Now that was not a word I hear often these days.
These days, it’s all who slept with who and on what date, and one night stands and accidental sex leading to romance. Which is all very well if you swing that way but I never wanted to meet a man for sex first.
Does anybody court anymore, or is that an old fashioned game.
He courted me, though. Before he married me, that is. Let me tell you this story, because it is warm and sweet and very dear to my heart.
He asked me to go out with him, the first time. I stood for ages in front of the mirror, pinching my cheeks like in the books and debating whether or not to wear makeup. I didn’t even own any makeup back then. Only a wand of mascara and an old foundation bottle that my mum had no use for anymore.
I was nineteen. He was twenty two.
I went downstairs and my hair was still damp from the shower so I pulled it back into a high ponytail, my thick, heavy curls cascading down over my back and my mum surveyed me and tweaked my hair a little, pulling a strand or two down by my face.
‘You look lovely,’ she said.
When I walked into the front room to see if he was ready I was trembling with nerves. I was aware my face was flushed and his was a little too, which I thought was so sweet. He put my hand through his arm when we walked and he opened the car door for me and he bought me a bouquet of lilies.
He smelled amazing. Musky and minty and cinnamon and leather. His face was so handsome. But on that first date, when we sat opposite each other just talking the hours away, he smiled at me. A real, genuine smile. And something deep down within me shifted a little bit. Moved out of place. My body became aware of his presence, and my stomach somersaulted quietly.
He courted me. Every time he came to see me, he brought me something. He always had something to show me, something to tell me. When we talked, hours would pass that felt like mere minutes.
Once he came home from Worcester where he worked during the week, and came straight to see me in his work shirt, the top button undone. He looked exhausted.
He said, ‘I couldn’t wait till Friday, I had to see you.’
He’d driven an hour and a half straight after work in the traffic and arrived at 9PM and was I flattered? Yes of course, and my heart surged with happiness but I just smiled and let him in and made him a cheese toastie and some Lady Grey.
It was Tuesday. He sat in my room until midnight and we barely noticed the time go by, and his proximity to me drove me crazy. I could see his muscular arms through the white shirt and the way his shoulders were so big and straight, and his mouth when he spoke to me and his smell every time he moved and I couldn’t even look at him because I thought I was going to kiss him, and I had never kissed him, and I didn’t know what to do with myself.
One night I wore my red dress and red lipstick and he couldn’t stop looking at me and I felt it and I felt like my dress material was too thin and I was so hot even though the wind was biting, and I didn’t want the evening to end.
When he dropped me home he text me straight away, ‘I couldn’t tell you, I don’t know why, you looked so beautiful tonight.’
The next time he saw me he asked me to marry him. He said when I wore my red dress he couldn’t believe I was real and he felt like a very lucky guy.
I didn’t hesitate. I said yes.
When he did finally kiss me properly it was after we got married and it was in a hospital room where I was held hostage for a week and it as just before he had to leave.
The moment had been building up all evening, and we’d talked about everything we could think of, and the lights in the hospital room were dimmed, and outside the window the lights of the city were gleaming through the night and it was magical, in a hospital room that smelled sterilised and sickening.
And finally he got up and said he had to go because he had a long drive home. So I reached my arms around him to hug him and he put his forehead on mine and whispered that he wanted to stay. And I held him closer and then his nose was on mine and then his lips were on mine and it was like electricity from my neck to my toes.
He held me so tight and his mouth was so soft and his arms were so strong and muscular and I never wanted it to end, I never wanted him to leave. The nurses had to force him out and they made a joke that sounded so bawdy and horrible and I didn’t like it because this wasn’t like that at all.
And he waited till they left and sneaked back in and pulled me close to him one last time, and held my face so gently and kissed me and kissed me until I thought I would turn into a puddle on the ground.
He courted me even after he married me. He took me to London one time and planned a whole day out and another time he took me to the aquarium in Birmingham and he came out with all these little tidbits of information about fish and I said, ‘where did you learn all this?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know’.
This morning his boxers were still damp from the washing so he asked me if I could lie down on them under the covers while he was in the shower and when he came out the boxers were warm and as he buttoned up his work shirt he said, ‘I got that idea from eskimos, they sleep on their clothes when they are wet because that is the only way they can dry them.’
‘How do you know that?’ I said, incredulous because where on earth did he get that information?
‘I don’t know.’
And I love him madly so so madly even though he frustrates me and can be a right moody git to me but he takes care of me so well like a true gentleman. A true gentleman who is not a romantic guy but he does small things that make me pleased and his smile is electric and every single time he smiles he charms me, even when I am in a temper. His dimples and his cheeks and his eyes filled with light and mirth and if anything ever happened to him I don’t know what I would do without him and his smile and his light and laughter and life.
And this story is old fashioned, and we are a little old fashioned, but this is how it panned out and this is how we are.