Essay: The Coupon

Feb 14, 2020

Coming up with the perfect gift is no easy task. But essayist Mel Miskimen thought she'd found just the thing for her husband on their first wedding anniversary. Turns out, it didn't exactly get the reaction she expected.

It was our first anniversary. Paper according to Hallmark. We were in our late 20s, had just bought a fixer upper that had sucked our meagre savings account dry. So, no money. I had come with what I had thought was the perfect gift for my husband. Oh. My. God. He was going to love it!

We had finished eating the top of our one year old wedding cake, a tradition supposedly meant to bring good luck, when my husband presented me with a very heartfelt and romantic hand written note, and then it was my turn.

I handed him a plain #10 envelope. He opened it. A piece of paper with bold lettering fell into the schmear of frosting on his plate. He read it.

“I don’t get it,” he said.

“It’s a coupon!” I said.

“Yeah, I can see that!” He looked muddled.

I read,over his shoulder, “This coupon entitles the bearer to one fling. Not an affair. No long term romances. No mistresses. One indiscretion.” I expected him to be appreciative instead he was apprehensive.

“Is this some kind of test? Like, I take this and you’ll accuse me of having someone in mind?”

“No. No test.”

“I–I don’t get it, then. I mean, why–?”

“Because. Sooner or later, you’ll be somewhere and . . . I’m just giving you a no strings attached, get out of jail free card.” I smiled at him and anticipated a reciprocal smile, not a knit brow.

“Don’t you trust me?” He said.

“Look,” I said, “I have come to accept the fact that all men cheat. It’s inevitable. Like death.”

“I’m never going to use this,” he said.

“How do you know?” I said.

“Because I’m not that guy.”

“Everyone says they’re not that guy, but . . .”

“Wait, is this because you’ve done something? With someone? And now you feel guilty?”

I was not prepared for this cross examination. In the early days of our marriage, yes, I had cheated on him. With Liam Neeson, and Bruce Springsteen, and Sting. But, he had known about them. In fact he had condoned it, by getting me tickets to concerts and movies!

“Me? Cheat? Like with a real man? First of all, I barely have enough energy for you and second of all, who would want to see me naked?”

“I could think of a few . . .”

“Who?” I said.

“Oh, there’s that one guy at your work . . .”

“What guy?”

“You know, he’s got brown hair. Laughs at your quips. What’s his name . . . um Jeff, or Scott something.” There was no Jeff. No Scott.

“Tom!” he said.

“Tom?! Tom is gay,” I said.

He folded the coupon and put it back inside its paper sheath. “So, how exactly would this work?” He said. “Like, how would you know if I used it?”

“I’d have to ask you,” I said.

“Well, what if I lie? Tell you I haven’t when in fact . . .”

One of the reasons why I had married him was because he wasn’t a liar. The other? He wasn’t a cheater. Which was probably why I had given him this coupon. I knew full well he wouldn’t use it.

We’ve been married for over 35 years and every year on our anniversary, after dinner, after desert I ask him if he’s used the coupon. And, every year he says the same thing, “I haven’t found anyone coupon worthy.”

Do I believe him? Yeah, I do. Would I be hurt if he told me he had? No, at this point, I’d be impressed.