My Third Husband
originally published in Dirty Laundry
I overlooked the fact that he flossed his teeth thirty minutes every night, working himself into a sweat that one usually gets after an hour on the treadmill. I overlooked the fact that before he'd wash his white dress shirts, he cleaned out the washing machine with disinfectant. Only after he was sure that it was germ-free would he do a load of laundry. And only after that would he take his shirts to the dry cleaners (who didn't know how to clean) for pressing. Heavy starch. But he looked so dashing in his crispy white shirts and his neatly pressed suits that I reasoned, "Better to be with a clean man than a dirty one." When he cleaned the sink before he cleaned the dishes - with a detergent he made himself because "No one made a decent soap" - I thought that he was industrious. My kids said he was weird, but didn't I walk in circles before I opened the door? Well no, I didn't. But I'm sure I have some annoying habits. Maybe mocking a family member for other people's entertainment could get on your nerves.
Did I mention that he wore leather gloves while driving - even to the grocery store, because he liked the way they felt? That's right, he had Italian leather driving gloves yet didn't own a car. But when he drove mine with his gloves on he looked just like James Bond. And look at those shoulders and eyes and... Okay, I think that we've established that I'm shallow. And if we haven't then we should. But it weren't for us shallow people, who would put up with the neurotically handsome, I ask you? Did you ever think of that? You probably didn't. But it's all right.
How did I meet my ultra-clean, well-flossed and begloved fiance? I'm glad you asked. He worked/posed in an art gallery. An art gallery I would have never gone into if my girlfriend from San Francisco hadn't been staying with me and I hadn't been trying to impress her with how cultured I was. I'm not the type of girl who studies a Renoir on a Sunday morning while some docent blabs on about his Umbrellas. I'm much more likely to be struggling with the lid of an aspirin bottle. But don't tell her. On this Sunday, I am up and out the door wearing a blue & white hounds-tooth mini-skirt with a matching jacket and plastic white go-go boots. I'm sauntering through the exhibit, pausing long enough to look astute at various paintings without getting a neck ache, when a handsome voice stops me in my tracks. I feel hot and gluey, like a Raisinette in the Sun.
Turning around, I see cheekbones, a square jaw and feathery brown hair like Kevin Bacon's in... well everything. He wants to know if I am enjoying the art exhibit and if the handsome young men to my left (my 10 year old who's drawing on his arm) is my son. "Yes and yes." He was standing in front of a Monet that brought out the green in his blue eyes and the flecks of gold in his tie. He used to be an actor and knew how to find the light. He was breathtaking. He asked me to put my name and number on a card so that I could be reached for future showings, mentioning King Tut and some other dead people that were coming to town. I wrote it down, hoping that it was a ruse and that he just wanted to fuck me. It was and he did. He called and art was never mentioned.
When I looked down from my balcony the first time he came over, I was too caught up in the breadth of his shoulders and how he wore his jeans to notice that he was walking up from the street and not from the parking lot. In my peripheral vision, I barely registered the yellow cab speeding off. When he informed me that his car was in the shop - I bought it. When he paid for dinner with cash - every time - I thought he was old fashioned and never stopped to think that he might not have a credit card. The shop his car turned out to be in was a junk yard, his roommate - a woman named Francis - turned out to be his mom, and the cash in his wallet turned out to be all he had. These things, though red flags to some, did not throw me off. They were easy enough to fix. I simply: put him on my checking account, bought him a car, and moved him in with me. Yes, I'm that smart.
He was great in bed, told wonderful stories to help me sleep and complimented my every move. Two weeks later, he asked me to marry him, and I, having been married twice before, was wary. So I thought it over and talked to my friends who all said "Are you kidding me?" before I said "yes." We were married three months later in Beverly Hills, where other couples who've known each other for years were betrothed. We honeymooned in Fiji like other couples who had just vowed "Till death do you part," intoxicated with each other, the sun, and our margaritas. Who ever said marriage to a man you hardly know won't work has never met me and what's his name.
Our life was a paradise for two or three weeks. Then one day it changed. It started normally enough. I said, "Bye, I'm going to work." "I'll see you when you get home, you beautiful creature," he responded, as if he too were going to work. When I got home that night, I found my husband in a leg cast, on Vicodin, watching TV. "What happened?" I asked, bracing myself to hear about a car accident or some such thing. "My knee's been hurting so I thought I'd get it operated on while I'm covered by your insurance and mine from work before they fire me." Gasp! "You had a planned surgery without telling me?" "You're getting fired?" My handsome husband in an overly starched suit was now a soon to be unemployed invalid wearing a robe. "In sickness and in health," I remember the judge saying in front of a hundred people at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
"They were going to can me any day, so I figured I'd surprise them and call in sick." I'm a positive person. I went to bed that night thinking, "This is good." I work a lot and now he can be Mr. Mom and bond with the kids, help them with their homework, cook dinner, etc. I spend nearly two thousand a month on the nanny and now I can let her go and my convalescing husband will be in charge.
Unfortunately, between his cast and Vicodin, Alan was only able to watch TV and complain. Though he had crutches and loads of free time, he was not even able to make himself breakfast, let alone anything for the kids. I had to pay Estella, the nanny, an extra three hundred dollars to take care of them all. And yet I thought, "It will all work out."
Then the straw came - the one that sent the camel to the chiropractor - Alan accused the nanny of having sex with my 16 year old son! Just because she laughed a lot with him and once the door to his room was locked while she helped him with his homework, most likely to keep my 10 year old son out. Alan became obsessed with this "affair." He argued with my son about it pushing him into the wall one day. My son pushed Alan back and Alan lost his balance, bumping into a book shelf and bruising his butt. He didn't mention that he took pictures of his ass and went to the police station with them, so I was surprised when they arrived the next day to arrest my son. And I had to admit "I made a mistake. Alan has to go."
However, I did make some new rules for myself and future husbands: 1) Never marry a man over 18 who doesn't have a checking account.
2) Never marry a man who can't go to sleep unless his dimes and nickels are all heads up and facing north in a straight line on the table parallel to his belt, which he has disinfected and rolled into a circle.
3) Never a man who uses words like "vector left" for turn here or "Salutations" for "What's up?" or bids me fair well by extending his arm out shoulder height and holding the pose as I drive out of sight or possibly longer.
I followed those rules religiously and am happily married to an Englishman with a fabulous job, good knees and no interest in making his own soap. But in Alan's defense, my son did recently tell me that twelve years ago he had sex with his nanny.