When I think of a husband, I think of a character Dennis Haysbert or Danny Glover or some other deep-voiced, barred chested man would play in a family melodrama revolving around a Black family in Memphis or Cleveland. They’d have a rugged, distinguished handsomeness earned from decades of being a Black man on Earth, they’d be the voice of reason in every circumstance, they’d dress in calm, earthy tones, and their name would be “John” or “James.” I also think about an aint-shit character Michael Beach or Malik Yoba would play; a successful husband to a successful wife who’ve created a successful, upper-middle class life together that’ll soon crumble because of his aint-shit-ness.
I think about my dad. My uncles. And both my dad’s dad and my mom’s dad. I think about the White guy with the dog and the three and a half kids who used to live across the street from me. I think about Barack Obama. The pastor at my church. My coaches in college. I think about those guys in the Lexus commercials that air around Christmas time. And the guys in the Wrangler commercials during NFL games. I think of Walter Lee Younger. And both the movie and the real life versions of Malcolm X. I think of those anonymous guys with their topcoats and leather briefcases who’d be on the EBA when I used to catch the EBA to work. I think about the men in the stands when I attend my nephew’s AAU basketball games. Shit, I even think about Al Bundy and Stedman Graham
I do not, however, think about myself. Which doesn’t seem to make much sense, because I am a husband now too.
It’s been a little over two months since I got married. Which means it’s been roughly 17 minutes since someone has asked me “So…how is married life?” I usually give the same standard reply — “It’s great. Just the same as life before getting married.” — which is both completely true and completely misleading. My life with my wife was great when she was my girlfriend and when she was my fiancee. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t — and shouldn’t — have gotten married. Things haven’t changed on that end. But what has changed is that I am a mother f****g husband now. Me! The guy who, just last year, forgot to buy toilet paper once and was forced to use an actual bath towel to wipe myself. The guy raps the first verse to Wu-Tang’s “For Heaven Sake” aloud whenever he sees Willie Mays on TV. The guy who, just yesterday, got a bad stomachache because he ate too much ice cream but, for some reason, continued eating ice cream.
I am someone’s mother f****g husband now. And not only am I a husband, I have a wife. A mother f***g wife!!! Me!
Aside from maybe “prostate exam” and “menopause,” there are no words in the English language that say “grown” the way husband (and wife) does. It suggests an immediate seriousness, a nobility, a sense of grown-ass-ness. When I think of a husband, I think of a guy with a salt and pepper beard and a 401k. A guy who’s been married longer than he was single. A guy who pays bills and says things like “my wife would like that” and “what is the prognosis?” and gives somber speeches at family gatherings. A guy who might have had a mistress or two but is never leaving his wife because that would be silly and foolish. A guy Richard Gere has played his entire career and Samuel L. Jackson has never, ever, ever played.
Basically, someone who’s not me.
But that someone who’s not me is me now. Even if I don’t feel like it yet, even if it hasn’t quite dawned on me, I’m the guy my wife is referencing to when she says things like “My husband is coming too.” I’m the guy who called T-Mobile last week so “my wife and I” can be on the same family plan. I’m the guy in the wedding pictures on our wall and in my phone, the one who danced with his wife in front of a couple hundred family and friends at his wedding, the one who’s actually older than his dad was when he had him. The one who had to get used to how the ring feels when he’s dribbling a basketball.
So maybe it’ll finally hit me in a few months. Maybe when I think of “husband” then I’ll think of me. Because Dennis Haysbert is a little old now, and it’s a little weird thinking “husband” and picturing a granddad.