When a non-chain opens up in our tiny town in the ’burbs, it’s news. After all, we live in the land of T.G.I. Friday’s and Bonefish Grill and Olive Garden. So when a non-chain craft brewery with cool lighting and sexy low-slung banquettes opened mere minutes from our house, on a sleepy street full of real estate offices and banks, J. and I were delighted. We quickly became regulars, eschewing pints of Bud and burgers for small-batch IPAs and gourmet wood-fired pizzas.
It just so happens that the owner of this too-cool-for-the-suburbs bar is good-looking. Really good-looking. I first noticed it when J. and I met my parents at the bar for drinks one evening. My mom kept awkwardly jerking her head at the owner in this weird way that made it look like she was having a seizure, and mouthing: “For your sister? He’d be cute for Ali, wouldn’t he?” And that’s when I saw him and realized that, yes, he would be cute for Ali, because he is really, really good-looking.
I must have gawked a little because when I tore my eyes from Hot Bar Owner, J. was looking at me, eyebrows raised. “Seriously, babe?” he said. “I mean, could you be any more obvious?”
“What do you want me to say? He’s hot. Right, mom?” But she was lost in thought, no doubt planning the marriage of my sister to Hot Bar Owner in her head. And then, I found myself still speaking, almost stream-of-consciousness: “Like, seriously, he’s cute. And he makes beer.”
My mom leaned in now, keeping one eye on him. “He used to live in Australia,” she said.
Of course he did. “Does he have an accent?” I asked. “Because, if he has an accent, too, that’s just … come on.” We were like a couple of horny teenagers talking about those One Direction boys.
“Thanks, babe,” J. said, looking—and I couldn’t believe this—a little bit hurt.
Shit. Were we not at that point yet?
“Don’t worry about it,” my friend told me when I relayed the story to her. “Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t think other people are good-looking. In fact, I think anyone who has a normal, healthy relationship should be able to comment on whether they think members of the opposite sex are attractive. I mean, what are you gonna do, leave him for the random hot guy on the sidewalk? Come on.”
She had a point. J. and I are confident in our marriage, and we’re not jealous people. Or so I thought. Then one weekend, we saw a Victoria’s Secret model in the bedding department of Bloomingdale’s in New York City.
She was impossible to miss—ten feet tall, clad in black leggings and a Moncler black jacket, no makeup, and ridiculously, impossibly thin. I noticed her first.
“Babe, I think that’s a model,” I said as I tugged at his coat. “I think that’s that Victoria’s Secret model, Erin Heatherton.”
My husband, who’d been in a zombie-like state mere seconds ago, snapped to life. “I’m on it.” He said this as seriously as if he was a cop radioing in that he was about to embark on a high-speed car chase. I watched from behind a Pratesi display of pillowcases as he paraded back and forth, back and forth, trying to determine if this was in fact Erin Heatherton, Goddess of the Underwear.
“I couldn’t get a good read,” he whispered to me as she walked away. At this point, both of us were crouching behind a full bed set-up. “But I do think it was her. I’ll do some research when we get home. It has to be her. Did you see those legs?”
I stared at him as he walked away, feeling much, much shorter than my 5’3”, and promising myself that I’d up my cardio so that I, too, could be an underwear goddess worthy of stalking in the bedding aisle of the local department store. But I forgot about the whole thing until a few days later, when J. proudly presented me the latest Victoria’s Secret catalogue. He had dog-eared every single page that featured Erin Heatherton. I was starting to hate this bitch.
“It’s all about the freckles, really,” J. explained matter-of-factly as I stared at him. He hadn’t spent this much time on a project since, well, ever. “See, if you look at page 22, it looks like they airbrushed them out, and the girl in the store definitely had freckles. But here, on page 34, she looks like the girl we saw.” He walked me through the rest of the catalogue, and then he threw it down on our coffee table with a flourish.
“We definitely saw Erin Heatherton,” he pronounced. I swear his cheeks were flushed.
And then I felt it—a pang of something that was a little worse than jealousy, something more like I’ll never be her. I thought back to Hot Bar Owner, a guy who actually existed in our real life, and not just in a catalogue. I started to wonder: If it’s natural to find people other than your spouse attractive, is it ever okay to talk about it? When it comes to sharing everything with your significant other, when should you just shut the hell up?
“I just did it yesterday,” said my friend Emily. “I screamed up the steps to my husband as I was flipping through the channels: ‘RYAN GOSLING IS THE HOTTEST MAN ON THE PLANET.’ That said, with strangers—like, if I passed a guy in the mall—I probably wouldn’t mention it. Not for any particular reason, though. I guess I wouldn’t want my husband pointing out hot girls to me. I would hate that.”
I felt like a horrible wife. In the interest of full disclosure—and of not only being partners but best friends who tell each other everything—had I said too much?
“You can’t tell me that you don’t think other girls are hot,” I said to J. that night, after he told me flatly that he’d boycott the blog if I wrote about Hot Bar Owner.
“Well, I guess, but I wouldn’t say anything,” he said.
So who wins? A point for forthrightness or for tact?
My friend Emily popped by again the next day. “You know what?” he said. “Hot astronomy boy. He was in my astronomy class in college. I used to come back from class and tell Chris all about him. Even now that we’re married, we still laugh about hot astronomy boy.” She grew thoughtful. “I wonder what he’s doing now …”
I guess there’s a fine line between being honest and being hurtful. Maybe I’d crossed it. From now on, I’ll keep things like Hot Bar Owner to myself—or at least limit my gawking to only-on-TV people. Perhaps I’ll find us a new bar, too.
In the meantime, I’m canceling my Victoria’s Secret catalogue subscription.
Do you and your groom openly discuss innocent attractions or people you think are attractive? Or is this particular topic strictly off-limits?