Laura is hot. I don’t mean a little bit hot. I mean every man looks when she walks into the room. All ages, no matter who they are. Gay guys look. Even women look. That kind of hot.
And Laura knows it, and loves it. At the age of 45, she thinks she has to pay more attention to her looks than she used to, so that she doesn’t lose the ability to be the centre of attention. She probably doesn’t need to do that, but her choices of clothing still show off her looks to advantage, and she keeps very fit, and all that. She doesn’t take her beauty for granted. She works at it.
Laura has been hot as far back as she can remember. In high school, boys were so overwhelmed they couldn’t talk to her. After university, she worked in an insurance company, where every man ogled her looks. It garnered some unwanted attention, especially from bosses and even their bosses. Some guys see a beautiful woman as a challenge, not a person.
For example, she often thought that she was invited to meetings just because of her looks. She would walk into a boardroom filled with a dozen guys, either executives from her own company, or from a customer, and have no apparent role. No-one wanted her to say anything, or even take notes. “Just listen and learn”, they would say.
‘Eye candy’ is the word that springs to mind.
It would be poetic (or cinematic, perhaps) if, hidden under her stunning exterior, she was a genius nerd whose intelligence was underappreciated by the world. Alas, that would be a lie. She’s not an idiot by any means. On the other hand, there is no threat that she will supplant Stephen Hawking (or Al Gore, or Grigori Perelman, or Ruth Lawrence, or whoever it is) as the world’s smartest person.
Nor does Laura complain that no-one can get past her looks, and see the real Laura. She loves being beautiful, and has the hauteur that only the impossibly rich, or the impossibly gorgeous, can have. She has an advantage, and she will not reject it.
That doesn’t mean she’s lazy or manipulative. Unlike some other beautiful women, she never tries to get guys to do her work, even if they are acting entirely like puppy dogs. She will never engineer a raise, or a promotion, because she is better looking than someone else. (Did she ever receive any for that reason? Who knows, but it would have mortified her if she knew it.)
Yet when you see her walk down the hall, nose ever so slightly in the air, hips swaying only a tiny bit, she exudes a confidence, almost nobility, that is entirely because of her looks. She doesn’t smile much, but when she does, it dazzles. Most of the time, though, she is the queen, surveying her world. Queens don’t smile.
Now, when it came to relationships, she found that her looks were a mixed blessing.
On the one hand, all she needed to do is show the slightest amount of interest, and any guy would be eager to go out with her. She once said – almost with regret – that she had never experienced the pain of rejection. Men never rejected Laura.
On the other hand, her looks attracted a lot of the wrong guys. She was the ultimate trophy wife or girlfriend, so more than a few good-looking, strong-willed, highly successful men came calling. Some of them were even single and/or available. But a big part of their plan and goal, she found, was to bend her to their will. ‘Capturing’ Laura was a way to stoke their egos, but that only worked if, on some level, they owned her. Laura didn’t really want to be owned.
She was also a target at the other extreme, for men who wanted to submit to a ‘goddess’ spouse, put her on a pedestal and worship her. She never really wanted to be worshipped (except from afar). She wasn’t, and isn’t, a fan of weak people.
Of course, there were always the great looking guys, who saw her as their natural match. At one point, she took to putting her index finger down her throat every time someone said “Think of the amazingly attractive children we could have”.
People find their match at different times of their lives, but certainly when a woman is that good looking, everyone expects her to find someone earlier rather than later. So, when Laura turned 30, still single, with no-one even on her dance card, some people raised their eyebrows. What’s wrong with Laura, they thought? There didn’t seem to be any of the obvious reasons why she wouldn’t have a boyfriend, or a husband. She clearly liked the company of men, and her former boyfriends all thought of her as a wonderful person. There was no hint of any hang-ups. She wanted a family, and didn’t hide that fact. (Maybe she thought too much of herself, some said, so she became too picky.)
She met Rick when she was 33. Rick is an actuary, working at the same insurance company. He is, in some respects, a caricature of an actuary: geeky, introverted, and good with numbers.
From the outside, he seemed to have a number of strikes against him, in terms of being a possible match for Laura. He is short, shorter than Laura, and quite obviously not physically attractive. He has prominent ears, a goose neck with overly prominent Adam’s apple, and a growing (at that time) bald spot. He is eight years her senior, but looks more like 20 years older. Even at that age, he was still a bachelor, and everyone would have assumed he would stay one. He had then and has now, a decent job, but he will never progress further. His income is the same as Laura’s. It will never be more. His personality can be described, to be nice, as shy. He is not good with people. He can’t make a presentation; he would freeze up.
More than that, he does not have a strong personality. You could call him passive, or submissive, at least in the business environment. He has been known to have ‘tantrums’ – you couldn’t call them anything else – when something happens that he thinks is unfair. Aside from those, he is non-assertive to a fault.
