I had no idea I was one of many being auditioned to replace his husband.
Everett's wedding band caught my eye the moment we met at a Hollywood event. The polished platinum disappointed me for a hot second, but, very quickly, he engaged me in a conversation about his family and upbringing that had us laughing and chatting until the red carpet had been rolled away. He was exactly my type -- nerdy-cute, in that Paul Rudd kind of way.
"I want to keep talking to you," he said, "but it looks like we're the last men standing." The entire party was being dismantled around us.
"I'd love to chat more, as well," I replied, thinking that our obvious connection could at least become a friendship. We had uncannily similar interests and backstories, and I'd always wanted a gay male pal. My core group was comprised mostly of single women.
"How about dinner later this week," he suggested, which surprised me considering he was a high-level movie studio executive with what I imagined to be a full calendar. It appeared that he didn't want too much time to go by before seeing me again, and I was flattered. I accepted his invitation and those that followed over the next few months.
During our first meal together, Everett was extremely forthcoming about his troubled marriage. He explained that he no longer felt like he was partnered with his "best friend" and that perhaps they had outgrown each other. Their sex life, moreover, was nonexistent, a detail he said he felt comfortable sharing because he'd read my memoir, which is similarly candid. Over another dinner, he mentioned his lapses in fidelity with, for example, an overeager hotel masseuse during business travel and a high school friend who enjoyed sharing trips down memory lane -- naked.
Somehow, Everett was able to justify his indiscretions, and I bought into the skewed logic. "After all," he said, "my husband has to realize that we're not a forever match by this point." The flag he was waving was most certainly red, but his continued interest in spending time with me, coupled with his dorky charm, was reeling instead of repelling to this approval addict. His constant texting and attention didn't hurt either.
"If you weren't married," I said, "I would be all over you." Our chemistry was undeniable, and gone were the days that I kept my feelings bottled up. Whatever was between us had to be acknowledged because the butterflies in my stomach refused to settle down.
"So, I guess we're feeling the same way," he answered. "Maybe we should keep spending time together and see what unfolds." For the next six weeks, we did, in fact, see a lot of one another, and our mutual desire had grown increasingly intense. I was more hopeful than ever; something meaningful was clearly building, even though we hadn't yet shared any physical intimacy. Despite the emotional bond, I struggled to keep the flame low for as long as I could, presumably giving him time to sort out the major life changes he was about to make.
"When are you having the 'break-up' conversation with your husband?" I finally worked up the nerve to ask. I was curious as to Everett's timeline and excited that I'd finally met a cute, upwardly mobile man who was attracted to me as well.
"Who knows if or when that'll happen," he said. "I don't want to end up alone if the right guy doesn't cross my path. You know what I mean?"
"Have you no self-respect?" my good friend Renée asked the minute I relayed, with a heavy heart, my most recent conversation with Everett. "I wasn't a believer from the moment you told me about him. He's married -- which means NOT AVAILABLE." She actually yelled the last two words. "And, he's admitted to more than one extramarital affair. Never forget: you lose them the way you find them."
The good feelings that came with Everett's interest vaporized and, in their place, grew an overwhelming sense of rejection and self-doubt. I had to sit on my hands to stop myself from answering his messages and spent a few days tearfully channel surfing with a pint of Haagen Daz in one hand and Peanut M&Ms in the other. How had I blinded myself to the fact that he was a dog in men's clothing?
"Cute and charming can cover some pretty horrible attributes; it's the same way serial killers operate," Renée said during our 50th phone call that weekend. "Not to say he would have murdered you, but he certainly did a number on your spirit."
"But it's just as much my fault for allowing it to happen, isn't it? I mean, he practically wore a sandwich-board saying, 'Look at me, I'm a low-life!' and I embraced it for 12 weeks."
"He courted you and took you for a test drive," Renée said. "And, it's equally horrible to think about how he treated his husband. What kind of asshole keeps a 20-year relationship warm while he looks for someone better? It's like not quitting your current job until you find a new one. If that's how he treats his significant other, imagine how you'd be disregarded down the line."
I dried my eyes and rejoined my life, already in progress, within a week. I was even able to find some humor in my romantic stumble, cracking jokes to a few friends and colleagues who also knew Everett. One of them relayed, only a month or so later, that Everett had left his husband and already had a boyfriend. He'd also bought a motorcycle. It all made perfect sense, including the motorcycle. Men in personal crises often wind up with a bike or a horse. Oh, and hair plugs.
I gained clarity about the part I had played in the Everett situation. I filtered out the elements of his story that I wanted to ignore in favor of the sparkling aspects of his personality and looks. In my head, I made him the man I wanted and not the man he was.