My husband Todd had been picked up on a charge of solicitation of prostitution, so in retaliation I threatened to burn one of his stuffed animals. I picked up his panda bear, Binky, from the couch. “Say goodbye to Binky,” I said.
“Go ahead,” he said. “I’ll just buy another one.” He was eating chocolate chip cookies and drinking a glass of milk in front of the TV. He was watching a special on dinosaurs. He loved dinosaurs. With him it was tyrannosaurus rex this and stegosaurus that. Sometimes he called his first wife tyrannosaurus ex, and we both laughed.
I liked to make jokes about dinosaurs because it seemed to make him happy. “You know what my favorite dinosaur is?” I said one time when I felt like making him smile.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“The thesaurus,” I said.
“That’s not a dinosaur!” he said and laughed. “You’re a silly!”
“I know,” I said. “I wanted to make you laugh.” I tickled him.
Todd laid his cookie back on his plate. His plate (and cookie) lay on our Table Mate II, an upscale TV tray that Todd and I (and the kids) enjoyed. He wiped his mouth and hands on a paper towel. I was so proud that he wiped his mouth and hands on the paper towel that I almost forgave him for paying for sex with prostitutes.
Todd’s other stuffed animals surrounded him on the couch. He liked to have his stuffed animals with him during snack time. He had a giraffe named Mr. Doodles, a cow named Sarah, among others. There were about ten stuffed animals altogether. There’s something heartwarming for a wife to see her husband sitting on the couch surrounded by his stuffed animals. I looked over at him. He looked so cute and adorable with his cookies and milk and Mr. Doodles and Sarah and the rest of the gang that I felt my resolve weakening. I needed to be firm and not put up with his bad behavior anymore. I felt a sudden jolt of resolve (I guess), and I took Binky over to the fireplace and placed him on the burning Pres-to-Log. Binky sputtered a little and then started burning at a fast clip.
Todd got up from the couch and ran to Binky. By then Binky was almost completely engulfed in flames. “I hate you! You bitch,” he said. He teared up a little and sniffled. “What did Binky ever do to you?” Then he lost it. He was blubbering and crying like a baby. I felt I was finally getting through to him. It felt as though I had broken through that arrogance and I-can-do-whatever-I-want attitude that made him think it was OK to pay for sex with prostitutes.
“You can’t go around sleeping with prostitutes,” I said. “You can’t pay whores to give you blow jobs in the minivan.” He just stared at me and blubbered some more. He ran to his room, the master bedroom. He flapped his arms and zigzagged as he ran to the bedroom because he was so upset. “I hate you! I hate you!” he yelled a few more times.
I had chosen Binky because he was Todd’s favorite, and I knew it would be difficult to replace him. I wanted Todd to realize that there were consequences to screwing hos in the back of the family’s minivan.
Binky would be difficult to replace because we had purchased him at that big panda park in Oregon, Stenson’s Panda World and Water Park. A trip to Oregon wasn’t something we could just drop everything for. It’s not as if a person can just drop everything and go to Oregon. It would be hard to get another Binky.
(I had heard that the stuffed pandas from Panda World were made from real panda fur, but I couldn’t imagine that being true. I think the rumors were started by the Chinese because they were jealous of the success of Panda World. Panda World could breed pandas in captivity like nobody’s business, and the Chinese resented that. The Chinese were extremely competitive.)
Naturally, I felt guilty later. That was just my nature. I would try to be firm but then would just crumble later. It was really bad this time. So there I sat in front of my computer sobbing. I was trying to find him a new Binky.
(I know. I’m a wimp.)
If I hadn’t burned Binky, I would have had the whole family’s sympathy. Instead, I burned Binky, and Todd, of course, told all of the relatives. He would call various relatives at three in the morning and blubber about Binky. Naturally, I ended up being the bad guy.
But it wasn’t just pressure from the relatives that made me feel bad. All I could picture in my head was how sad he looked as he watched Binky burn up in the fire. And then his red, swollen eyes that came from crying so much.
I thought back to Panda World. I thought about Todd riding around with Xing, the Panda mascot from Panda World. You could have Xing ride any ride with you. Of course, there was an army of Xings, but that didn’t matter. You could have your very own Xing for a day. Todd was so happy.
I found the pictures from that day on my computer and looked through them. There was Todd and Xing. There was Todd, Xing, and Binky. There was Todd holding Binky and giving a thumbs up.