So when Laura announced to everyone that she and Rick were a couple, some jaws dropped. When she later announced, at the age of 34, that they were going to get married, heads shook.
It wasn’t just that everyone thought “He’s not her type”. It was that he had so many things about him that she didn’t want, and had been vocal in saying so. Laura was adamant that she didn’t want her partner to be a puppy dog, but what was Rick? She always said she wanted a strong and intelligent man, yet Rick, while good with numbers, is no smarter than Laura. He certainly isn’t strong.
It was more surprising still because Laura was so clearly in love with Rick that it was like a romance novel. When she talked about him, it was with a kind of reverence, like Rick walked on water. Woe to anyone who disparaged him. She was quite ready to turn them to stone with one well-aimed look.
Despite the collective view of her friends that this was a match that could only make sense in some kind of parallel universe, they did get married (ten years ago this month, in fact). The bride, 35, and the groom, 43, looked a bit like an odd couple, but exuded happiness as they launched a new part of their lives.
They didn’t waste their time. Within the first year, they bought a suburban home, and shortly after that announced that Laura was pregnant with their first child. After their daughter was born, they had two more, so that now, with daughters 8 and 3, and a son, 6, they have the family they both wanted.
And they continue to be bubbling over with happiness. Laura just came back to work. Unlike the old Laura, who sometimes could have a bit of an edge (assuming that “bitchy” is too sexist a description these days), she doesn’t seem to have any off days. She still doesn’t smile any more than she did before. She still walks around the office with an air of ownership. Her looks, at 45, are still off the charts. But you can see, under the surface….happy, happy, happy.
Rick is the same. There are no more tantrums. He still has the same job, and he is both diligent and competent (and just as socially inept), but he has an air of contentment that he never had before.
Needless to say, from time to time their ‘beauty and the beast’ relationship is the subject of office gossip and speculation. People like to talk, especially about relationships, and even more especially about the relationships of others. A relationship mystery? How juicy is that?
All Laura will say is that Rick is a wonderful guy. He loves her, and she loves him, and they both love their kids. (One bold soul in her office speculated that Rick must be sensational in bed, to which Laura responded “Oh, my God, I wish. Then he would be perfect.”)
Funny, though, that the truth is there for anyone who cares to look. It is not necessary to speculate. Just watch them.
Take last year’s company Christmas party, for example, several hundred people in a crowded banquet hall. It is one of the few times people at work have seen how Rick and Laura relate to each other on a personal level.
Laura looked like a guest celebrity, with an outfit that most people would have guessed was from a top designer. (It wasn’t, of course. Laura and Rick don’t have that kind of money.) Rick, while presentable, looked a little bit like Bill Gates forgot to pay his tailor.
The dynamic between them appeared to be Laura in charge, and Rick her eager acolyte. She led the way, finding a table beside the dance floor. She asked him to get drinks, but on the way he talked to no-one, coming back immediately to their table. From time to time, she got up and walked around the room, greeting co-workers and allowing those she didn’t know to admire her beauty. Her face was granite. Her walk around the room, the centre of attention, was an act driven by noblesse oblige.
All pretty predictable, unless you continued to watch after she got back to their seats. When Laura got back to Rick, her face softened, her eyes flashed, and she relaxed. And when Rick had Laura back with him, he became animated and – well, at least it looked like it – confident.
And they laughed. They talked to each other constantly, interrupting each other, gesturing, and above all, laughing, sometimes to the point of tears in their eyes. They shared stories, ideas, something that allowed them to exist in a happy bubble just big enough for the two of them.
It went on all night. When they interacted with others, Laura was her queenly self, pleasant but aloof. Rick smiled, but then stammered or was silent. When alone, even in a crowded room, they were two people having a great time with each other.
Laura doesn’t really talk to anyone about her relationship with Rick. If she were to open up – this will never happen, of course – she would say what she said to her mother, ten years earlier. “Mom,” she said, “Rick makes me laugh. He doesn’t really care how I look. He just likes to be with me, because he likes Laura. He wants to spend time with me. He tells me interesting things, funny things, even thoughtful things. He wants to make me laugh and be happy. No-one else could ever possibly love me like that, and for sure I’ll never feel as comfortable with another man as I feel with him.”
Last month, just before their tenth anniversary, there was an incident at work. One of the finance executives suggested to Laura that maybe she would be interested in him, now that she had finished having her children. His implicit pitch was that she could certainly do better than Rick.
She laughed at him. No-one knows exactly what words she said (or how cruel she allowed herself to be), but the gist of it was that he could never compete with Rick, not in a million years.
Relationships are about people making each other happy. There are a million ways for that to happen. If there was ever a couple that found their perfect match, Laura and Rick are that couple. It doesn’t have to be logical. It just has to work.
– Jay Shepherd, February 1, 2016