I’ve been married for such a long time. There were even times — before a recent turn of events — when I wished I could work up even a slight interest in my husband’s shenanigans.
His flirting with women, for instance. I’ve always said: the man would flirt with a lamppost.
His vast network of female friends. I’ve always said: the man loves the ladies!
It’s not that I was so convinced my charms were superior to those of these women (and lampposts). It was just, after all these years of marriage, it didn’t bother me. Or, better said, I trusted him.
But that was before Lauren, let’s call her, the PTA president at the high school in our suburban town. She was the wife of a wealthy finance guy, not someone I knew very well. She and my husband were on a committee together, whose meetings were held in the white clapboard parish house on the village green. One evening after work, driving home from the train station, I recalled my husband was at one of those meetings.
I decided to stop by and see him. It was the first cool night of autumn and the humidity that makes the summer sky milky and starless had dissipated. Fallen leaves lifted in waves off the roadway. As I stepped from the car, I felt as if the earth had made some small but significant pivot on its axis and the world was changing before my eyes.
It did, but in a way I had not anticipated. I peeked into the parish house meeting room. Lauren and my husband were sitting together, chairs pushed close, her hand on his thigh. He was laughing, his head tipped back. I turned and left, my movements slowed but my heart pounding as if I were being chased by wolves. Suddenly, I cared very, very much about my husband and his “other women.”
I feigned sleep when he returned home but as soon as he was well and truly asleep, I grabbed his iPhone from the bedside table and spent an hour examining its contents. The most damning of all was the most easily found. A text from Lauren, a few days prior: “I know how to treat a man right. Call me.” My husband: lol. From a week prior: Lunch? My husband: smiley face. (Even in my shocked state, my old marital disdain kicked in: Lol? Smiley face? Could you butch up just a tiny bit, dude?)*
I won’t fatigue you all with the shouted recriminations, the hurled accusations, the acrimony, the shopping for couples therapists, the therapist who suggested we buy pink handcuffs to “spice things up,” the stomping out of her office, his denials, my further findings, his further denials.
Today, we’re on a better path. I’m convinced he loves me and only me and the other women are, to him, little more than lampposts. I love him too.
But I can’t stop snooping.
Turns out, I’m good at it. Maybe everyone is in these days of Inspector-Gadget-like iPhones. A little web-browser-history reading (thank you, Chrome), a little off-label use of the “find my iPhone” app (thank you, Apple) and the afternoon has disappeared **.
While I’m confessing, I’ll offer an apology*** for a tiny bit of cyber-stalking, although that’s not quite the right word. Cyber taunting? What would you call it if you were to create a Facebook persona called Hester Prynne, whose photo is that severe-looking and abundantly bonneted portrait from an old Penguin paperback? And then you were to friend request a woman who, silly girl, didn’t associate the name with the most reviled hussy in American literature and accept Hester’s proffered friendship? Cyber “turnaround is fair play,” maybe? Cyber “who knew I could be so immature?” Cyber “stop this right now before it gets out of hand?”
I don’t recommend any of this. It may be illegal. It is certainly unethical. And it is most definitely a time suck. But I’ve also spent time over the past year asking women friends this question and I’ll ask it of you, too: What would you do?
*Names and details have been changed.
**I don’t recommend doing this as it might be illegal and is certainly unethical and is most definitely a massive time suck.
***Kind of apologetic, kind of not.