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With Valentine’s Day almost here, we’re all feeling the pressure to be romantic. But for couples like us who’ve been married a long time, it’s not always easy. We’ve all seen those awkward commercials. Unrealistically tall, thin, good-looking actors holding hands in outdoor bathtubs and canoodling in public. The woman has silky long hair and flowing garments that might fall off at the slightest tug, and the man has a rugged jawline, piercing blue eyes and impossibly white teeth. They exchange “come hither” stares and knowing smiles, as one leads the other by the hand toward the bedroom. But igniting passion is not a matter of popping a little blue pill. Even if there’s plenty of lead in the pencil, it’s the numerous other realities of everyday married life that get in the way of romance. My husband, Francis, and I start yawning — not a particularly attractive human reflex, I might add — about an hour after dinner, the sure sign that we have only one crime show in us before our eyelids drop. My yawns begin discreetly, but as I reach maximum inhale, my face contorts, my nostrils flare and my double chin triples. Francis, on the other hand, makes a dramatic scene of every yawn, with a gasping deep inhale, followed by a hacking exhale that makes everyone around him duck for cover, and ending with a bizarre jaw-chattering finish that sounds something like, “Gi-gi-gi-gi-gi-gahhh!” When we finally trudge upstairs to our bedroom, we don’t just hop in the sack. As a middle-aged couple with the typical achy joints, breathing issues and quirky habits, there is a whole rigamarole we have to go through before we can attempt sleep. Unfortunately, this routine is not conducive to romance. After the dog dutifully flops into his crate in our bedroom, Francis heads to the bathroom in his boxer shorts. With the door wide open, he makes all necessary deposits before flushing, leaving the seat up. Then, he stands at the mirror, trying to decide whether it is worth brushing his teeth or not. Groggy eyed, we pass in the hallway just as Francis finishes up an especially noisy yawn. “Ah, ah (inhaling) … achhhhhh (the hacking exhale) … Gi, gi, gi, gi, gahhh.” After brushing and flossing, I take my fiber pills and ginkgo biloba, and then insert the bulky, drool-producing mouth guard that keeps me from grinding my teeth. “I’m EX-THAUTH-TED,” I announce with a night-guard lisp after entering the bedroom. I put on my flannel PJs while Francis fiddles with the equipment on his nightstand. It takes a few minutes for him to fix the complicated straps of his sleep apnea headgear, and at the same time, I wrestle with the Velcro fasteners of my plantar fasciitis night splint boot. Francis flips a switch, and I hear the whirr of his C-Pap machine. I place an extra pillow under my knees to stave off hip pains, and open my book. Francis can’t sleep with the lights on, so I grab the set of reading glasses I recently found that have little LED lights built into them. I press the buttons on either side of the lenses, and two piercing rays illuminate the pages of my book. “Good night, Thweetie,” I lisp to my husband of 23 years in the dark. Francis jerks out of a half slumber and, like something out of “Alien,” turns his head toward me with four feet of flexible tubing extending from the rubber nosepiece strapped to his face. I glance over at him from my contour pillow, looking like some kind of drooling underground miner, and nearly blind him with my laser beams. He squints in recognition, and mumbles an airy reply through his plastic trunk. “GNooo-Nihhht, Hhhonhhee.” A few minutes later, in the white noise silence of our marital bedroom, the dog begins to snore. This Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate the fact that any couple who can get in the mood in the midst of all that middle-aged reality has more passion in their marriage than any little blue pill could ever provide.

Read more of Lisa Smith Molinari’s columns at: Email:

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