My husband is invisible. He doesn’t exist. He’s a figment of my imagination. I’m totally making him up.
I’m pretty sure that’s what people are thinking when I repeatedly show up solo at birthday parties and parent/teacher conferences and family reunions with the same old excuse: my husband isn’t home.
It didn’t take long after the military joined our lives for his powers of invisibility to kick in. At our first duty station, where most of my friends were fellow college students, it was a running joke that I had bought myself a wedding ring just so I didn’t have to admit I was single. In the two years I spent studying and grabbing bites to eat after class with these friends, only one of them ever met this person I claimed to be married to. She was my sole witness to my husband’s existence. And even though she interacted with him on several occasions, I think she still secretly suspected he was an actor I hired every now and then to play my spouse.
Our son’s first baseball season was another period of notable invisibility. For months, I was the only husbandless mom in the bleachers, and our son was the only fatherless kid warming up with someone else’s dad before games. The other parents nodded and smiled as I talked about this man they had never seen. It wasn’t until season two, when my husband finally materialized, that people realized I truly was married. And I have to say, they looked kind of surprised that this man they’d been hearing about turned out to be a living, breathing human being.
In some cases, my husband’s invisibility is simply ignored. His name isn’t brought up in conversations unless I throw it out there. In other cases, I feel like people are dying to break out the air quotes when asking why I’m once again alone. So where is your “husband” this time? Is your “husband” still deployed? Come on, admit it. Isn’t your “husband” actually that body pillow you drew a face on and periodically spritz with manly cologne?
I guess I can’t blame people for believing my husband is some mythical creature I fabricated years ago. He’s spent so much time away from home, and so many years have passed since even some of my family members have seen him that it’s not always easy to come up with anything but circumstantial evidence of his existence.
When he does shed his invisibility cloak, people react with a combination of surprise and confusion. He’s home? He’s coming to the party? He can volunteer to help out at the baseball game? Really? Instead of trying to restrain themselves from using air quotes, they’re now trying to stop themselves from visibly scanning the room to either find out who this mystery man is or to assess how much he’s changed since they last saw him a million years ago. They want to catch a glimpse before he turns invisible again.
These days my husband is home a lot, and I’m rarely questioned about his invisibility status. But it’s only a matter of time before I’m in a new place, with new circumstances and new people. Before long I’ll once again be joking that my husband isn’t a figment of my imagination, that I didn’t make him up and that he isn’t just an over-sized scented pillow with a smiley face.
Hmm, maybe hiring a stand-in spouse isn’t such a bad idea after all. Anyone know Matthew McConaughey’s phone number?