Wedded Bliss

Won't it be great when we're old and rich and can pay the gardener to have sex with our wives?

-my friend Dan, to my friend Dave

I wish my fake husband would get cable so we could give up Masterpiece Theatre. That's what he was watching last night when he called - thereby compelling me to abandon HBO and change channels, just to see what he was talking about - which in no way ameliorated his tendency to narrate the episode for me.

Although admittedly absurd, it's not that unusual for us to watch TV together on the phone, but it does lead to a certain amount of confusion.

Like at one point, I was half-listening, and half-reading my horoscope in Vanity Fair, when all I heard was the end of this enthusiastic sentence: "ohhhh?!!... having sex again!!"

Somewhat embarrassed at my possible intrusion on what could've arguably been a private moment, I responded with, "what? You're having sex again? Gosh. Maybe I should let you go?"

(As fake wives go - I'm pretty progressive. Which is not at all - I imagine - how I'd be as a real wife.)

What he'd actually said was THEY're having sex again - referring to the Masterpiece couple - who were embroiled in some affair which seemed to involve adultery, a horse, some accents, and possibly, a tragic case of tuberculosis.

Sure, most fake-married couples would just opt to watch TV in the same house (if not the same room) - but he lives past Man O' War (if you can imagine), and I'm always losin' the TripTik.

I think what this town needs is a late-night Jitney.

Up East, the Jitney takes you to the Hamptons. Here, it would transport downtown girls like me, back and forth to the outreaches.

As it is, if he and I have had a busy-yet-separate weekend, we sometimes log a three or four hour phone conversation on Monday nights to get caught up.

I think our record is seven hours - and he's the reason I had to upgrade my cell plan to avert bankruptcy. Because as a general rule, I don't like to talk on the phone for the sake of conversation. There are occasional exceptions (like with my evil-party-twin, Suzy - who also lives outside the city limits), but generally, I answer the phone, I cryptically exchange the necessary information (usually in Sopranos-style monosyllables), and I hang up.

Last night's marathon, however, encompassed topics including (but not limited to): Chinese food; our respective nieces and nephews; Ray Davies; reruns of Night Gallery; why women get pregnant (philosophically, not biologically); capitalism; religion; art; spaghetti squash; politics; and a few movie reviews.

We have what I call "axis" discussions - where we spiral around a multitude of subjects, and eventually, at some point, visit everything that's on our mind. This is not like "linear" conversations, which actually have a point, along with a beginning, middle, and end.

Of course, lots of people are similarly fond of "axis" discussions, but often, they are potheads, and the conversations usually begin with something like, "do you ever wonder what the dog is thinking right now?"

(The correct answer is: no.)

Eventually, we got around to the fact that somehow (despite my good-faith efforts at anonymity), half of his social circle has suspected that he's the Fake Husband.

I honestly didn't really think anybody would pick up on it.

The distinguishing features that were the hallmark of that column were mainly that he's extravagantly good-looking, funny, and absent-minded - and that could describe any one of a half dozen guys who are integral, beloved, and omnipresent in my life. (Even my mother could only narrow it to three - eventually concluding, wrongly, that I was referring to the guy who attended my college alumni luncheon with all of us a few weeks ago.)

I've since been quizzed at some length, but remain (for once) stubbornly vague.

Our (mutual) banker figured it out - but we'd had dinner with him and his wife the night before the column came out, so they saw it coming. They even thought it was "sweet."

I think my response was, "Thanks did I mention we're registered at Williams-Sonoma?"

In fact, as I was tellin' the ole ball and chain last night, if I thought we'd get presents, I'd have the (excruciatingly tasteful) invitations in the mail by the end of the week.

My biggest goal is the Dualit toaster. But then I couldn't figure out who'd get custody of it.

I proposed maybe we could have it for alternating weeks. He countered that he could come over whenever he wants toast.

He said if I had guests, he'd just camp out in the park, and then sneak in for breakfast - but then he speculated that readers who passed him on their morning run might wonder what I see in the guy sleeping under the newspaper, with leaves in his hair.

I think they'd be more likely to wonder why all my husbands - sooner or later - seem to prefer sleeping in the park.

I'm keeping it vague though, because a few things really are nobody's business. Also, because I think if you're fortunate enough to know a guy - in any capacity - who'll hold your hair back when you puke, who won't think less of you if you cry in front of him (even if he compares the experience to "sorta like if Colin Powell cried unexpected and disconcerting"), and who'll always give you a break when you least deserve it and the benefit of the doubt when no one else will - well, you'd be wise not to unduly impose on his good nature or his privacy.

This is what a marriage (real or imagined) should be (in my skewed view): men in my life, but not in my house.