The phase I hope my wife never goes through

“So,” she asks after laying her eyes on my wedding band. “Are you married?”

I shift my eyes from the road to the ring, hand firm on the steering wheel. “For just a little more than a year now,” I say.

We have been driving to Machakos in silence for a while now and the traffic has been crawling for the big part of the journey. We tried listening to the music but that didn’t help, and she is obviously not the type to spend her two-hour journey to Machakos on her phone, which is too bad because I could have really used the silence.

“How about you?” I ask, “are you married?”

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“Who, me?” she asks, as if I could’ve been asking the ghost that has been riding in the backseat since morning. “Psh!” she blows her cheeks, making a face as if I have asked whether she has ever had live snails for dinner. “Hell no! I’m still in my ‘ho phase.”

“Whore phase?”

“No!” she clarifies. “ho. Not whore.”

“OK,” I nod, acting like I very much understand what she is talking about. “What’s a whore phase?” Maybe people have a stage where they decide to sleep around for money and then stop because that phase is over.

“Stop saying whore. It’s insulting.”

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“I have to admit, I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Obviously.” She adjusts her position in her seat to explain. “There’s whore with a “w”, which is left to the professionals, and there is ‘ho’ which starts with an “h” for, well…”

“Amateurs?” I interrupt, smiling. I’m very suddenly in very good spirits.

“No!” she laughs. “I like to think of it as an expression of sexual freedom, where you sleep around, not for money but because you enjoy having sex and also you have a right to have sex with whomever you want, without judgment.”

“I never had one of those,” I volunteer. “And now I’m married, so I guess I flushed that right down the Johns a long time ago.”

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“Uh, that’s OK.” She says. “It’s a choice you make as an adult of sound mind, you know.”

“It must be lonely, sleeping around like that, without forming any real connections.”

“How do you mean?” she asks and so I explain.

“Well, don’t you feel like you lose a little part of you with every sex partner you get and lose?”

“I don’t lose any part of myself because everything between us is simply physical. Two consenting adults decide to have a mutually beneficial and enjoyable physical relationship.” Her explanation sounds simple enough. “And when the sun rises, you wake up and go to work knowing there is a fat chance the two of you will never meet again.”

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I met my wife when I was in my late teens and she’s the only woman I’ve ever been with. I’m also the only man she’s ever been with and now I’m wondering if she knows about this ‘ho phase thing and if she’s ever been tempted to indulge herself.

“But like I said,” my passenger interrupts my thoughts. “It’s a personal choice and not everybody makes it. It’s a phase and it ends after a while and mine hasn’t yet. ”

“What if it doesn’t end?” this is probably my insecurities talking. “I mean, married people sleep around all the time too, right? What if it’s just that their ‘ho phases never ended?”

Cards on the table

“You know,” she nods gently, “If I were to be married and I caught my husband cheating, I would divorce him, not because he slept with someone else, but because he didn’t tell me about it in advance.”

“What? Like, ‘hey babe, so you remember Jane from the office, right? The one with the hour glass figure and legs that stretch from here to Brussels? I plan on sleeping with her on Tuesday evening, if that’s alright with you.’ Like that kind of telling you in advance?”

“Yeah.” The way she says it leaves me with a gasp like I’ve been punched in the gut. She is not kidding either. “Look, if we don’t have that kind of openness in our marriage, is that even a marriage? Also, when people get caught in a lie and say, ‘baby, I was just trying to protect you?’ what they really mean is, ‘baby, I was just trying to protect myself from your reaction if you found out that you married a lying piece of dirt.’ Because lying is the very definition of selfishness.”

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