5 secrets from the man vaultYour guy might not be ready to admit these truths, but Aaron Traister is. File them under "Ah, that explains it!" or "Stuff I'm not sure I wanted to know."
I recently grabbed an awesome old wood-and-steel machinist's stool from a pile of trash on the curb. If my wife, Karel, finds out, she'll throw a fit (she's urged me to stop bringing home stuff I've found in the garbage), so I'm hiding it in our basement in hopes that the smell will go away. What does this have to do with anything? Well, most guys have stuff they don't want to share with their wives, or the rest of the world--things that make us feel guilty or strange. But no more. REDBOOK is all about confessions this month, so with this column, I am WikiLeaking the dark corners of my mind in an effort to have a more open, positive relationship. I hereby announce that I'm sowing the seeds for my "Aaron Spring." And I'm betting my list will illuminate the opaque spots of your man's secret self too. Let the catharsis begin!
1. I play dead to get out of stuff.
From faking illness and injury to get out of a niece's first Communion or a dinner with the in-laws, to silently "hanging out" in the attic when their wives want them to clean the gutters, most guys play possum at some point in their relationships, because a lot of the things you want us to do are about as fun as... cleaning gutters. For me, it's when the kids cry out in the middle of the night. I'm at my worst between my "goodnight glass of scotch" and the first sounds of my children fighting in the morning. I'm bleary, incoherent, and off-balance. (Perhaps my goodnight glass of scotch should be a little smaller.) I always end up making my kids feel worse when I show up in their room bumping into things and cursing, so I fake sleeping through their cries and let Karel grumpily deal with it. I make sure that on those nights, Karel gets to sleep in the next morning, but somehow I think that might not make up for it.
2. I behaved irresponsibly right up until saying "I do."
Guys hold on to bachelorhood like Kate Winslet held on to Leonardo DiCaprio in "Titanic". We're not letting go until it becomes clear that we'll be dragged under the icy North Atlantic if we cling to it any longer. The most obvious example of this is the bachelor party. Years ago, when I worked security at bars, I was always amazed that dudes thought it was okay to have one final go with a stripper a week before tying the knot. I never had a bachelor party (after trying to control them as a bouncer, they lost their appeal for me), but I did do my share of drugs right up until the last possible minute. Karel made it clear that my partying was a deal breaker in our relationship, so I secretly eked out every Keith Richards moment I could until we exchanged rings. I know it sounds childish, but before I got married, I firmly believed that the transition from boyfriend to husband would be as dramatic as night and day, and that I would wake up a different man. Believe it or not, I did.
3. I miss casual sex.
I love being married, and I appreciate monogamy. It keeps me focused in a way I never was while I was on the prowl, and I'm also lucky that my wife happens to be a firecracker. However, I also used to love wandering into a bar and walking out with a stranger, someone I could spend a few fun hours with, no strings attached. It's a huge ego boost, especially when you don't look like Tom Brady. It makes you feel like the greatest used-car salesman in the world. It's also kinda romantic. Not Disney romantic--more like Nina Simone romantic: melancholy, boozy, lovely, very adult, and weirdly French. Who doesn't want to feel a little French every now and then?
4. I have a security blanket, but creepier.
When I go on a job interview or I'm in an awkward situation (i.e., every social occasion, but big, fancy parties specifically), or I need a little good luck, I keep a pair of my wife's undies in my pocket. Surprise, honey! Apparently, my habit isn't as weird as I thought: I ran this by a few women, and they had similar tales about their husbands' wanting to know the color of their underwear before leaving for work or keeping a pair in their desk at the office. I guess I do it because thinking about Karel calms me down, and thinking about sex gives me incentive to do things a bit better. Perhaps as I'm nervously fingering her lacy underthing in my pocket, in my head I'm hearing her say, "Aaron, you got the job! Let's celebrate!" Then again, nervously fingering anything in my pocket during a job interview is probably not going to open a lot of doors. I'm working on this one.
5. I downplay how much I spend.
I feel like Betty Draper admitting this, but whenever I tell Karel I've bought something, I factor in a 15 to 25 percent discount. So if I buy a pair of running shoes for $100, I tell her I paid $75. My friends and I call this "the wife price." To be fair, I've caught her doing the same thing to me. I think it's because we were so broke for so long that we're always kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, immediately and with a tremendous amount of force, and that we should be putting that extra 15 to 25 percent toward our inevitable crushing financial future. It's like we can see a time when all we have left fits in a bindle, and neither of us wants to shoulder the blame because we spent an extra 25 bucks on a pair of Adidas.
Wow. I feel lighter already. Writing this saves me the trouble of actually having to tell my wife about where her panties went or what that funny smell coming from the basement is. I'm sure she'll find this information helpful, and that it will add a deeper level of understanding to our relationship. Right, honey? Karel?
REDBOOK columnist Aaron Traister lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two kids.
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