My husband Mike Brady* travels a lot for work, which means I’m home alone with the kids most nights during the week. He’ll frequently visit the “home office” in another state. At times I can’t help but marvel at how easy it would be for him to have an entire other family without me ever knowing.
When I asked him about it, he answered that one wife is more than he or any man could handle. I followed with, “What about a girlfriend and illegitimate baby a la John Edwards?” He countered that after dealing with me, he’s got nothing left for anyone else. Then I cross-examined him on what exactly he meant by dealing with me, though I had a pretty good idea. The average neurotic has nothing on me. I’ve been known to wear my clothes for years with the tags still attached, unable to fully commit.
Exasperated, Mike offered me his cell phone, laptop, and credit card bills to peruse to my heart’s content. It’s a good strategy on his part but I’m not 100% convinced. My reasons are not that I feel in my gut that there’s something wrong. On the contrary, things feel fine…but too fine, if you know what I mean. Mike Brady seems perfect. And well, nobody is perfect. That’s how I know I’m screwed.
Every day I live with a small persistent fear, like a low-grade fever that’s high enough to stay home from school but not so high that your mother will postpone her errands so she dopes you up on Advil and drags you to the grocery store where you lag behind the cart feeling not quite right. It’s that kind of fear. A nagging suspicion that one day a little girl will show up at my door, dragging her Hello Kitty suitcase asking, “Is my Daddy there?” I’d finally learn of Mike’s secret mistress, a school teacher who died tragically while saving her entire kindergarten class from a fire.
I would do the decent thing and accept Mike Brady’s motherless illegitimate child into my home. The neighbors would be amazed at the enormous generosity of my spirit, my abundance of grace for this innocent little girl.
“How does she stay with him?” I’d hear the other mothers whisper, disgust and awe battling it out as I walk past in the hallways of the elementary school. I’d enjoy newfound respect at the bus stop and home jewelry parties.
But as the little girl grew, she’d start to look more and more like her mother and I wouldn’t be able to handle it. She’d become a constant reminder of Mike’s affair and my passive aggressive tendencies would reveal themselves. I’m only human after all. On Christmas, I’d buy my daughter real Uggs and Mike’s illegitimate daughter Ugg knock-offs. I’d drive way past the mileage requiring an oil change, something I know makes him crazy. And I’d invite my parents for dinner…more than usual. And in this way, these small seemingly inconsequential acts would slowly pollute our home with the unmistakable whiff of resentment.
So I’m gonna ask Mike Brady one more time, “Are you sure there’s nothing going on at the home office?”
*Not my husband's real name but one he reluctantly agreed I could use for the blog.
I don’t care what anyone says. No on knows a woman’s heart like Dr. Phil. There’s so much to love about Dr. Keeping it Real. I love his irony-free Burt Reynold’s mustache and jungle-gym sized limbs. I get gooey-eyed when he sits with his hand pensively at his chin signaling he’s both caring and authoritative. I go over the moon when he says to his guest, with earnest eyebrows knit, “I can get you the help you need if you’re willing to take it.” I breathe heavy at the dramatic pause that follows. My eyes grow moist. Sometimes other body parts too. When I can’t stand the tension a second longer, Dr. Perfect puts his hand on her knee, a move I find paternal yet sexy, and asks, “Will you take it? Will you take help I’m about to offer?” The guest chokes back her tears and nods. I too, begin to weep in cathartic release and empathy for the woman who is finally going to be able to kick her anorexia, obesity, shopping addiction, alcoholism, rage issues, sex obsession, gambling habit, and any other affliction that ails her. She will become a better mother, a better wife and just a much better human being all the way around. In a grand final gesture, Dr. Feelgood gives her $25,000 worth of free therapy. And I’m done.