Mel and I had been married about one year when I made a dummy of myself and placed it in our living room.
We lived in a small two-bedroom condo in Provo, Utah. Both of us were 22. Mel worked at a local greenhouse and evenings at a grocery store, and I waited tables at the Olive Garden and went to school. Mel was at work. It was late, around 9 p.m., when I came up with my brilliant plan.
I made a dummy of myself out of jeans, a long sleeve shirt, shoes, gloves, a snow hat, and some socks and underwear (packed into the clothes for bulk). I made a smiling face from a piece of cardboard. I put everything together with some safety pins and placed it in a recliner facing the door. Then, using a hand recorder, I recorded myself getting in a battle with the dummy over Mel’s love.
I called him my evil twin, Clint-O-Tron.
I died in battle, and with my last breath I cried out, “I love you, Melfox!”
I placed the recorder in the dummy’s lap with a Post-It note stuck to it that read, “Play me.”
Then I shut out all the lights, hid in the hallway closet, the door cracked just a bit, and waited for Mel to come home.
The whole time, I thought I was being so clever. I thought about how original I was. I thought about how cute and charming I was, and how Mel was going to be so into me.
I thought I was brilliant. In my mind I saw the whole thing take place. Mel would walk in, see the dummy, and immediately laugh. Then she would play the tape, hear me declare my love for her with my dying breath, and her heart would melt. Her knees would grow weak. And then, at that moment, I would leap from the closet, sweep her into my arms.
“I love you,” she’d say. And we’d retire to the bedroom.
Thinking back, I realize that this is probably, hands down, the craziest thing I’ve ever done. All I can do is think back and say, “Clint. You’re an idiot.”
Mel came home to a dark condo. It was after 11 p.m. now. She expected me to be home, but I was in the closet, waiting to see her reaction to my dummy… you know… like a creeper.
She set down her bag, turned on the light, took one look at the dummy, screamed, and then pressed her back against the door, one hand over her mouth, the other at her side.
Then she started crying, probably in terror.
I invested a lot of time into this stunt, and I suppose that clouded my judgment a bit, so instead of stepping into the room to calm her, I waited for a moment to see if she would play the tape.
And in those few moments as I watched my new bride cry in terror at the sight of some strange thing sitting in our living room, I thought about some of the other lame stunts I’d pulled in the name of being charming.
On our honeymoon, as we drove along a dark mountain highway, I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Ahhh!!! A deer!!”
That was the one night of our honeymoon that we didn’t have sex.
Two days after we moved into the condo, I poured a cup of ice water over the side of the shower and onto Mel’s head. We didn’t have sex that night either.
I could go on, but it seemed like I was always pulling some bullshit stunt, thinking that I was being funny and charming, keeping things interesting, but in fact I was being either creepy, rude, or an asshole.
And the more I thought about all my attempts to be funny and charming, the more I thought about the relationship I had with my older brother. Ryan and I used to make dummies from old clothes all the time. We hid them in beds and closets, always trying to freak each other out. And pouring ice over the side of the shower, I learned that from Ryan, too.
I think what it really comes down to is that men show affection in very different ways than woman. When his first girlfriend dumped Ryan, I punched him in the arm and called him a pussy. He gave me a stiff upper lip, and said, “You’re right.”
Then we went to 7-11 to get him a Big Gulp. If I tried that with my sister, she’d probably never talk to me again. It wasn’t until that moment with the dummy, one year into our marriage, that I realized the strange and antagonizing ways that I showed affection towards other men didn’t work well with my wife.
I leapt from the closet.
This was probably not a good idea either. Mel startled at the sight of me, then her legs bucked and she fell to the floor. She was really crying at this point.
“No. No,” I said. “Don’t worry, babe! It’s just a dummy I created.”
Mel looked up at me with crazy wandering eyes. I held her for a moment. Then I helped her up, and showed her it was a dummy. I played the tape of me fighting my evil twin for her love.
“It was just a joke,” I said, laughing.
Mel didn’t laugh. Instead, she looked me up and down like I was someone else. Like I was some other person, not the one she married. Then she said, “You really scared me. And I don’t like being scared.”
“Can’t you take a joke?” I asked.
She went into the bedroom and locked the door.
That night, I slept on the sofa, my evil twin watching over me from the recliner. I thought a lot about Mel, our marriage, and what showing affection really looked like.
(Mel Note: I remember this very differently from Clint and I’d like it to be known. Clint called me, after thinking about this stunt, to let me know he had left something in the condo for me and not to be too alarmed. I went in cautiously but did not scream or cry. Clint also was not home. I’m pretty sure he was at work, and I did listen to the tape. What we can agree on, however, is that Clint did put a dummy in the apartment, it was frightening to look at, and I did in fact, wonder who in the world was this person I’d married.)
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley