My guys: The <I>other</I> men in my life

Don't get me wrong, I adore my husband. Bill is funny, kind, smart, and sexy. At our wedding, we danced our first dance to a song he wrote. Every day, he gets up at dawn to pack lunches for our son and me. When I decide to diet, he's by my side– cooking the new light meals for us. This guy is a catch. At the end of the day, I don't want anyone else's size-12 Converses under my bed. And yet... I must confess that when I walked down the aisle, I never expected he'd be the only guy in my life. You can't have just one! So here's a toast to my "other men"– who make life easier, fuller, more exciting, and more fun.


The Safe Flirt

Carlos is the guy who takes my packages and overnight letters at the post office. Probably all of 23, he's tall and cute with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "Hola, amiga! Where have you been? I've missed you." he shouts whenever I come in. I know he has no plans to make a move, and he knows I know. And so, as he's looking up zip codes for me, we flirt, happily but harmlessly.

Remember flirting? Blushing? Giggling? Involuntarily grinning like a Cheshire cat? I speak my bad high school Spanish ("¿Cómo está? Mí es buena"). He laughs at my accent, then bids me goodbye with a grin ("Adiós, chiquita!"). Okay, so I'm old enough to be his, older sister– but since when has a little banter become a crime? And besides, with Carlos waiting for me behind the counter, I haven't forgotten to mail a birthday present in three years!


My One-man Fan Club

"Are you losing weight? ...." You look really sexy today." "That was a great meal." Jeff is my husband's friend, and his wife is my good friend Joanna. Because I'm not his wife, he can be on his best behavior whenever we see each other. Whether it's my looks, my sense of humor, my cooking, or my career, he's always out to boost my ego, and I love it. (Joanna feels the same way about my husband, who is his most friendly and flattering self when in her presence.) Granted, Jeff doesn't have to think up compliments at 6am, when I arise from bed, my hair askew, drool stains on my schlubby pajamas, and my breath smelling like a toxic waste dump. But let's face it, for that, you'd have to give him combat pay.


The Computer Guy

"John, when I turn on my Mac, why do I get a blinking question mark?" "John, why is my e-mail merging all my letters into one document?" "John, the little thingy is doing that thing again. Can you come over right now?" John– may his name be forever listed among the exalted– is the neighborhood computer whiz, who is nice enough to share knowledge and parts (the computer's, not his). He'll be on my Christmas list until the day they pry my mouse out of my cold dead hands.


Blasts From the Past

My male friends from college are precious. They're nearly the only folks alive who remember me when I was young and stupid– and thin! No matter how old, fat, or battered by life we become, we'll always see each other as 20-year-olds, full of promise. (Though any sexual tension that once existed between us has vanished, along with most of their hair. And let's face it, if we weren't swept away back when we were awash in teenage hormones, we sure won't succumb now.) When we get together, it's like coming home: We reminisce, catch up, and laugh, never having to explain anything. They just get me. It's the comfort level I have with my husband– minus any wifely obligation to put on mascara and act like a grown-up.


My Smarty-Pants Brother

I'd never admit it to his face, but my brother is brilliant. He knows everything about everything. What he doesn't know, he convincingly makes up. He finishes the hardest crosswords, and he explains world events in a way I can almost grasp. And when my 11-year-old son asks me the kind of questions that make my head hurt– "Where do dreams come from?" "How does hydrogen stick to oxygen in water?"– I can say, "Let's call Uncle Jonny!" As he confabs with my kid, I finally forgive him for years of dinner-table torment.


Fantasy hunks

In no particular order: Colin Firth, George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Hugh Jackman, Antonio Banderas. (OK, I'll admit it: Hugh Jackman comes first.) They're smart; they're sexy; and I don't have to deal with their quirks or pick up their dirty laundry. Best of all, when I'm done with them, I just hit Eject.


My Personal Shopper

"What did you pay for that? Why didn't you call me? I could've gotten you half off!" My husband and I are money morons. Enter Jerold, the dealmaker. Whatever I need– from long-distance plans to printer cartridges– he knows where to get it cheaper. He's so hyper, I vibrate just being around him. But I'll never complain, because he's my money savior– you wouldn't believe the deal he got for us on our heating oil!


The Bodyguard

Buddy has made it his mission to protect me from this dangerous world. He follows me loyally, throwing himself between me and anyone who seems slightly menacing. When I try to leave, he's devastated; sometimes he cries. Buddy is perfect for me... except that he's a dog. When not guarding me physically– from postal workers, squirrels, and apparently dangerous neighbors– he protects my state of mind. If I'm feeling blue, he slobbers me with kisses. And when I awaken at 3am with that world-is-ending anxiety, he curls up close, and his warmth puts me to sleep. That's what I call great in bed.


My Younger Man

When I learned I was having a son, I thought, a boy? What do I know about boys? It took me 31 years to find a good one to date! I made it my mission to study my child, so as to understand the male mind at all stages. Finally, the secrets of the universe revealed! (An example: You know how a guy says he isn't thinking about anything, even though he's been staring into space for hours and you're sure he's brooding? From Levi, I've learned the truth: He really isn't thinking about anything!) As my sociological scrutiny of the male species continues, Levi, now 11, is meanwhile surviving my cluelessness and turning out fairly normal. I'm confident he'll grow up to be a funny, sensitive, intelligent, unselfish man– the perfect mix of all the guys in my life!

Beth Levine's essays have appeared in Redbook, Woman's Day, Family Circle, the Chicago Tribune, USA Weekend, and Newsday. This one first appeared in Good Housekeeping.