Sunday, April 8, 2007


It’s beginning to feel a lot like…prom season. I bought three prom magazines for the library, and just about every girl has thumbed through them at least once trying to plan the perfect night. I remember when my three girls were so afflicted, only they were very thoughtful. As daughters of a true bargain hunter, they took pride in finding the cheapest prom dresses and accessories on the east coast. They knew that the outfit, just like a wedding dress, would probably only be worn once. The youngest found a gorgeous brand new Hawaiian-print cheongsam for ten bucks in a resale shop! Anticipation was usually more fun than the actual prom itself anyway. I’ve found sometimes the more excited you get about something, the less fun you have.

New Year’s Eve used to be the worst night ever before I met my husband. Inevitably I’d get all gorgeous only to have a fight with my date. But the prep time with the teasing, hairspray, high heels and false eyelashes was always fun.

Several years ago, we took a trip to England. I’d done my research beforehand, and I was determined to see an estate called Athelhampton in Dorset. I mean, I was salivating. The day we arrived at the gates, the property was closed to the public because they were hosting a charity event. I was crushed. I mumbled to myself my expectations were probably too high anyway---just like prom and New Year’s Eve, I was bound to be disappointed.

But the next day, my husband and oldest daughter insisted we try again. Oh my. For once my ideals and reality collided into perfect harmony. The house itself was a wonderful treasure trove, but the elaborate gardens were what really caught my fancy. I pictured my heroes and heroines strolling the avenues, inhaling the scent of roses, listening to the rushing river. The Great Court with its awesome yew pyramids truly was great. I’m sure there are more historic or important houses and gardens in England, but Athelhampton will always be special to me because it was even better than I imagined.

What have you looked forward to that didn’t turn out quite the way you expected? What surpassed your wildest dreams?

Any prom night horror stories? I know Santa has one in her book! My spaghetti strap broke. Oh, the horror.

How do you feel about the AAR’s “most disappointing book” category? What new releases are you craving? I’d risk my ladylike reputation to get my hands on Loretta Chase’s latest Not Quite A Lady.

April 8-14 is National Garden Week. We still have snow here, but that’s another story. Here’s a shout-out to my middle daughter, who is a professional gardener extraordinaire. The estate gardens she’s designed have been on the Islesboro Garden Tour, and she planted a wonderful perennial garden for me one Mother’s Day, a gift that kept on giving until we moved. Sigh.


Erica Ridley said...

Not sure if this counts, but the first thing that springs to mind is the time I went to Budapest. I knew absolutely zero about Hungary, so I arranged my Eurail pass to stop for a day trip and nothing more. Huge mistake--Budapest was awesome! Beautiful! Amazing! The people were *so* friendly. I totally shortchanged myself.

So, I guess it was a good/bad example of not meeting my expectations. It was much better than I could've imagined, but I'd already scheduled my itinerary and was stuck with a fleeting time frame. Aargh!

Hellie Sinclair said...

I was all but dumped on prom--but I looked darned good. And after all that time fixing my hair, my makeup, slinking into my dead sexy dress--and most of the prom goers had dispersed because the DJ they hired played primarily rock and roll and not country. (Well, DUH, they hired a rock and roll DJ, what did they expect?) So I arrived at prom with my date to a rapidly dispersing crowd, didn't get recognized--or if I did, it was the unflattering, "OMG, Hellion, is that you? I didn't recognize you because you looked good" remarks--and my date gave me back my class ring. (He was already seeing somebody else, not that I would figure this out for another month.)

How about sex? I mean, I don't really expect sex to live up to a romance novels expectations, but I would like it to be somewhere in the same ball park--or at least look like the same game!

Terri Osburn said...

I've taken a couple of vacations with the women in my family in recent years and I get all excited to go on vacation then they manage to spoil it. I've informed them if they take any future vacations, count me out. I'd rather go off to a B&B alone. I'd have a much better time.

And that sex thing I have to second. I mean, I am lucky enough to know that it can be done really good but as far as I can tell, most men really have no idea what they are doing. It's most annoying...

Janga said...

