My wife, Lauren, is gazing lovingly at the cover of a Vogue magazine. It is with sudden irritation that I realize it’s Harry Styles on the cover, and he’s wearing a dress.
Lauren: He’s so hot!
Me: He is?
Lauren: You don’t think he looks great?
Me: Yes, and I think it’s awesome that he’s wearing a dress, but…
Lauren: So what’s the issue?
Me: I just didn’t think you would be attracted to a man in a dress.
Lauren: Well, now I am.
Me: Would you be attracted to me in a dress?
Lauren: Of course not.
I get it. I’m 43-years-old and I no longer look like the dashing young man she married. I’m 20 pounds heavier. I have cholesterol deposits under my eyes. My teeth aren’t as white. My hair is largely stuck in the shower drain.
But that’s not the main reason my wife is having a pretend affair with Harry Styles. The reason is I’ve stopped paying attention to her. Some of it is boredom. We’re in Year 20 of our relationship and what feels like Day twenty-thousand of this pandemic. It’s hard to not get tired of each other’s presence.
There’s also the intimacy issue. We have sex, but less and less with each passing month. There are many reasons, though the anti-depressants which have killed my sex drive, is my usual go-to excuse.
It’s not just the sex. We don’t kiss. We don’t hold hands. We don’t talk other than when it involves the kids. When they go to bed, she gets into bed, and I go downstairs and have my affair with a container of peanut butter while I watch basketball.
Our conversation about the cover of the magazine, while upsetting, was actually progress since we, you know, talked about something.
What is a wife left to do when her husband stops trying? She could leave me. She could have an affair. Both would blow up our family.
Instead, she began fantasizing. She found Mr. Styles. He’s younger and British and all those things which make him the desire of so many women and men.
Me: That’s not his real name, you know.
I Google frantically to find some awful name hopefully. Crap, that’s his real name. How can he have that cool a name? How is that possible?
When the fawning first began last summer, I didn’t care. I even made jokes about it on Twitter. But it’s progressed. She talks about him constantly. She watches videos of him every night from the minute the kids go to bed until she goes to sleep. When he performed at the Grammys, it became an all-day celebration.
It’s begun to upset me. I find it inappropriate around our kids. I wish she would keep it to herself. I would never deify a woman other than her in front of our children. It confuses them and sends the wrong message. It’s also something I could never get away with without looking like a jerk. Imagine me ranting and raving to our friends in the community about how in love I was with Taylor Swift.
I’d be seen as an asshole who doesn’t respect his wife.
Imagine my parents buying me all kinds of Taylor Swift paraphernalia for my birthday and posting it on social media. Yes, her mother did this. (Who knew they made life-size towels of Harry Styles?)
She just can’t help herself. Somehow this year of us being in such close proximity, combined with my apathy, led her to need an escape. We all still need a connection. She found hers in someone she will never obtain or even meet. Yet, it still feels like she’s cheating on me. It stings. It feels like I won’t be enough for her anymore.
I can try to fix it. I need to make more of an effort. I need to eat slightly less peanut butter and hold her hand a bit more. I worry, though, that Mr. Styles is a symptom of something broken between us which can’t be fixed.
As I watched her jumping up and down while he sang “Watermelon Sugar” at the Grammy’s—I may never eat watermelon again—it sure felt that way. Crushes can be healthy, but it felt like her crush crossed a line in which it’s more than that.
The next day, while Lauren was at work, I went into our closet and found the Vogue magazine on the shelf. Beneath it was the towel. I opened the towel up, laid it down on the floor and stood on top of it. I stared Towel Harry in the eyes.
Me: She’s all I have, man. You can have anyone.
Towel Harry: So do something about it, mate. Earn her back.
Me: Thanks for the pep talk, Harold.
Towel Harry: Actually, it’s Harry. Harry Styles. That’s my real name.
Me: I know.
Just then, my 6-year-old son walked into the room.
Son: Daddy, why are you talking to Mommy’s towel?
Me: We just needed to work some things out. Everything’s fine now. How about you help me prepare a nice dinner for when Mommy comes home?
Son: Okay. Mommy loves watermelon for dessert.
This post is republished on Medium.