My Fake Husband

Born with what my mother defined as an 'artistic temperament,' Gretchen floated from blossom to blossom in a blissful haze... You could tell Gretchen anything in strict confidence, knowing that five minutes later she would recall nothing but the play of shadows on your face.

-David Sedaris

I think the minimal interest I have in the institution of marriage might have something to do with the fact that I already have a perfectly good fake husband. (Not to be confused with an imaginary husband. I didn't invent him.)

On at least one occasion, he's told people that we had a fake wedding in the Bahamas (sort of a Mick Jagger-Jerry Hall thing), but everybody knows that's a joke, because I don't fly. (Also, because I'm smarter than the average model. Which maybe isn't saying much, because I'm also smarter than the average slice of toast. And that's probably a horrible example of bigotry on my part; I just hope I can withstand the vast loss of my supermodel readership.)

He and I finish each other's stories in public, like a real married couple. (OK, to be honest, I finish his, because he talks slow, and I get exasperated.) We (then) exchange dirty looks like a real married couple. We always have pre-arranged escape signals for leaving parties (the most common one being, "time to let the dogs out" - though I guess we'll be retiring that one after today). I pick out his clothes before we go out, and if I don't, he's an exceptional sport about changing if he's created an ensemble I don't like.

There are things he's good at, and there are things I'm good at - and they absolutely never overlap in any way.

I often describe him as "detached," for want of a better word, but all I really mean by that is that he occupies a different world than I do. He resides in some airy universe that I won't ever understand (and he won't remember), whereas I'm more earthbound and practical.

He happens to be extraordinarily attractive, but is completely oblivious to it - not because he can't process his own reflection in the mirror, but just as part of his general obliviousness to most things. He takes no notice of the trail of swooning servers (male and female) that litter the floor as we leave any restaurant - he just absentmindedly steps over them as he tries to remember which pocket he put his car keys in.

I can say - with great virtuousness -that I'm totally above any shallow interest in his looks. I just think of him as a great ocean view. Those sunsets are incredible the first few weeks - after that, you become immune. You might as well be looking out at the airshaft over an alley. Oddly, he knows I mean this as a compliment.

Last week he asked me, with a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement, "what are you going to be for Halloween?"

"Thirty six," was my thoroughly unimaginative answer. "Why?"

He, of course, had already picked out a costume, and ordered it online. From there, within 48 hours, he had half the city engaged in an email exchange wherein the merits of various superheroes and their sidekicks were debated, mercilessly, for hours on end.

We just don't go about life in the same way.

When we got home from a party last night, for example, I somehow wedged my heel in the slats of my porch steps.

If left up to him, I swear to God, I'd still be trapped there, and an intern would've been dispatched by now to bring me breakfast and a change of clothes.

At some point, he did pause to wonder why my progress up the stairs had been impeded. But it's not like he formulated a plan to resolve it.

In fact, once I explained the situation, "my shoe is stuck," he responded with (and I'm not making this up), "hmmm. Is there something we can do here?"

Followed closely by, "why don't you just leave it?"

When I commented, innocently, that I seem to shoulder the bulk of the problem-solving duties in our relationship, he answered back with a perfect impersonation of the usual withering sarcasm I constantly subject him to, "Oh, I'm sorry. I've been trained to listen to women bitch, not to respond. I thought you didn't want me to solve your problems, because you can do it yourself. That you just want me to 'listen,' and that it's not my job to 'fix anything.'"

He knows me too well sometimes.

Later this month, he's taking on the rare task of organizing a night out for everyone. I'm staying out of it, but I've explained to him that it's not as easy as it looks: "You have to get the tickets. There's transportation to consider. You have to get them fed... And so on." It is exactly like herding cats. Or two-year-olds. Really wily two-year-olds. He thinks he's up to it, but I predict an evening that includes a minimum of one trip to the emergency room and another to jail.

This is one of the rare columns I actually asked permission to write - and he gave me a blank check - saying, "I guess I'll have to trust you."

I don't think it's because he really does trust me. I think it's because he knows that whatever I write - even if it's upsetting -he'll have forgotten it before he even gets to the end of the page. His life is like Memento in that way.

I'll be sad when he does get married - probably to some 20-year-old named Trixie - but I've already told him I plan to take him for everything he's worth in our fake divorce. Not to mention the dough I'll rack up in phony child support for our imaginary children.

Whoever lands him will be lucky indeed, because I will have already performed the vital functions of any first wife. He will arrive on her doorstep a model husband, with his spirit broken and his standards lowered.

And like all second wives, she'll take all my hard work for granted.