I wonder if we set ourselves up for disappointment sometimes because we expect more than any moment or any person can possibly provide.

I have a friend who is in the very early stages of what promises to be a very nasty divorce. She said to me today in one of those long conversations that consisted of tears, recollections, tears, recriminations, tears, self-blame, tears--the kind where all that is required of the listener is an ear, hugs, and an unending supply of Kleenex--"He was my everything." I didn't say what I was thinking because she needed a friend then, not a critic, but I could not help wondering if that expectation was part of the problem. Some women fall in love with the idea that the beloved is going to be best friend, skilled and passionate lover, Father of every year to any offspring, and a dozen other roles--all perfectly fulfilled. No one person can be all those things--much less be all those things superlatively. Such expectations must place an incredible burden on a relationship.

A student said in a conference today, as he tried to convince me that his problems with his girlfriend could be a suitable topic for a problem-solution essay, "I'm really crazy about her, but if I am going to spend my life with her, shouldn't there be more?"

In a few short weeks I am going to be semi-retired. I have been planning for years all the things that I would accomplish "when I retired." Now that the time is almost upon me, I am fearful that I may not accomplish those things after all, that retirement will be gray rather than rainbow-hued.

I am not giving answers. I don't have any. I am just wondering.

Lindsey said...

Great topic, Maggie! Movies are what never live up to my expectations - I always have very high expectations of movies I get excited about, and they rarely live up to them. This is less true about books, but I only seem to get really excited about the right books! ;) Oh, and when I was teaching, student essays never met my expectations. Ugh.

But in most other situations anticipation only heightens pleasure for me.

Lenora Bell said...

I'll chip in with a prom story: three days before my senior prom, our old wooden house almost burned down because of a chimney fire. Luckily we all got out in time, but my prom dress went up in smoke. I think I still have the bow from it somewhere, the one piece I salvaged after the firefighters put out the blaze. We lost so many memories that day...and my prom dress was nothing compared to the photographs and home movies...but to a teenager it was pretty tragic.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Erica, at least you know where to dream about next! My son and his then girlfriend stayed in Budapest for a week once, paying something like than $12 a day for their apartment.

Hellion and Terrio, I wonder if romance novels are ruining are expectations about sex! The real thing sometimes falls *ahem* short.

Janga, I bet you will find your "semi" retirement filled with sparkle. But I also bet there'll be an initial letdown. You'll figure it out. Most people I know who've retired are busier than they've ever been. They make me tired just listening.

Lindsey, I'm with you on the movies. I've become a huge critic of everything and can't remember a movie I haven't felt "qualified" about. And books are really disappointing lately with a few notable exceptions.

Lenora, your story is so sad! I have so much stuff I'd miss if it disappeared, especially pictures of my kids. Did you go to the prom anyway?

Terri Osburn said...


I do believe that most people go into marriage with completely unrealistic expectations. The divorce rate is huge proof of that.

But I cannot see you doing anything but having a retirement that others will envy. You are so full of life and have so much to give, just think of it as a new beginning and not so much an ending. If I manage to accomplished a tenth of what you have already, I'll be more than happy. *g*

irisheyes said...

Never went to prom! Didn't want to incur the expense and didn't want to go with a friend's brother's friend's cousin just to go to the prom. So there were no expectations there.

I do find my expectations very high for movies lately and books, especially books by my auto buy authors. I expect a lot and I find when my expectations are lower I enjoy the book more. I tend to enjoy a book I just happen upon a lot more than those I wait months and months to be released.

Janga, ITA about marriage nowadays. I believe the problem is rooted in women (and men) trying to find someone to fill a void in their lives, instead of adding something new to their already satisfying life.

I know how you feel about your retirement. I use to think once I stopped working full time I would have so much time to get all this stuff done. I don't have as much time as I thought I'd have and I definitely don't get as much done as I'd like.

RevMelinda said...

I went to prom--it was a reasonably good time. I had a lovely Jessica McClintock dress (it was the 70's, sigh) and felt beautiful (even though I had to ask the guy out, and it was gross when he kissed me afterward, and it was the only date I ever went on in high school, LOL).

