A Computer Affair to Remember
Register-Freeman, Victoria, Family Therapy Networker
I LOST MY FIRST HUSBAND TO A model. I almost lost my second one to a modem, a matchbook-sized device that connects a cottage computer to the global village. The model's allure I understood. He was 40; she was not. She had platinum hair: he had a receding hairline. She gazed at him adoringly; he and I went for days without any eye contact at all. The standard suburban saga.
In contrast to the model, the modem was a Plain Jane. At cast that was my initial impression. Housed in a gray laptop computer, it set off no warning quiver in my ever-sensitive spousal antennae. Another contrast between the two experiences was that my second husband introduced me to the modem immediately. Its avowed purpose was to access essential data, a loosely construed term that I later discovered included "Roger Ebert's Movie Reviews." the "Online Sports Report" and "Hangman." Only months later did I find out the appeal to "essential data" is the standard male line in most modem acquisitions.
I knew something was wrong when my early-to-bed spouse began staying out late. True, he stayed out only 50 feet from the house in our garage, a.k.a. home-office. Nevertheless, it was a shock to wake up in the darkness, see the clock flashing 3:45, and notice that the sheets on the other side of the bed were still smooth. Twice he staggered in at dawn muttering incoherently about E-mail. CompuServe and the agony of delete.
Soon, sex disappeared, as did casual conversation and even mutual appearances in the living room. Always there were hi-tech excuses for these absences; The timed backup wasn't working. The files had to be downloaded from Atlanta. The electronic forum for litigators-who-love-lite-beer went on longer than expected. The mouse drive nibbled the DOS. He had experienced RAM failure. Once he confessed to becoming entangled in something called the Worldwide Web.
After six months of such electronic extracurriculars. I exploded. He accused me of being overly sensitive, but the discover)' of a virus weakened his line of counterattack. Promiscuous downloading from special interest forums had allowed the entry of a computer virus into the family PC. It was a scary situation. My lifemate had taken no precautions. 1 was appalled at his flagrant abnegation of male responsibility as well as his disregard for the health and well-being of family files.
After the virus, my husband agreed to counseling. Of course, his first choice was a Family Forum on the Internet, but I held out for a fresh-and-blood therapist. A friend of mine recommended a licensed Wordperfect user who had helped her survive a similar episode of info abuse. With this therapist, my spouse and ! were able to articulate our individual needs. This wasn't a. power struggle. I only wanted to ride side-car down the info superhighway: my husband could drive.
Ours was not the only case of Modern Marriage vs. The Microchip. According to a neighborhood rumor, a Macintosh Powerbook has been named as "the other entity" in at least one spectacular marital split. In addition, a colleague of mine had the experience of flipping on her husband's PC in front of two Mormon missionaries to find a moist-lipped redhead au nature!. Installed as a screen saver by my friend's spouse, a well-respected pharmacist, the redhead was accompanied by an audio-enhanced disk drive that moaned when a disk was inserted.
! didn't have that kind of problem. My husband had no interest in scantily clad starlets or X-rated audio. He was simply mesmerized by the opportunity to reach out and touch everyone. Like a fly. he was stuck in the ever-expanding info web that was annihilating his slender supply of family time and midlife libido.
To salvage the situation, I made several requests. First, my mate should attempt to "act-as-if." He should make occasional appearances at family functions. During these "drop-bys." he was to make eye contact with each family member, and he was not to mention the following words: mousedrive. …