He reached into one of the side drawers of his desk, pulled out a porn mag and flashed me the cover.
He sort of raised his eyebrows, like: “Hot, right? I know you want some of that.”
I probably did. I was only 16. But the whole scene made me uncomfortable. Because he was bragging about his porn mag in front of his wife. (Which is probably better than hiding it, but that’s not my point.)
I’ll never forget what he said. “Oh, she doesn’t care. She knows this is reality,” he said in his best dissatisfied voice while gesturing toward her. “And this is fantasy,” he said proudly of the pouty sex kitten showing off her goods on the cover of Penthouse.
I looked at his wife. I got the distinct impression she cared.
In nine years of marriage, my wife never once heard me talk about another woman in a lustful way. She never heard me say something that might suggest I didn’t think she was good enough or pretty enough or sexy enough compared to some other woman who I thought was.
I’m not bragging. That DID NOT make me a good husband. It just made me thoughtful and polite in that one particular area.
Part of it was because I try to be nice and respectful.
But another part of it was simply me recognizing behavior that made me feel extra-shitty when done in reverse.
My wife didn’t sit around talking lustily about other men most of the time. But sometimes when she was with her girlfriends, there was always the girl who would bring up how dreamy (insert celebrity of choice here) Ryan Gosling, Adam Levine, sexy vampire or werewolf guy from True Blood or Twilight, etc. is.
The implication being: “I’m totally faithful to my husband, but if one of those guys showed up at my door, I’d let him do whatever he wanted.”
Maybe honesty is a good thing, even in this instance.
Maybe saying that out loud and owning it is better than keeping it to yourself if it’s actually true.
But that sentiment always made me feel shitty.
Because, I have an idea: Don’t be with me if I’m not good enough for you. Because I can’t be those other men.
And the real bitch of it is that no one can be like those people. Because we don’t know about all their negative human qualities, because we only see them looking good in front of cameras. You’re not even being compared to real people. Just personas, or fictional characters on television.
I was at a wedding once where a guy my wife knew from high school was drunk and flirting with her. He was the little brother of one of her old friends, all grown up now.
I heard him tell her that he wanted to have sex with her.
I already knew plenty of men thought it, probably even my friends. We’re human, and I totally get that. But I’d never heard a man say that to my wife before.
She hadn’t done anything to invite it. And she didn’t indicate mutual interest in return.
But I was next-level angry when she and I left the reception with another couple shortly after. I wanted to break a chair over that stupid mook’s face, but I would have just lost the fight against all his friends afterward and felt even worse, but with broken ribs.
She blew off my anger as silly man jealousy. “Oh, he’s harmless. Didn’t mean a thing.”
I get over things pretty quickly. This is the first time I’ve thought about that guy since back when it actually happened.
And I find I don’t care about him at all.
But I still care that my anger didn’t matter to her.
Maybe she thought I deserved it.
And maybe I did.
Must Be This Tall To Ride
Everything about this blog’s beginning is predicated on feelings of inadequacy.
Of not being metaphorically tall enough.
I’ve always cared what other people thought of me. We like to act cool, unfazed, like nothing other people say or think about us matters. Maybe some people really are immune to those fears and insecurities. I’m not, though.
I want you to like me, and when you don’t, I feel like a failure and wonder if everyone feels that way.
When your wife leaves you, you feel like a spotlight is being shined brightly on all of your faults and failings. You start wondering what her family thinks about you. What your family thinks about you. What your friends think about you. What your co-workers think about you.
And to a certain extent, that still happens.
Every woman I meet must think: “I wonder what this douchebag did to make her want to leave. He’s probably just like all my ex-boyfriends who made me miserable.”
And the sick truth is that I probably do share commonalities with their exes. I believe most of our human failings look an awful lot like one another’s. I think most couples break over the same basic things. I think if everyone took off the masks and were really honest with one another, we’d all feel a little better because we’d realize: We’re not the only ones, after all.
In our 2014 Facebook culture, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others.
My house isn’t as big as theirs.
My car isn’t as nice as his.
My writing isn’t as good as hers.
My job isn’t as good as his.
I’m not attractive enough for her.
We don’t get to be a fly on the wall when these people are scream-fighting with their partners in the kitchen. Or when they sing and dance alone in their houses. Or when they trip and fall. Or when they’re jerking off to some freaky fetish porn. Or when they’re rocking out to some really lame pop song in their car that they don’t want anyone to know they like.
We don’t get to be inside their heads when their brains are going a mile a minute with all of the same kinds of insecurities and fears that we have.
We compare our regular, flawed, totally human, everyday stuff to other people’s highlight reels. Their financial successes and exotic vacations and perfect-looking family photos.
It’s all a huge lie. And you believe it because you’re a person, but you don’t have to believe it because you’re smart. You’re smart enough to stop believing it.
Please don’t say or do things in front of the people you love that might make them feel like you’d rather be with someone more than them, unless you actually want to, and maybe then brutal honesty is the best policy.
They deserve better. And so do you.
I’m not Ryan Gosling or Adam Levine. I can’t look or be like them. And maybe if I really got to know them, I wouldn’t even want to be.
But I am kind of smart.
I am kind of funny.
I’m not going to knock anyone over with movie-star looks, but some people think I’m attractive.
I may never be a great writer, but some people like to read my work.
I don’t really know what I am.
What you think of me still matters, and probably always will.
But I know I’m good enough.
Just like that porn-mag lover’s wife.
Just like you.