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A FEW MONTHS AGO I MET a buddy for a beer after work. As he was settling in, I grabbed his phone. “I’ll scroll through your photos and ask about them,” I said.
“It’s a fast way to catch up.” “Nope,” he said, snatching it back. “I’ve got dick pics on there.” When he travels, I learned, he and his wife keep the connubial fires stoked with explicit SMSes. “You should try it,” he said.
My wife and I just celebrated our 19th anniversary. I love her all the way to the bottom of her heart, as our daughter once said when she was 4 years old. That daughter is now 9. She’s got a 16-year-old brother. They take a lot of work.
Work, too, takes a lot of work. So, sexting. Maybe I should try it, I thought. 1 I consulted another friend. I said I might cut a hole in a piece of paper and draw a tableau – like the Last Supper – for my penis to peek through. “Dude, take it seriously,” he advised. “If you want this to work, do it with sincerity.”
A few days later, my wife left town on a business trip. That night, I sent my first sext:
“Remember that time you and I had crazy sex on our dining room table?” Nothing. 2 I followed up: “Have you been sitting there, racking your brain, trying to remember it?”
Finally the response came: “Ha no driving.”
The next day, after a perfunctory exchange about what time the dog had last been walked, I pivoted. “So, unrelated,” I wrote, “but I was thinking about that day many years ago, before we had kids, when you picked me up from the airport and let it be plainly known that you weren’t wearing panties under your skirt.”
“Ha! What a complete non sequitur and fun memory. We used to be crazier,” she wrote.
Me: “It’s true. You’ll recall that we went to the Spur from the airport, and I had to eat an entire meal while stifling a boner.” 3 No response. The reference to my long-ago stifled boner sat there, unrequited.
Six friends attended happy hour that day. I read my efforts aloud. “Who says ‘you’ll recall’ in a sext?” one guy asked. “You sound like a lawyer addressing a hostile witness.” Another: “You ‘stifled a boner’? How did that work, exactly? You should be a rugby commentator standing in front of a screen on TV.”
Their mockery was interrupted when my screen lit up: “Are you working on an article?” Hooting and hollering ensued. I needed to send a dick pic right now, they agreed. One said, “SMS her: ‘Does this answer your question?’” Have you ever tried to cultivate an erection in a bathroom stall in a bar, during daylight hours, without assistance? Anyway, I sent the photo, along with their suggested message, and was immediately consumed by a level of fear and shame I’d never felt before. Would she think I’d lost my mind? Or, worse, would she think I had made her the brunt of a joke?
I returned to looks of disbelief at the table.
Several minutes passed, and then came her response: “Ummm.” Not “yummm.” Ummm.
I read her SMS aloud. One buddy quoted Otter, from Animal House. “You can’t spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes,” he said. “You fucked up! You trusted us!”
Later, I confessed. Yes, it was an experiment. But my heart was in the right place, along with my penis. The memory of that ride home from the airport is one I’ll never forget. Sure, we used to be crazier – but still no less in love.
As for sexting? With someone as inept as I am driving the show, it was never going to work. And for me and my wife, SMSing is all about coordinating the daily demands of married life.
One more thing. When I explained myself that night, my wife said, “You tell them I figured it out,” she said. “I sussed out your little experiment. I’m too smart for that.”
And that’s why I look forward to our 20th.
“Work up to the dick pic,” says sociologist Jenn Gunsaullus. “Tease her with other shots of your body before the big reveal.”
Past romps are fun to describe, Gunsaullus says, “but so is how the thought of being with her now drives you crazy with desire.
Give specific compliments, says psychologist Paulette Sherman, like how great her butt looks in those new yoga pants.