It was a dark and stormy night, long, long ago, in a land far, far away, called My First Marriage. I was sitting peacefully in front of the television while my first husband. And he had just watched his first episode of Friends. It was painful getting to this point. I had endured a weekly argument before each new episode because he insisted on hating a show he had never seen. I wanted nothing more than to sit peacefully and forget my problems for thirty minutes. He wanted nothing more than to stop this from happening. His hatred of the show he had never seen was so palpable that he tortured me for months. He talked to me, clanked pots and pans, flipped channels without asking, started arguments, and tried to get me to leave the house. All of this, rather than leave the room for thirty minutes.
But alas, he finally gave in and begrudgingly sat through an episode. He LOVED it and immediately became addicted to the show. This was before the days of streaming or on demand viewing. When I was young, we had to walk barefoot through the snow to change TV channels. The only way to see missed episodes was to purchase DVDs or wait for reruns and hope they played in order. His affection for the show became an obsession but it was only mildly annoying to me until he mentioned the list.
If you were a fan of Friends, you are familiar with the list. The list is a list of five celebrities you can sleep with and it’s not considered cheating. We were mid conversation with the television on in the background when Natalie Merchant came up in conversation.
“She’s on my list,” he said.
“What list?” I said.
“You know, my list, the five people I can sleep with.”
“You don’t have a list.”
“Yes I do.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do,” he said firmly.
“No… no… you don’t.”
“Everyone has a list,” he said as if he had heard of the list before I forced him to watch the show.
“You’d never even heard of the list before this week, you are not using it against me.”
“What are you talking about?” He looked at me like I was insane. “I’ve always had a list,” he insisted.
“Who’s on it?” I asked mid laugh.
“Natalie Merchant, Erica Badu, Edie Brickell, Lisa Loeb, and…”
“I don’t even know you,” I said. “How are we married?”
I sat looking at him and digested the fact that he had a cheat list and it included five women I shared no attributes with.
“And Joni Mitchell,” he added.”
“Stop talking,” I said.
“We are married and I’m not letting you have a list,” I said.
“It’s not up to you,” he insisted. “You have a list too.”
“I do? Who’s on it?”
I waited for him to come up with my list of names. The silence was awkward.
“Ok, well I’m just saying, you can have a list. Put anyone you want on it.”
“I don’t want to put anyone on it,” I said. “I’m not going to have sex with any celebrities.”
“Then you can have five wild cards because I’m not giving up my list,” he said.
“What’s a wild card?” I asked.
“You don’t have to choose your list now, you can decide when you meet a celebrity if you want to have sex with them.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes, of course.”
“So I can come home and say I had sex with a celebrity and you will be okay with it?”
Sometimes it’s best to walk away from a stupid argument. And that is what I did. I could tell I wasn’t going to change his mind. I wasn’t worried about any celebrities sleeping with him but I was irrationally irritated that he had a list. And I wanted to teach him a lesson. I’m not impulsive so I tucked his list away in the back of my mind for a rainy day.
And then my friend Tori and I went on vacation. She lived in Utah and I live in Los Angeles so occasionally we jump on planes and meet somewhere. And that somewhere happened to be hosting an award show. Awards shows mean celebrities. The town also included a wax museum.
Do you know what they have in wax museums? Celebrities! Fake ones, but you see where this is going. We took photos with everyone. And then we found a wax statue of a celebrity with his mouth open. Let’s just say, Tori managed to get a photo from an angle that suggested my tongue was in the mouth of a wild card.
When I got home I gave my husband a stack of photos and a complete rundown of our amazing trip. He was amazed as he scrolled through the photos and then he got to the one of me licking the inside of a Grammy winners mouth.
And he froze.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “He’s my wild card.”
“You had sex with him?” he asked sheepishly?
“Of course. You said it was okay.”
I will never forget the look of utter horror and devastation on his face. Was it mean? Yes. Is it mean to tell your new wife that you have a list and there’s nothing she can do about it? Yes. So I persisted. It was incredibly difficult to wait but after a few hours he came to me to let me know that he was deeply hurt and had reconsidered his list.
I explained it was a wax statue. And the only expression that could rival his previous look of horror was the look of relief followed by tears. I’m so mean I made a man cry and I don’t regret it. Men have been making women cry (with their bullshit) since the beginning of time.
We talked. We had a real conversation, the way married people should. And he acknowledged that he didn’t have a list.
Click here to read about my memoir of a metaphor.