Today’s post is somewhat of a rerun in that I’ve written this story before. The last time I shared this tale was about four years ago. I had added it in conjunction to a video I’d seen about gay black men who said they had trouble dating outside of their race. But today, I’m just going to rewrite the story on its own, mainly because it has nothing to do with the dreaded “c-word” that is on the lips of everyone right now. You can decide for yourself whether or not you think it’s a happy or a sad anecdote.
Back in November 2011, I was 39 years old. Bill was 47. We had decided to take our second cruise on SeaDream I in honor of our ninth wedding anniversary. It had been an eagerly anticipated vacation. In those days, we had little time or money for traveling, especially SeaDream style. SeaDream cruises are considered by many to be in the luxury category. They’re mostly all inclusive, with a heavy emphasis on good service and food, an open bar, and exotic locations. SeaDream cruises are mostly marketed to couples. There are no programs for children and, although families can and do sail with SeaDream, it’s really more of a romantic cruise.
This particular cruise was in the South Caribbean. It started in Antigua and ended a week later in Barbados. Our first SeaDream cruise had been in April 2010, starting in San Juan, Puerto Rico and ending in Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I was excited about our second SeaDream cruise, because the first one had really bowled us over in a big way. This was also only our second time in the Caribbean together, so I looked forward to exploring new places.
Before we got on the ship, Bill and I spent a couple of days in Antigua. Antigua has stunningly beautiful beaches, which I loved. It also has incredibly strong sunshine, which my pale skin doesn’t love. We spent one day on Segways and another on an “extreme” circumnavigation tour around the island, after which some of us jumped off the boat and swam in the deep blue water of the Caribbean Sea. Despite using a lot of strong sunscreen, I got a terrible sunburn complete with blisters.
Prior to our cruise, I had been posting on Cruise Critic. A man wrote that he would be joining us on our cruise and wanted advice on what to pack. I answered him, and once we got on the boat, we met him. I’ll call him “Dick” (obviously not his real name). He was from England, and told us that his wife had just died of breast cancer, so he was taking this trip alone. I initially felt a bit sorry for him, especially given that besides a large family group led by an overbearing guy with a mustache that resembled a gigantic brown caterpillar, this cruise mostly consisted of couples.
Our anniversary cruise got off to a good start. We saw some familiar faces from the last time we sailed with SeaDream. The weather was great, and SeaDream’s two identical vessels seem custom made for the Caribbean. Bill and I befriended a couple of other British couples. There was also a group of friendly Norwegians whom I thought were great fun, although Dick didn’t like them at all. He repeatedly complained about them being loud and obnoxious. I liked the Norwegians, though. They were gregarious and nice, and not at all snobby, unlike the large group of Brazilians who were on our first SeaDream cruise. I remember one of the bartenders on SeaDream had complained about the Brazilians, because they stayed up all night, got very drunk, and basically took over the cruise with their antics.
Over the course of a few days talking to Dick, he told us a bit about himself. He was fairly good looking and obviously had a good job that paid enough that he could afford SeaDream. I remember Dick had very intense blue eyes and silver hair. Though he was a bit paunchy, he carried it well and probably didn’t have much trouble meeting women. He was also kind of witty, intelligent, and charming, if not somewhat cocky and rude.
As an example of his rudeness, Dick actually wondered out loud how it was that Bill and I could afford to be on SeaDream, since Bill was at that time still in the Army. He also called his wife a “cow” for “dying on him.” I heard him make other comments that indicated that he had certain standards when it came to his women. I didn’t take his comments seriously, because I am already married to a great guy and not looking to impress anyone else. Still, I was kind of shocked that Dick claimed to be mourning his dead wife, yet he repeatedly called her a cow because she’d had the gall to get very sick with cancer and die. In retrospect, that should have been a clue that we should have stayed away from him.
One thing I hadn’t done during our first SeaDream cruise was visit the piano bar. Instead, I participated in a horrible karaoke session led by a guitar player who wasn’t very enthusiastic about the job. I was pretty much the only person who sang. I ended up meeting some great people after that show, but I was grateful that they didn’t offer karaoke on our second cruise. It was legitimately terrible, with few songs to choose from; those that were offered were of poor quality. The experience was not made any better by the reluctant guitar player, who clearly would have preferred playing his instrument to spinning badly produced pre-recorded tracks for shy cruisers.
As I discovered on our second and third cruises, it was far better to go to the piano bar, where a friendly Filipino pianist named George would play music and sing. The bartender would bring out non-stop drinks and people would lose their inhibitions and join in on old pop songs. It was a lot of fun.
On the first night of the cruise, Bill and I went into the piano bar just after dinner. We were the only ones in there, mainly because no one else had yet discovered it. I was feeling a little shy, but decided to sing a song for my husband, who had generously paid for our anniversary trip from his meager Army officer’s salary. As I was singing to Bill, Dick happened to be passing. He walked into the bar, eyes widened in surprise and mouth agape. Then he looked at Bill and said,
“Now I can see why you’d love her.”
