Life and My Box: Polygamy Loves Company

Kate Zahnleiter was raised by a single working mother and a television. She writes that “not a day goes by in which I’m unable to relate something which occurs in real life back to an episode of something I watched as a child, teenager or young adult.” In Life and My Box, Kate shares the lessons she has learned from TV. 

I recently discovered I’d been accidentally dating a Mormon.

“You’re a what now?” I asked the West End man I’d been seeing for a week.

“I’m a Mormon. I told you that.”

“I’m 900% sure you didn’t tell me that.”

“Remember that’s why I wasn’t drinking when we met? I’m LDS. Church of Latter Day Saints.”

I didn’t admit that it was possible he had told me that, and that it was also possible I’d thought LDS was a motor-neuron disease/new psychedelic drug and hadn’t wanted to ask any follow-up questions about it in case I displayed my insensitivity/lack of street smarts. I tried to make up for my gaffe by telling him everything I knew about Mormonism. Like the time I crashed into the gate of that giant church at Kangaroo Point, and how much I hate Twilight, and how the fourth season of Big Love made absolutely no sense.

“My wife and I just came back from a mission in Japan,” he said.

“Your what now?”

“My wife. Don’t worry, we’re going through a divorce. I’m not that sort of Mormon.”

I currently live with three of my closest friends. Two of them are married, two of them are sisters, and all four of us have hung out regularly for almost twenty years. We sit down to family dinners, and we work out side by side at the gym. We share care of a four year old Jack Russell x Pug named Indy. Sometimes we all go grocery shopping and take turns to push the trolley while stock boys nudge each other and give Matt impressed looks. But a few weeks ago, Matt had to leave the room so we three girls could watch an episode of the reality show Sister Wives. Right about then, our living situation seemed to take on new meaning.

This is when I realised I’ve accidentally entered into a platonic polygamous relationship.

We differ a little from the Henricksons of Big Love and the Browns of Sister Wives. As far as I know, nobody has bought anyone else a gun or started a jewellery business or set fire to a fertility clinic. The mum from Twin Peaks hasn’t made an appearance anywhere. We are pro-caffeine, pro-alcohol, and though we’ve never had an explicit discussion about it I’m going to assume we’re anti-child brides (though up until about a year ago I still looked about twelve years old, so it’s possible the neighbours are unsure of our stance). Matt is a MUCH better shared husband than Kody Brown. He has normal hair, and has never asked us to write a family mission statement or suggested the three of us enter into a caramel-making competition with the line “if you can beat my mum, you truly deserve to be my wife.” I’d say he’s much better than Bill Henrickson too, but Bill Paxton was in True Lies and my god that’s a good movie, so I might reserve judgement for the moment.

With this realisation I’ve found myself wondering if polygamy is really such a bad arrangement. Someone is always around to bring in my washing or transfer me money when I’ve run out. Sophie, as the only one actually in a relationship with Matt, has taken on the role of First Wife, which means I have very little responsibility and still get to reap the rewards of Apple TV and a cupboard full of various types of syrup. Many examples of communal living exist throughout history—who am I to say it’s creepy, just because Amanda Seyfried indicated it was before she left the show to focus on her movie career/be incredibly beautiful?

It wasn’t until a few days ago, when Sophie informed Lydia and I that she had “broken the communal knob,” that I realised how things could all go wrong (she was referring to the switch we use to activate our ceiling fans, but for a moment everyone was pretty worried). The Great Cutlery Drawer Debacle has highlighted the potential for inter-wives’ struggle for authority (should soup spoons share a compartment with dessert spoons or should they get their own? The jury is still out), and Indy has developed shame over his toileting  (I’m going to use my psychology degree to say this is a result of conflicting parenting styles).

It seems like we’re only a few steps away from running for Utah state office to promote our way of life, or opening a casino (seriously: the fourth season of Big Love made NO SENSE). Another friend of mine, Laura, recently reminded me that I am second wife to her husband as well, plus I already have all of those celebrity spouses as it is. In my glorious head-life, I enter parties at the head of a flying V made up of Davids Tennant, Duchovny, Wenham, and Thewlis. Yes, my dad’s name is David. Why do you ask? Sure, they don’t actually count as real partners, but they count as much as my friends’ husbands do. I suppose that all makes me a polygamous polygamist, and I’m not quite sure if the world is ready for a reality show of that magnitude.

As for my actual West End Mormon, unfortunately things didn’t work out between us.

“The kids will be at my place this weekend,” he told me on our second date, which I arranged out of curiosity if nothing else.

“Your what now?”

“My kids. I told you I have kids.”

“I am 9000% sure you didn’t tell me you have kids.”

I ended things pretty quickly after that. Sister wives were one thing, but surprise Mormon children were something else.

Lesson learned: Never make assumptions about acronyms.



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