I wept at the memory. Even though your husband has been picked up for paying the dirtiest, nastiest, skankiest skank to do the most disgusting, filthy, awful, vile stuff to his penis, you shouldn’t go around burning his stuffed animals. That was just wrong. There was something wrong with me. I knew it for a long time, ever since I was a little girl. I need to be a more forgiving person. The worst part was that he might only learn that I was a bad person who burned up his stuffed animals rather than the real lesson that paying for sex with prostitutes was wrong. That was my biggest fear.
I wanted to go to Todd and apologize to him. I wanted to hold him and take away all of his pain. Maybe it was my fault he was seeing prostitutes. Maybe I should take some responsibility.
But then I felt my mood change. I had been here before. I didn’t force him to go to a prostitute. He needed to not act like that. I started feeling good about myself again. I’m not responsible for Todd going to prostitutes for sex. I had been reading books on codependency, and I think the messages were starting to sink in.
The next day the phone rang, and I answered it. It was Owen’s Chrysler Jeep Dodge. Usually they’d call to wish us or the kids a happy birthday and offer a special trade-in deal. Or they call to tell us about a low price on paper towels, say, at our local Safeway and offer a special trade-in deal.
“We at Owen’s Chrysler Jeep Dodge just heard that someone in your household was arrested for patronizing a prostitute. We’d just like you to know that all of us here at Owen’s Chrysler Jeep Dodge send you our best wishes and our hearts go out to you during this difficult time. We’d also hope that you would consider trading in your 2010 Dodge Durango for a new vehicle. We can give you the best trade-in value.”
“Thanks, no,” I said and hung up. I was relieved that Owen’s Chrysler Jeep Dodge hadn’t found out about me burning up Binky. My mind was playing tricks on me. There was no way they’d find out about Binky. But I felt some comfort in knowing my Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership had best wishes for me. That provided a small measure of comfort.
I had heard that Owen’s Chrysler Jeep Dodge recently started using that new Internet company that had access to police reports and sent an alert if any of your customers had been arrested. Your company could then send personalized messages. When I’d been arrested for shoplifting, we got a call from Owen’s Chrysler Jeep Dodge. Of course, Todd took the call, and he was pissed. I had managed to keep it secret up to then.
I had forgotten about the shoplifting charge. I realized it was just another way that I wasn’t perfect and shouldn’t have burned up Binky.
About a month later, I found a new Binky. Panda World finally had a storefront on the Internet. For a long time, their web store’s page said, “Coming Soon!” I was afraid that maybe Panda World had closed down due to fierce competition from the new rival panda park created by China in its special free-trade zone in Oregon.
Finally, I could get Todd a new Binky.
When Todd’s replacement Binky arrived, I was relieved. I just felt relief.
It was around this time that I’d read on the Internet that having plenty of pornography on hand was good for helping husbands not succumb to the siren call of prostitutes. So I bought Todd some pornography. I bought the huge grab bag they had down at the sex shop that just opened off the Interstate. The grab bag was a Hefty garbage bag that they just shoveled in a bunch of defective and unpopular merchandise. It looked as though they took anything that hadn’t sold or had been returned and put it in the grab bag, so it contained a lot of fringe and gross stuff. All the same, what wife wouldn’t be popular with her husband when she offered him a new stuffed animal and a 50-pound garbage bag full of pornography?
I asked one of the store’s clerks to help me move the garbage bag to my car.
“We’re not allowed to do that, liability concerns,” he said.
Thanks a lot. So I dragged the bag out by myself to my car. I opened the trunk and tried to lift the bag into the trunk. A pornography store customer stopped to help me.
“Here’s a lady who really likes her porn,” he said. He placed his own much smaller bag of purchases on his car’s roof.
“It’s for my husband,” I said. “Otherwise he goes to prostitutes.”
“Oh, you poor lady.”
“No, I’m fine,” I said. “There are always rough spots to any marriage.”
It took both of us to get the garbage bag into the trunk. Todd would need to get the bag out on his own.
“Wow, your husband is going to be happy with all of that,” he said. He was looking at some of the seedier merchandise that had spilled out of the bag and into my trunk. I cringed. I’d have to hose out my trunk after Todd removed the bag. I wish I’d thought of lining the trunk with a tarp beforehand.
“Well, I hope so. It’s the grab bag.”
“You don’t say.”
