LAST WEEK was my 14th wedding anniversary. That's right, the big one-four.
I know 14 years isn't a gold anniversary. It's not even a silver anniversary, but maybe we could call it a copper anniversary, or a quartz anniversary, or a synthetic topaz anniversary. Why? Because divorce rates have doubled over the past 20 years among people older than 35, according to a recent study.
That means there are folks our age whose marriages don't last 14 minutes, let alone 14 years. LaVeta and me getting this far is a big deal; so big that we should name our anniversary after a piece of jewelry you can find only on the Home Shopping Network.
That's why I'm calling our 14th the Cubic Zirconia Anniversary. It looks just like a diamond; it just doesn't cost as much.
Alas, we almost missed our Cubic Zirconia Anniversary celebration because both of us had forgotten about it until LaVeta's cousin gave her an anniversary card and a gift. Once I saw the card, I did what any guilt-ridden husband would do. I told LaVeta that the sky was the limit.
She flashed a smile that said, "It's cute that you want to do things we can't afford."
Then she shipped the kids off to her mother's for the evening and we took a trip to our favorite seedy destination - Atlantic City.
In spite of LaVeta's willingness to go the cheap route, I wanted our Cubic Zirconia Anniversary to be special, so we preceded our usual Boardwalk stroll with a trip to the shopping outlets, where I proudly purchased a pair of cut-rate Kenneth Cole sunglasses to go with my white linen Miami Vice outfit.
The fact that I was at least 25 years late in achieving that classic look didn't matter to me. I've been married 14 years. I have children and bills. The way I figure it, the fact that I'm still trying to look good puts me ahead of the game.
LaVeta's attitude toward our shopping trip was similarly pragmatic. She walked into the Bath & Body Works outlet and asked if the scented lotion was still on sale for $3. When they told her the sale had ended and the lotion was once again $12, she said thanks, but no thanks.
That, I believe, is why our marriage has lasted while others have not. LaVeta never wastes my money on the small stuff. Unfortunately, other people don't have those kinds of scruples. Take the guy we met when we left Bath & Body Works.
He wanted to waste my money on small stuff and was willing to tell me anything to accomplish that goal. He rode up to us on a bicycle and launched into a song and dance about having three kids and a string of bad luck.
By the time he got to "my woman done me wrong," I told him I didn't have any extra money. He stopped abruptly and rode away.
Soon after, I convinced LaVeta to take a walk to the Revel casino so that we could celebrate our Cubic Zirconia Anniversary in a place that is well-known for its pricey food. Given the reports about the casino's possible closing, I figured we might as well get it while the getting was good.
A woman who was nearby overheard our Revel conversation and said the casino is home to one of her favorite restaurants. "It's Spanish and it's tapas," she said, "but the food is really good."
"Tapas!" I said excitedly. "How does that sound, LaVeta?"
"Tapas means small plates," she said. "You want to be full, don't you?"
I smiled, grateful to have a wife who knows tapas is not a code word that means they've got Miller Lite at the bar.
We spent the next 45 minutes walking from one casino to another, perusing menus featuring steaks that cost as much as a semester at Yale. Finally, LaVeta convinced me that we could celebrate our Cubic Zirconia Anniversary like we celebrate everything - with lots and lots of food.
We abandoned the casinos and walked to the other end of the Boardwalk and Chickie's & Pete's sports bar, where we donned plastic bibs and cracked our knuckles before diving into a smorgasbord of mussels, crab fries, pizza and Alaskan snow crab legs.
Unconcerned with impressing each other or anyone else, we made a complete mess of the table, took selfies with the food and took turns telling stories about the last 14 years.
Our inexpensive anniversary date was a lot like a cubic zirconia. It looked like a diamond. It was just a whole lot cheaper.