not exercising at all. The weight a husband gains over the course of his wife’s pregnancy is often referred to as sympathy weight. I call it freedom. For the first time in our relationship, Summer sanctioned over-eating and lack of physical activity. This was the culinary version of what I imagine a binge would look like if a drug addict’s sponsor agreed to look the other way.
When we arrived in Steamboat, things looked promising. Any sadness over the slopes we couldn’t hit passed when I saw a bar with majestic mountain views and big screen TVs with majestic NFL views.
Our friends loaded up their gear and left the condo on the first morning. That’s when Summer said three words that threatened our relationship:
“Let’s rent snowshoes.”
At six months pregnant, my wife decided snowshoeing 3.5 miles uphill was something she’d like to try. I hated the idea, but she was carrying our first child, which was made possible because I embraced an active lifestyle and pretended to enjoy it. We rented the shoes and got our instructions from a nice, older gentleman in the shop.
“Now, listen,” he said. “It’s 3.5 miles if you take the trail to the top, but there is a shorter track that is 2 miles. If you get tired or it’s a little more difficult than you expected, don’t be too proud to take the short track.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” I said. He didn’t tell me once. He assumed, incorrectly, that of the two of us, the pregnant woman might struggle.
We started trudging up the right side of the slopes that everyone else was skiing and snowboarding down. Summer was in Heaven.
“Doesn’t it feel great to do something active?” she asked.
“Yes,” I lied.
We started out walking side-by-side so we could chat, but Summer walked ahead when the only subject I wanted to discuss was “how all this fucking snow keeps getting in my boot.”
The sight of a visibly pregnant woman smiling and easily making her way up the slopes while her out-of-shape husband cursed and took breaks delighted the skiers who whizzed by us.
For the next two hours, almost every single person smiled and yelled, “You’re going the wrong way!” I hated their stupid turtlenecks more and more with each step.
At one point, Summer had to pee. She walked into the woods. I stopped. It’s difficult to describe the shame that comes when a woman rounding out her second trimester is disappearing into a wooded area and yells back to you “go ahead…I’ll catch up!”
Summer and I walked the final ascent together, took in the stunning panoramic view, and rode the gondola down the mountain. It was a beautiful sight, and I was able to share it with the love of my life. It was a moment I’ll treasure forever, and it happened because I found someone who makes me to get off my ass.
Left to my own devices, I would have sat in the bar, listened to a band, and watched a ballgame. I had been doing that for my entire adult life until I left a pound of back fat on a recreational softball field.
Sometimes, the best thing you can hope for in life is someone who helps you recognize the slippery slopes in your life, and inspires you to walk back to the top.