My husband isn't typical. He's French. And he had a happy childhood, which is unusual in my neurotic, New York crowd. So when, in my mid-forties, I pushed up my eyelids in front of the mirror, then pulled up my left cheek and mumbled that maybe I needed a facelift, he said something I expected—and something I didn't.
"Ma chérie," he said, smiling his big white smile, "you're so beautiful!" Although I didn't believe what he said, I knew he believed what he said, which, for many women, would have been plenty.
I stood up to plead my case further, pinching the part of my stomach that showed—no, protruded—between my tank and my sweats. This was the part that had protected my four children for a total of 36 months, yet I was far from proud.
"Look at this!" I demanded.
Then, shooting from the hip, in an attempt to rescue me from time and ego, he said it:
"You're still young and you need to feel better. Take a lover, but don't tell me about it, mon amour. In France, it's like this."
My mind reeled, not because of how this invitation freed me, but because of what it implied about him.
"So when you need to feel good, you 'take a lover'?" I asked, imitating his accent.
"Sweetie, I feel good about myself. I always have. And I did enough of that in my twenties to last me lifetimes."
This was a…