I'm the dad of a young girl, working at home and managing domestic matters while my wife works at a corporate gig. She decides she needs a getaway with a girlfriend. I'm supportive. She books a trip to Vegas and realizes after the fact it's the Family Day weekend. No worries. I book a ski-camp getaway with our kid. There's one other child in the group, a girl the same age, and they have a blast. I ski on the last day with her (single) mom. We all have lunch and I think it would be cool to meet again so the kids can have another lesson. We'd get in some skiing too. I mention this to my wife and she goes all green-eyed monster, suggesting that I have poor judgment. I zip it but I'm upset at the response, especially given the optics of her adventure. What's your take?
Hey, look at the bright side: At least your wife thinks you've still "got it" to the point where you could conceivably enchant random ski bunnies/single moms as you schuss down the slopes – even with a child in tow.
(Some dudes seem to think being seen in dad-mode makes the ladies' ovaries tingle: Me, I can't imagine anything less erotic than a kid tugging on my sleeve going: "Dad-dad-daddy-dad! I want more marshmallows in my hot chockie!")
I'm envious. I can't seem to get my wife Pam jealous no matter what sort of stunt I pull.
Not too long ago, for example, my oldest son Nick and I we were out walking and we bumped into a friend of mine who just happens to be an extremely attractive young actress. How attractive? She played Marilyn Monroe in a TV miniseries, mmkay? On the way back I convinced him – okay, I paid him – to take Pam aside and tell her Ms. Monroe-a-like was flirting with me "shamelessly" and it made him "uncomfortable." (Hey, I never said I was a model dad.)
Pam's ultra-mellow reaction: "Well, that must've given your father quite a thrill."
Sheesh! I like to think it's because I'm such a flamboyantly uxorious man. She knows I'll be faithful, even if on, say, a business trip, Sofia Vergara were to appear in my motel doorway in something flimsy from Fredericks, saying: "Don't worry, Day-veed. It will be our leetle secret."
Likewise, I know I can trust her – Pam, that is, not Sofia Vergara (though I could probably trust her, too, she's probably great at keeping secrets, and – Dave! Stop it!).
And that's what it's all about, right? Trust. Not "whose optics are worse." You don't want to play that game: That's a game no one wins in the end.
But while we're on the topic of optics, I have to say your wife's seem a bit better.
True, Vegas doesn't have the greatest reputation: Its whole marketing campaign ("What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas") seems predicated on characterizing it as some sort of morality-free zone, where actions (e.g. plunking down the family farm on No. 19, or committing adultery) have no consequences outside city limits.
But really it's just a town (maybe a bit more bent on shaking people down) like any other. And the fact remains your wife is going on a unisex "girl trip."
I don't mind those. Sure, the girls swill quite a bit of chardonnay and like to act all "naughty": but they also, as far as I can tell, keep an eye on each other and pull one another back from the brink if things start to get too dark.
Your get-together with Ms. Ski Bunny, on the other hand, has "cozy tête-à-tête" written all over it.
Now, of course, you're allowed to have female friends. I have plenty myself and meet them one-on-one all the time.
But you have to ask yourself three questions: 1) Having searched deep within my soul, can I guarantee my interest in Ms. Ski Bunny is purely platonic? 2) Do I talk about my wife with Ms. Ski Bunny? 3) Would I act pretty much the same around Ms. Ski Bunny if my wife were present?
If the (honest) answer to all three questions is yes, then I would explain the situation to your wife, and continue to pursue the friendship. Maybe have your new-minted pal and her kid over for dinner, to demonstrate how on the up-and-up it all is. In a healthy marriage, after all, both of you should feel free to befriend whomever you wish.
But why do I catch a whiff of larger issues at play here? Separate vacations. Mutual resentments. Maybe what you and spouse need to do, some time sooner rather than later, is get away à deux yourselves: Hit the slopes, play the slots, hit a hot tub, or whatnot.
Or maybe just have a chat and clear the air. Stewing and fuming in your respective corners? That's not going to work out well for anyone.
David Eddie is the author of Damage Control, the book.
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