Happy Anniversary, Handsome Stranger

(Marybeth Hicks is a writer and author of the features “then again.” and “A View from the Pew.” A wife of 17 years and mother of four children from first grade to freshman year, she uses her columns to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families and the communities we share. Marybeth began her writing career more than 20 years ago in the Reagan White House. She also has worked in marketing and public relations positions in corporate and agency settings. Mostly, she spends a lot of time in her mini-van, where the real work of parenting actually happens. Learn more about Marybeth and her column at www.marybethhicks.com.)

This year, I celebrate an important anniversary. Not the day I married my husband (17 years ago), or a milestone birthday (44 is more like a rock than stone). No, the balmy breezes of summer will usher in the first anniversary of that momentous occasion: The Day a Handsome Stranger Hit on Me While My Husband and Four Children Stood Nearby.

It's an event I'll never forget.

We're downtown at the music festival listening to a Cajun band. The accordion is fired up, the fiddle is hot, and the lead singer plays a mean triangle. They're singing in French, mostly, so who knows what they're saying? But who cares? They have roughly 300 people dancing under a tent, generating some heat to make up for the unseasonably cool temperature on this summer night.

My husband and our two younger kids have staked out a spot several feet behind me, where the chances of dripping ice cream on strangers are minimized. They're perched on a curb for a better view. The older girls are with me, just behind the last row of chairs that surround the dance floor. Great spot &#0151 not too close to the speakers and a clear view of the band.

I'm not one to let a good beat go unnoticed so I bounce to the music, which is also helping me keep warm. I've already zipped up my sweatshirt against the chill and pulled my sleeves down over my hands.

Bopping in place to the music as I am, with my wedding ring hidden under the sleeve that doubles as a mitten, I must look like I'm itching to join the dancers. Or, I'm just a middle-aged hottie and I don't know it. Because on about the third song of the set, a tall, attractive, 30-ish guy comes over to me and says, “Would you like to dance?”

Dance? Me? With you? A good looking 30-ish guy who isn't the father of my four children, who are now all watching you and wondering what you've just said to their mother?

“No thanks,” I smile, “I brought my regular dance partner.” I nod back toward my husband. The tall, attractive, 30-ish guy says something gracious and walks away.

I turn to my spouse, who gives me a wink and a look that says, “You've still got it, babe!” And that's that.

But not quite.

Now the children weigh in. The younger ones are confused. They know this was odd and they have questions. “Who was that? Do we know him? Why did he talk to you?”

The older girls are livid. “How dare he come up and ask you to dance! What kind of woman does he think you are? And just what did you do to get his attention?” Suddenly, it's my fault a stranger invited me to two-step.

Mostly, they're so embarrassed they want to vaporize. How could I interact with a man who's not their father in a conversation about dancing?

One daughter stalks off to stand on the curb with her dad. The other one looks at me like I'm Jezebel and plops down in an empty seat several rows from where I'm standing. Clearly, this encounter seems disloyal to them.

But they don't get that I have just impressed the only man on planet Earth who matters to me.

I don't expect this will happen again in my lifetime, so I've decided to create an anniversary out of the Day Someone Reminded My Husband He Is the Lucky Man Who Got the Girl.

These days, lots of young men ogle us, but they aren't looking at me. They're checking out our eldest daughter. Needless to say, my husband's response is less enthusiastic.

I mean, a handsome stranger hitting on his wife is one thing. But his 14-year-old high school freshman? Don't even think about it.

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