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The Lament of a Trophy Husband
by Walter Bowne

I was under no illusions that my wife married me for my looks and my body. When pressed, she claimed, it was also for my laugh, but that was mere courtesy. Did it matter that I was also read Cicero and Aristotle?

Sadly, such erudition didn’t turn her on like my finely carved donk and chiseled physique.

In the beginning, some twenty years ago, I was mere eye candy, an object of pleasure. If it made my wife happy to instruct me, while merely walking across the room for a glass of water, to re-enter the room, this time, in a tight white T-shirt and tight red boxers, I complied with pride.

A happy wife is a happy husband, right?

Then one night, as an impulse, I surprised her in book boxers, a fine, comfy cotton blend. I had hoped to fuse two passions into one: books and sex. But she didn’t want to think Tolstoy while seducing me.

Instead, she selected a delicate piece, black silk, cut short in the back and tight in the front. I felt so exposed in those, but what could I say? As Shakespeare says, “Being your slave, what should I do but tend upon the hours and times of your desire?”

It did not embarrass me, then, in the slightest when she said my booty could have been carved by Michelangelo. She paraded me before friends at block parties and church functions to show off her “prize.” She dressed me in bowties for after work socials and for family gatherings leisure attire from Brooks Brothers. I knew how to play the part. I was the spotlight, my wife the one on stage. I knew my function. I knew my role. A spotlight, after all, may dream of reversing the roles, but for twenty years, I must say, I had been mostly happy shining the light as her trophy husband: a great looking guy, witty on command, well dressed and well-coiffed.

But did anyone ask about my opinion on Hamilton’s Federalists Papers? Or my latest insight into the The Middle East debacle? Or comment on the latest Booker Prize?

Sure, I made the other ladies of the neighborhood teas and book clubs and charity benes salivate in jealousy. However, if I seemed too friendly or too engaged with another woman, my wife would come up from behind, kiss my neck, grab me from behind, and say, “Isn’t he just marvelous?”

A stud can make any woman appear like a runway model.

But I’ve learned that a stud possessed has no control. Shopping on my own was verboten, especially after the travesty with the book boxers. Fitted shirts are not my style, but that’s what she wanted. So I had to stay so toned!

Planks at the local gym. One hundred push-ups in the morning. Every afternoon, I Stair-Mastered my way up an Eiffel Tower. She enrolled me in Pop Physique - the regimen of porn stars for fitness. Really? Did I want this? Didn’t I have better things to do with my time, like translate Goethe?

I could never contemplate a muffin without feeling like the top of a muffin. She would walk through Men’s Wearhouse, grab ten outfits, and I would strut before her like a peacock proud, but pride diminishes the soul, does it not? I must say, however, that her tastes are exquisite, and I have been very very very good for her career. Anyone who could land a stud like me needs to be doing something right. The money is no problem, but I’m forty-five now, and a mid-life crisis has descended like some parody of Prufrock. I’ve started finding and plucking tiny gray hairs on my chest. And I’m beginning to think she’s been eyeing up the younger guys, ones in their early thirties.

Or is it just my imagination?

I can’t even trim the hair on my chest without her complaining of depriving her of her “teddy bear” man. Why can’t I just be a man? Why must I be a bear?

I haven’t complained openly about the sex, but lately I don’t think I even matter. In the midst of the passion, I vanish; I could be just some other really great looking guy. When she’s taking command or giving commands, I’m thinking, “Can’t we just discuss whether Kant was correct in his dismissal of pure reason?”

It’s hard too on our kids, which I haven’t mentioned, because I don’t think my daughters respect me as an intelligent human being with dreams and aspirations of his own. What type of model am I as a father, other than an exceptionally good-looking one.

(I have been told I’m a cross between Ewan McGregor and Kenneth Branagh and Liam Neeson. All British, yes, but alas, I’m solidly from South Jersey.)

No longer do I want to be a mere plaything, an indestructible chew toy. After all, does a hunk of man meat even have a brain?

But I do have a brain, and I also have eyes, and, like I’ve said, I’ve been noticing her looking at younger males, especially at the gym and at Starbucks and at Target. Guys in their twenties have it easy. God, how I envy their youth! I knew I had to keep up my healthy regimen of high fiber (what I used to call roughage) and beta carotene and tummy crunches whenever an available moment arises, like waiting for the tea to boil for my green tea expulsion. With gravity, it’s so much harder now to keep toned and ravishing. The pressures are enormous, yes, but does anyone care? That trophy on the mantle, after all, without polishing, will rust. A man’s bloom is transitory.

Wasn’t it Keats who said, “The flower that smiles today tomorrow will be dying?”

And that’s what I feel like now, dying in a finely furnished prison. I want to express my feelings. I’m tired of being a kept-man. There is more to life, I would imagine, than playing golf, racquetball at the club, and long drives up the coast in my convertible. There has to be more to life than this pleasure obsession, with the madness of staying fit and young and sexy.

Oh, there must be more than all of that, even if the dish is fine porcelain. Life is more than a delectable dish of glistening cherries.