“Yeah, they’re over by the sex toys,” I said. “Oh, and thanks a lot for your help.”
“No problem,” he said. He got into his car and started to back out, but he forgot about his purchases he left on his car roof.
I waved my arms. “Wait!” He stopped his car, and I grabbed the bag from the roof of his car. He opened the window, and I handed his purchases to him.
“Well, thank you very much,” he said. “Have a nice day.”
“You’re welcome. And thanks again,” I said. I waved as he finished backing out. He waved too and rolled up his window. I felt like I was seeing off a visiting relative. We had forged a connection in the parking lot of the pornography store.
I stood in the doorway of Todd’s den. Todd was watching that YouTube video of the baby panda sneezing, the one that showed the baby panda sneeze which startled the mama panda, who jumped a little.
Todd was crying. He watched the video over and over. I had no idea he missed Binky so much. I felt bad about myself again until I remembered my gifts.
“Hey, Tiger, I have a present for you,” I said. “Actually, two presents.”
I gave Todd his replacement Binky. I wasn’t sure how he’d react, if he’d be angry that I was trying to replace Binky, as if the first Binky didn’t matter.
Todd spontaneously put on a little show with his new Binky. He was so cute when he put on a show. The new Binky played the part of Todd. Tiffany (his hippo stuffed animal) played the part of the prostitute, and Clingy Cathy, his purple monkey, played my part. The rest of the animals were arranged as the audience.
I wondered if his animal choices reflected anything he was unable to talk about. In our marriage, we’ve often found it helpful to go to the stuffed animals to play act and work out any problems we’re having in our relationship.
“Your other present is in the trunk of my car,” I said. “It’s so big I couldn’t get it out or wrap it.”
Todd ran out to the garage and returned with the garbage bag of pornography. He was so muscular that he carried it as if it were a bag of potato chips. He placed the bag right in the middle of his den. Then he jumped and hopped around all excited. He started to go through his garbage bag, and it seemed as though he was ignoring Binky. Eventually, I left and went to the living room to read.
A few hours later I decided to check up on him. He was still ignoring Binky and totally focused on the garbage bag of pornography.
“Can Binky help?” I said. It bothered me that he was ignoring Binky. I think it was because Binky was a better present. I put a lot of effort into finding a replacement Binky, but I hadn’t put much thought or effort into the grab bag. I wanted him to pay attention to Binky. I wanted to feel validated by him preferring Binky.
Todd just looked at me. He had that look when he was totally focused on pornography, that glassy-eyed, trance-like look. Time had probably disappeared for him because he was in the flow.
Todd was sitting cross legged on the floor. I picked up Binky and placed him on Todd’s knee. He stared at Binky.
“It’s Binky,” I said.
He nodded and went back to his reading and sorting.
Todd sorted the pornography into several piles: Yes, No, and Gross. (He didn’t call it Gross though. That was my term.) I looked through his Yes pile and found several things that I felt should have gone into the Gross pile, but I didn’t want to say anything and seem like I was nagging. I was also careful not to touch anything. I didn’t want to have to boil my hands after touching his pornography. I went back to my book in the living room.
When I returned to Todd a few hours later, he was still sorting and studying. “Come on, Slugger, time for the new Vice President of Marketing to go to bed,” I said. I put my hands on his shoulders. “You’re going to need plenty of sleep for your new job.” Todd recently had been promoted, and I was really proud. He went from General Manager to VP of Marketing. It was quite a surprise to all of us. I didn’t want him to lose his job because he had been sorting pornography all night and couldn’t concentrate the next day at work.
I felt a strong, almost overwhelming affection toward him at that moment. I could see the man I’d married eight years earlier. Stripped of all the hurt and pain of the incident with the prostitute, I could see him as I’d remembered him on our wedding night. It was always better to hold that idealized image of your husband in your head to help make it through the bad times such as when he gets arrested for solicitation of prostitution or sets your mother’s house on fire or whatever else that he could get arrested for.
I felt as if he had forgiven me, and I felt as if I had almost forgiven him. But it really didn’t matter anymore because his excitement and enthusiasm for his 50 pound bag of porn made everything just click into place for me. So I guess I had forgiven him. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.
Todd buried No and Gross at the bottom of a box of kitchen incidentals and donated that to Goodwill. And he eventually bonded with his new Binky, so Binky became part of the gang. I couldn’t’ve been happier.