Once upon a time on a lazy summer evening, my husband Nate asked me in a serious voice, “Marilee, where do husbands come from?”
Now, I had been fortunate enough to marry a man whose sense of humour suits my sense of whimsy. I looked at Nate (his beseeching eyes, his messy hair) and imagined that he truly had no idea where he had come from and how he became my husband. In that moment, an idea was born, which thereafter became a running joke between us:
“Let me tell you the story of the Husband Factory,” I said to him. “You may not remember because you weren’t fully cognisant before I took you home and assembled you, but I got you at a large warehouse – I picture it like a Costco or an IKEA, but it only sells husbands. Members of the public, mostly women but obviously some men, go shopping there. You grab a big cart and trundle it down the warehouse aisles, perusing for a husband. There are ever so many different kinds to choose from: skinny husbands, tall husbands, husbands who only know how to cook when they go camping. Good-natured husbands, sophisticated husbands, anxious husbands, colour blind husbands. Those are just some of the categories, but they also have husbands organized by name: you, for example were displayed in a bundle of Nates, of which I took one…”
I explained to Nate that sometimes a customer may select the wrong husband at first, but then realize their mistake before arriving at the checkout. In that case, they can simply put the would-be husband back on the shelf and select a new one (this is what is known as “dating”). However, even if a husband has gone through the checkout (we call this “marriage”), he is, in most cases, returnable: you may take your husband back to the Husband Factory if you are not satisfied with your purchase.
As part of our ongoing joke, my husband periodically begs me not to return him (I try not to threaten him with a return too often). There is also the option, I tell him, to bring in a previously purchased husband for maintenance. Some people prefer to never go through the Husband Factory checkout at all, but idle away the pleasant hours in the factory itself with their object of interest. Others make returns multiple times. There is even a fairly large section of pre-owned (divorced or in some cases widowered) husbands.
Sometimes my husband asks me if I got him on sale – but although I like the image of a bargain bin of husbands, I have a diplomatic answer: the Husband Factory doesn’t charge for its wares. All husbands have their own intrinsic value, which will differ from wife to wife. After all, the currency in marriage is love.
All that to say, for years now Nate and I have talked about writing a comic strip called The Husband Factory. It would include some of our jokes and insights about the factory itself, including flashbacks to the day I brought Nate home for the first time (instructions for assembling a husband: empty package contents into a large cauldron, add beer, and stir). It would also feature our slightly surreal home life with our kid, a black and white cat who is smarter than we are. I haven’t drawn comic strips since I was in high school, but after reading a rather inspiring book on creativity this past year, I decided to take the plunge and try to develop this comic even though I basically fear I can no longer draw.
My blog will be the story of a creative person doing something imperfectly, learning as they go – something I have found regrettably scarce in this age of perfectionism and influencers. My hunch is, I can do this, but my guess is that it will be a hilarious process of evolution. Buckle up!