Today, I’d like to tell you all about my imaginary husband.
He looks like this:
He’s simple-minded, annoying, controlling, emotionally distant, and only vaguely lovable.
Wait, wait, wait… didn’t you ACTUALLY get married? Was that whole post bullshit?
Why yes, astute reader. I DID get married. To a lovely man, who is none of the above things. He is, in fact: charming, loving, easy going, open-minded, and endlessly supportive.
But I’m not talking about him.
I’m talking about the person that comes to mind whenever I say “Oh, I’ll have to talk to my husband” when I’m trying to shrug off a sales pitch, or “My husband drives me crazy!” when making small talk during a haircut.
And that is NOT The Mister.
Why would I make up an imaginary husband? There are several things to blame.
First, the media: What comes to mind when you think of a married couple? If you’re a well-adjusted person, you probably think of your family members.
But if, like me, you were raised in the 20th Century onslaught of TV/movies/news, you might think of a family sitcom, movie romance, or Dear Abby sob story. When I think of a husband, I imagine Archie Bunker, Ted Kennedy, and the male counterparts in The First Wives Club.
Many women my age are stoked by the idea of getting married. And yes, marriage is awesome and not like the media portrays it.
But to be completely honest, real world marriage is exactly like living together; only now you share a bank account and hold slightly higher esteem in your relatives’ eyes.
Second, its just so easy. Everyone has the same fictional married characters running around in their heads.
So to say “Ugh, my husband… I tell ya!” universally gets a nod and sympathetic sigh.
And I should say: The Mister does this, too.
Its an automatic cop-out to say “Well, my wife takes care of that, so I don’t know.”
It just doesn’t have the same salience if he says “Well, my girlfriend takes care of that” (everyone thinks “WHIPPED!”) And if I say “Well, my boyfriend takes care of that”, it implies some weirdly controlling relationship. But a married couple, well… obviously they need to consult with each other.
Pre-marriage days, we actually had to think of excuses and relatable small talk on our own.
Okay, okay… the truth is: we’ve been doing this for years. We’re each others best scapegoats.
Scene 1: Out to lunch with a friend, and The Mister’s phone buzzes.
The Mister, rolling his eyes and texting: “Ugh, sorry… I have to respond or she’ll get annoyed.”
Scene 2: Hanging out on the couch, a friend is complaining about her boyfriend.
Me, nodding vehemently: “Oh my god, I know! You wouldn’t believe The Mister the other day…”
Scene 3: At home
The Mister: “Your text was the greatest thing I read all day.”
Me: “I told my friend that you cried watching The Hunger Games.”
The Mister: “I’ve never even seen that movie.”
Me: “I know.”
It’s not lying, readers. It’s… embellishing.
If we actually admitted how much we trust each other, how little we question each others’ decisions, and how we never get on each others nerves, nobody would want to talk to us.
It’s the same reason everyone liked The Honeymooners better than Father Knows Best.
And finally, Husband is an ugly word. There, I said it! And after a year of using it, I still don’t think it applies to The Mister… which is why I have an imaginary husband in my head to take the label instead.
Hus•band. It sounds like an entrapment: “I couldn’t get away! They tied me down with a husband!”
Wife is alright. It sounds whimsical, like a fairy name. The Mister likes it because it sounds like “Life.” In fact, he sometimes prefers to call me his “Life” rather than his “Wife”. I’m okay with that, too.
It’s better than saying it sounds like “Knife”.
“Husband” doesn’t have the same whimsy or easy rhyming correlate.
“Hubby” makes me shudder. It rhymes with “chubby”. And then I think of Chubby Hubby ice cream.
“Hubby” also sounds like “hubba hubba”, and suddenly you’re transported to a 1943 dive bar with middle aged dudes in zoot suits eyeing up a co-ed.
For a brief period of about two years (brief in our playbook), I referred to him as my partner.
“Partner” is such a lovely word; it sounds active, intentional, ongoing. It’s like waking up every day and thinking “Who would I like to partner up with today?” then saying to yourself, “Yup, still that guy.”
Like its use in business, it evokes deal-making, compromise, trust.
“Husband” feels more static.
Why don’t I just call The Mister my partner?
I tell someone I have a partner, they assume either (a) it’s a woman, or (b) we’re not married. Or both.
Which is fine, but then they’ll be confused when they find out it’s a man/we are married, then they wonder which one of us is transgendered, but they’re too polite to ask.
When they find out we’re just a heterosexual cisgender married couple, then I’m the type of person whose just being difficult on purpose for the sake of semantics.
I think other people fall into the media-generated “husband and wife” trap, too.
As the pioneers in our age group, we are now our cohort’s resident “married” friends. This comes loaded with assumptions on diminished autonomy and a stereotypical homelife.
I think people assume we spend every night kissing over the stovetop and playing parcheesi.
Which we only do on Tuesdays.
So now you know. Friends, family, acquaintances: when I’m spinning a yarn about “my husband”, take it with a grain of salt. Because I’m probably not talking about this guy:
Nope. There’s a 75% chance I’m talking about this guy:
(Edit: The Mister is dismayed that I’ve given away our secret. Also, he’d like me to explain what’s going on in the last picture of him, because there is a perfectly logical explanation. But I’d rather not.)