Keeping realistic expectations about marriage--and someone else's ability to "make me happy"--has been a big life lesson for me, definitely a growth opportunity (!). I am a romance reader, after all, and I so want to believe in the effortless and problem-free HEA--but I am coming to the understanding that love is not a feeling so much as it is a vocation or a job. That is to say, it's something I have to do instead of just feel (does this make any sense?)

And that said, I just want to be encouraging to mshellion and terrio and say that, in my experience (married 18 years), physical love just gets better and better when you have a partner you love and trust and share a history with. Definitely romance-novel levels, almost every time--and wow, at our ages, too! (blushing)

RevMelinda said...

PS Maggie, on the topic of gardening, my 10 year old just won an art contest and will have her "Be A Natural Gardener" billboard displayed in several places in our Home Town. There are pix on my blog at

Stop by and say hi!


Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

RevM, I can't access your livejournal blog for some reason. I'd love to come visit. I'll keep trying, though..I think I did all the slashes and stuff correctly...maybe you can send a direct link to my e-mail at

Irisheyes, I didn't go to my junior prom, even tho I was on the decorating committee. At the last minute this really horrible gross boy asked me but I told him my parents couldn't afford a dress for me!

santasmbslt said...

Prom night? Never happened. Spent junior prom working and vowed never to be the one selling the beer to everyone else. Senior prom. I asked a guy who graduated. He politely declined. I hung out in the parking lot of a local strip mall. Pathetic? Yes. Fatal? No. Met my soul mate three months later. Fabulous? Absolutely.

irisheyes said...

I'd like to chime in on the romance readers high expectations of sex, also. I didn't start reading these books until I was 5 or 6 years into my marriage and they definitely helped my sex life - didn't hurt it!

I don't know what would have happened if I would have been reading these books before I met my DH. I would like to think I would have had better sex earlier! LOL

I totally agree with Revmelinda in that I married my best friend and I love him to death, but, I believe love is a decision not a feeling. The highs and lows come and go but the decision is constant. It's also very much a mutual decision and hard work sometimes. You both have to be on the same page and communicate CONSTANTLY.

I don't even know what I'm trying to say. Maybe that reading romance books hasn't raised my expectation levels unreasonably high. I've read some books and thought to myself - yeah, my DH would say or do that (just not all the time). The books are sort of compacted and concentrated into the span of boy meets girl, boys loses girl and boy gets girl again, marries her and they live HEA. But when you spread a relationship out over 30-50 years it can't be flowers and poems constantly. But it does happen and when it does it's grand!!!

Terri Osburn said...

Forgot to mention - I never went to a prom. No formals in HS ever. The funny thing is that I started my first journal in the months leading up to my Sr. prom so I could write somewhere how depressed I was that I wasn't going. That was a little notebook and I think I still have it, along with the 6 or 7 other jounals I've filled since then.

Dear diary......LOL!

MistyJo said...

I've thought about it today, and one of my biggest disappointments was when I went to a GAY BAR. Years ago, during the 1998 or 1999, a group of college friends and I were hanging out at a party at a professor's house, and when the party started dying down, we decided to check out the local gay bar. I had never been to one, and I had high expectations. I mean think about men are so very particular. I was expecting something very nice, but man, was I let down. The local gay bar wound up being a SKANKY GAY BAR! The furniture didn't match and there were adult porn pages taped to the walls. NASTY! It was such a disappointing experience that I haven't set foot in another gay bar since then. I didn't even go back to that one to see one of my friends perform in drag, even after I had given him make-up advice and what colors in clothing would make him look fat.

lacey kaye said...

Oh, I agree the more you anticipate something the less fun it is.

For my prom, my mom bought my dress--without me! I tried it on and I liked it and it was very reasonably-priced, so I wore it. I just thought hm, I'm pretty sure it doesn't usually work like this!

Beverley Kendall said...

I moved from Canada two months before my senior prom so I didn't attend. But I've had many books that I've anticipated turn out to be less than stellar.

Oh and I remember visiting the Washington DC when i was in my teens I being so disappointed that the surrounding area was so dilapidated. Definitely did not live up to what I thought it would be.