At lunch with my colleagues recently, the conversation turned to a morning news feature about a group of 13 women who contributed $3,000 apiece to time-share a diamond necklace, each having the use of it for a given period each year.
The rules are flexible: Anyone celebrating a special occasion could take temporary custody, as could anyone traveling to Paris. The women claim the time-share arrangement is more about the friendship than jewelry, but some of us have our doubts.
One of my colleagues who is renowned for thinking outside the box, except that there is no box, got a gleam in her eye and erupted like Old Faithful, spewing the words: “Time-shared husband.”
The idea spread like fire in a California drought among our lunch group of divorced, widowed and never-been-married women ranging from late 20s to early 70s. The ideal pool of time sharers would be 12, we decided, so that each of us could have the time-share husband for a month without having to trouble our cynical little heads with higher math.
It soon became clear that unless we could find Mr. Clean, George Clooney, Warren Buffett and Trevor Noah embodied in a single person, we were going to need more than one. In fact, we might have to broaden the time-shared husband enterprise into a franchise to guarantee that participants’ every need is met.
Presentable escort topped the list. He would be so much in demand in June (weddings) and December (holidays) that we might need a lottery. Other high priorities were handyman, taxman (negotiation needed for April), agreeable companion (ideal for road trips and winter doldrums), intellectual (not much demand for this one except for those who love iambic pentameter) and computer geek. Anyone with an emergency would be loaned computer geek.
The youngest in our group put in an order for a wit, but another who had been married to a cutup for a quarter of a century administered a bucket of cold water. You want a man who makes you laugh, our veteran cautioned her darkly, but a guy who works the crowd at a party is going to get on your last nerve at home, even for a month.
One of us requested a good, solid, everyday cook, eschewing the sobriquet gourmet chef, automatically conferred on any man willing to make a pot of soup. When the eldest of our group suggested “extreme sport,” the rest of us shrieked, “You hate sports.”
“Extreme support,” she corrected. Nods all around.
“Emotional or financial?”
“One of each,” she replied. “You’re not going to get backrubs and bankrolls in the same guy.”
Funny how handsome and romantic didn’t come into it; anyone who thinks women are automatically wired for hearts and flowers hasn’t shared a taco salad with our gimlet-eyed little group. We were up to nine categories and counting when someone thought to ask, “What’s in it for the time-shared husband?”
“Men like variety,” one of us shrugged.
“That’s the problem,” another pointed out.
For equality’s sake, we made a
half-hearted stab at conjuring up categories of time-shared wives, but after dewy, young, adoring, perky breasts, sports fan, masseuse, makes meatloaf just like his mother’s, cleans bathroom grout with toothbrush and never wants to talk about feelings, we bummed ourselves out and returned to the logistics of our time-shared plan.
We have a few details to work out, but we think we’ve pretty much answered Freud’s question about what women want.
Rebecca Christian, a former Dubuquer, is an Ames, Iowa, writer.