I must have looked shocked, hurt, and upset, because Dick then grabbed me in an awkward, sweaty, and somewhat unwelcome hug and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” The hug made the situation worse because Dick had gone from a backhanded compliment to pity. He had been drinking, so his inhibitions were lowered. It was a bit embarrassing, but at least we were the only ones who witnessed it besides George, the pianist.
It turned out that Dick was himself not a bad singer. He joined us, and pretty soon, other people came in and sang along, including the rowdy group of Norwegians. The Norwegians took a liking to me and chatted up Bill as they took pictures and videos of me singing. Unbeknownst to me, the Norwegians took pictures of me with my camera. I was kind of mortified by my appearance. I looked pretty terrible. My skin was red and blistered from the sunburn. I was wearing a casual dress that was lightweight, but not particularly stylish. I’m also fat, especially by SeaDream trophy wife standards, and I don’t photograph well under the best of circumstances. The damp Caribbean weather had made my hair a frizzy mess that defied styling. But we still had a really good time, despite Dick’s rude comment that let me know how he really felt about me.
At an earlier time, I might have been horrified by Dick’s comment and the unflattering pictures taken by the Norwegians with my camera without my permission. But then I took a good look at Bill’s face in those photos…
Despite looking like a middle-aged frump, I ended up becoming somewhat of a “star” during that cruise, which was kind of a thrill! We enjoyed a few fun evenings in the piano bar, although I made a point of not going in there every night. Later on during that cruise, Dick got pissed off at the Norwegians and actually challenged one of them to “step outside”, which no doubt would have resulted in someone being kicked off the cruise. This was after he and another passenger, spotting a bar that was unattended, snuck behind it and helped themselves to bourbon. Granted, the booze was mostly covered by the fare anyway, but helping oneself is a no no.
At the time all of this was happening, I kind of excused Dick for his dickish behavior. I figured he was distraught and grieving, and maybe it was hard for him to be on a ship full of couples and a couple of rowdy groups. Now, after thinking about it, I just think he was a narcissistic prick, and I wish I had just told him to fuck off. It later occurred to me that I may not be the type of woman this man “fancies”, but that doesn’t really matter. In my eyes, Bill is a much better “catch” all the way around than that drunken asshole is. I’m not sure why he felt his opinions about my looks were really important, anyway. He’s not married to me, and thank GOD for that. Besides, there’s no reason for anyone to pity me. I live an enviable life with a man who honestly loves me for who I am, and not just for what I look like and how I can make him look standing by his side.
Unfortunately, the world is rife with self-absorbed jerks who think nothing of subjecting innocent people to their boorish behavior. Too many people care what assholes think about them and they allow these shallow fucks the power to alter their moods. I admit it. It offends me when people say stupid, hurtful things to me. As I age, I’m trying to get better at not caring.
If you aren’t comfortable with yourself, you can send out signals that others shouldn’t be comfortable with you, either. I really think that’s the root of the issue. If you don’t love and accept yourself as you are, it’s hard to expect others to love and accept you. But still, I get why it’s hurtful and depressing to have no control over some aspect of your appearance and have other people make unkind remarks that insinuate that you should care about what they think. Many of us are conditioned from birth to care what others think of us, which makes thoughtless and rude comments about appearance brutal to hear.
It can take time before you can see a person’s inner beauty. Someone whose looks are average or below average may have attractive qualities that don’t immediately meet the eye. How will you know if the sunburned heavyset lady with the weird hair has a pretty singing voice and a wicked sense of humor if you never deign to speak to her? Incidentally, I’m still not a raving beauty, but there have been times since that trip that I’ve looked a lot prettier than I did on the night Dick insulted me. Not being sunburned, letting my hair go natural, and not being in a humid place really helps. See?
There’s a lot more to people than their appearances. Sure, a pretty face and perfect body are attractive, but what if that good looking person is a mean-spirited creep or a self-absorbed bore? Maybe it’s lucky that I met Bill online and he got to *see* my personality before he saw what I look like. On the other hand, on my ugliest day, I’m still way more beautiful to him than his ex wife was. And my beauty compared to hers has nothing at all to do with physical looks, but rather with how I treat other people, Bill in particular. We get along beautifully because we like each other, laugh at the same jokes, cooperate in each other’s successes and support each other in our failures. What’s most important is that we truly love each other– the whole package– even when we’re fat, unstylish, sunburned, and have weird, frizzy hair that defies taming. Or, in Bill’s case right now, hair that has been cut three times by his wife, who isn’t a skilled barber…
Anyway, I don’t know what happened to Dick. I hope he found himself the woman he truly deserves…