The Bride Wore Chopped Liver
What it’s like when your better-half is also better-looking
By: Cathy Alter
My husband is prettier than me.
Now, this is not me having low self-esteem or fishing around for some “That’s crazy, you’re gorgeous!” validation. As a willowy blond with legs up to Canada, I catch enough guys checking me out (women, too) to know I’m not so bad looking.
I’m just giving you the cold, hard facts: the mirror that I look into every day. And did I mention that Karl is also 10 years younger than me? And half-Asian? Which means that as I age, as the lines in my forehead groove deeper and deeper, as my freckles pool into amoeba-like age spots, as my teeth turn yellow and my eyes sink further into my head, my husband is going to look like a smooth-faced Buddha. Forever.
Having a more attractive mate is a great bonus when we’re at home, alone, in bed. But once we hit the outside world, I am relegated to the shadow cast by his glorious light. When my sister-in-law met Karl for the first time, she asked me what it felt like to be with someone so good looking. A coworker who met him at our company Christmas party called me a lucky bitch and asked me how I managed to land someone like him. “With a stun gun and a steady dose of tranquilizers,” I replied.
Not surprisingly, with a stunning partner, the need to keep up appearances is an inescapable truth. I learned this lesson when, a month before our wedding, Karl suffered a motorcycle accident. He not only broke his knee, he totaled his bike, our only mode of transportation. In the ensuing weeks of doctor and hospital visits, I had to lay him out in the backseat of cabs and ride up front with the driver. One morning, a cabbie regarded me with compassion.
“Are you his mother?” he asked.
“Do I really look that bad?” I responded. Then, I turned and looked at Karl over my shoulder. “There’s still time for you to get out of this wedding,” I assured him.
But this inequity in aesthetics is about more than maintenance. It’s about my brother, the golden child. I could never be in the limelight as long as he was around. With his thick mop of pale blond hair and huge brown eyes fringed with thick lashes, David was so lovely, I used to dress him up in my party frocks and pretend he was the sister for whom I really yearned.
Ironically, gay men, who should respond to Karl the most, actually prefer my looks. (Which, I guess, could mean, to them, I look like a hot gay man.) And, of course, there’s Karl, who hates that I am even sitting at my keyboard contemplating our corporal disparity. “Are you out of your mind?” he says. “You need glasses.”
Coincidentally my father, who still calls me his gem, is an optometrist.
Alter is the author of Virgin Territory: Stories from the Road to Womanhood. Her next book, Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over will be released July 1.
Tell us: Is your husband prettier than you?