Don’t tell the feds, but I’m living in a polygamous marriage.
It’s not the kind of arrangement you see on HBO’s “Big Love” or TV news reports from Utah. Even if he secured a three-day pass from prison and came calling, there’s no way I’d agree to be one of FLDS sect leader Warren Jeffs’ 50-plus wives. Oh, he’s attractive enough, I suppose, in a skinny, lounge-act hypnotist kind of way. But my long-haired days are long gone, and I’d get way too hot in those ankle-length frocks they wear while tending their flocks on the compound.
Even if I was one of those hip and modern “sister wives” in “Big Love,” cohabitating in my suburban enclave replete with backyard swimming pool, there’d be way too many hormones in the air for comfort. One postmenopausal woman plus four PMS cases (including the teenage daughter) living under one roof? No, thank you.
But the truth is, I’m living with two men. My husband and his evil twin.
My spouse is a kind, mild-mannered man by nature. He seldom raises his voice or curses (except when watching sporting events on TV; he is a human heterosexual male, after all). He projects an aura of calmness to everyone around him. My mother swears his soothing voice can actually lower her blood pressure. I can count on one finger the number of times he’s lost his temper in public. My beloved is self-control personified, the model of excellent deportment. He’s what the kids today would call “chill.”
That is, until a home improvement project goes awry.
When it comes to fixing things, my husband is a seasoned professional. Rarely do we need to call a repairman for anything but the big fixes — furnace and A/C, asphalt, Roto-rooting. Whenever something else needs tending to, he’ll just strap on the tool belt and have at it.
Then, something invariably goes wrong and he morphs into his maniacal, venom-spewing alter ego.
It was a bit of a problem when the kids were young.
One Saturday morning, years ago, my husband had assumed his customary position — lying under the sink on his back, his long legs splayed across the kitchen floor — and was attempting to dismantle our garbage disposal that had swallowed yet another dish rag.
The children and I sat in the family room, mindlessly watching TV cartoons, when out of the blue, a familiar-sounding voice started bellowing a string of profanity that would make a sailor cover his ears with his dress gloves.
While my son never flinched (too mesmerized by He-Man), my daughter was visibly disturbed.
“Why is Daddy saying those bad words, Mommy?” she asked. “And why is he so mad at the son of Midge?”
“That’s not your daddy, sweetie,” I said, without thinking. “That’s his evil twin, Tex.”
“You live with Tex AND Daddy, Mommy?!” she asked, eyes wide open in wonder.
“Yes,” I replied, “but only one at a time. Your Daddy will be back soon.”
It was an implausible explanation, but it worked. And it still holds up today.
My daughter, now grown and boomeranged back home, pads downstairs on Saturday afternoon, eyes still bleary from a long night on the town, whining, “Oh my gawwwwd, Mom. Tex is cussing and throwing things around in the attic again. He woke me up and I’ve only had 10 hours of sleep!!”
“A pipe is leaking into the crawl space,” I explain, calmly. “Tex can’t find his trouble light. Just stay clear. Daddy will be home soon. Or, you could always get your own place, you know!”
(That last quip always seems to fall on deaf ears, but I keep trying.)
How do I live with two men like this? It’s simple, really. I’ve just learned what both require, and I give it them.
My husband needs love and affection, gratitude and appreciation, the occasional home-cooked meal and a steady supply of ice-cold beer in the fridge.
Tex just needs his space.
It’s not like Tex is a real, personal threat. He never raises his voice — or God forbid, a hand — to me or the kids. He saves his evil wrath for rusty bolts and stubborn P-trap nuts.
Besides, Tex might finally be serving a higher purpose in our marriage. With a few more outbursts, our poor, sleep-deprived daughter might consider getting her own digs again.
Our washer is on the fritz this weekend. Go ahead, Tex, let ’er rip!
— Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com.