When We Were Hot
Rediscovering the “Stud Muffin” in the Attic
The small box was tipped on its side and wedged in between bins of someday-these-will-be-worth-big-bucks baseball cards and four pilfered red plastic milk crates full of paperwork from the early 1980s. I was in the attic surveying the daunting landscape of dressers, bins, crates, boxes, books and all things Fisher Price. The stuff we had accumulated over 30 years needed purging. Why now? Because I had just helped my sister, a low spectrum hoarder, move. Pot. Kettle. Black.
I began in what I called Quadrant A, in the front of the attic. The boxes and bins just needed to be squared up and stacked–small to large, lighter to heavier. The non-climate-controlled attic had caused the adhesive on the masking tape of a faded blue shoebox, the perfect topper to the first stack, to become less adhesive-y and when I picked it up, post cards, greeting cards, thick number ten envelopes, fell onto the floorboards. Letters? From? I did not recognize the handwriting. Or the sender’s address. Funny, how a letter addressed to My Darling Hunk Of Burning Love slipped out of the already-ripped envelope after my repeated shaking.
It was dated October 1978. She–no man writes with loopy cursive and dots i’s with hearts–wrote each paragraph in different colored ink.
There was no need for this him to be jealous. She had gone to the party alone, and that guy was just a friend. She couldn’t wait to come back (from where?) and when she did, she would make it up to him–details for mature audiences only. This him was my husband. But, who was this she?
Was I angry?
Whenever other women pay attention to my husband, a positive correlation occurs. Attention by woman x (variable 1) increases attractiveness of husband (variable 2) while he remains clueless and I have to tell him that, yes, the woman in the tight black dress was flirting with him and not just picking a thread off of his lapel.
So, I was more like, a little turned on.
I slid the other letter, addressed to a Mr. Stud Muffin, out of its already opened sleeve. It was from 1979. The hideously large, red, paper hearts were not easily avoided, as was the sender’s overuse of exclamation points. She really loved him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She was sitting in the Quad drinking Diet Dr. Pepper, blah, blah, blah, fast forward to the closing paragraph and something something how she loved his blond hair, his butt, his firm-ness. She closed with a question: Did he miss her and her thigh-high leather boots?
I needed a chair. With an attic full of furniture you’d think we’d have had one.
Why had he kept these pieces of his soft core pornographic past? Maybe he just never got around to throwing them out or burning them during a cleansing ritual? But, then again, why shouldn’t he keep them? I had my own stash of letters somewhere. Perhaps in Quadrant X?
My keepsakes of a former love life were inside an envelope, inside a manilla folder, inside a cardboard box with memorabilia written in thick, black marker, as if to say, I have nothing to hide! It’s all in here!
All being two letters.
The tiny blue fountain pen print on the tri-folded loose leaf sheet of paper leaned so far to the right that if I tipped the sheet, the letters might slide off the page. It was from my first college era boyfriend, who could have been The One, had it not been for an awkward incident outside a movie theater that involved him, me, and another woman, who bolted out of the line, grabbed the sleeve of his fringed, suede Levi’s® jacket, pointed a finger at me and yelled, “Who is THIS?!”
And I was all, “Who am I? Who are YOU?”
We both gazed at Mr. Two Timer as he turned taupe.
It was a ‘catching up’ kind of letter. He was going to grad school out of state. He was single. He wondered how my parents were. Why had I saved it? He closed with, “Your favorite sh*t-head.”
Oh. That’s why.
The other letter written on yellow legal pad paper, was still folded into a neat and tidy square.
Had I even read it? I unfolded it. January. 1981. I had just gotten engaged to my husband, aka, Mr. Stud Muffin. This was from a commitment phobe whose motto was, “Monogamy is for mallards.” We had lived together for three years. I left because I was a mallard.
What can I say? I’ve hurt you more than I could have imagined–please, please, please–
Was he begging me to come back? Yes. He was. He promised change. He acknowledged his past mistakes. He wanted to settle down. With me.
And, then I started to think, what if I had read this back when the ink was freshly tear-stained? I would have had to choose between Mr. Not A Mallard and the newly unknown person who I was going to marry (Mr. Stud Muffin) and, I probably would have made the wrong choice and I would not be sitting here among boxes of art history lecture notes, LEGOs and written testaments of undying lust. Regrets?
I refolded it and put it back in the envelope, then back into the folder, and back into the box with a certain air of I-told-you-so satisfaction. I re-taped my husband’s container of a latter day love affair, its contents safe and secured from prying eyes.
Maybe, when Mr. Stud Muffin comes home, at 6:12, with a gallon of 2% milk and a carton of blueberries, before he changes into his plaid, flannel pajama pants and pours his glass of merlot and settles in with his latest James Patterson novel, I will surprise him wearing nothing but thigh-high leather boots. Hopefully he will notice.