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  • Writer's pictureKaren Rappaport McHugh

Looking for a Valentine? Meet my Fusband

Illustration 114005513 © M-sur |

I've been happily married for 28 years. OK, truthfully, most of it has been happy. What long marriage hasn’t been dented a bit? Still, I wouldn’t trade it for the single life. This is why, as we approach yet another pandemic Hallmark holiday, I’m focusing outward to help others find love.

This is a heartfelt Valentine to all the women still searching for their person. Meet Rob: he’s my FUSBAND — a wonderful man for someone else. Maybe someone out there!

It’s not a typo. FUSBAND.

The endearment started as a joke — FUSBAND and FIFE. As faux husband and faux wife, we’ve been an integral part of each other’s lives. It’s only right he should find true love like mine. And he’s husband-tested but his heart’s been broken.

After so much heartache, I’ve decided that maybe Rob needs to meet someone the old-fashioned way — by having a matchmaker. And who’s better than someone who can give a good reference? I’m a friend and FIFE who knows.

Before you toss your hat in the ring, here’s the story: In 1990, I could tell my new boyfriend was getting serious because he wanted to introduce me to his friends. Rob was the first one he chose. As we walked into the Greenwich Village restaurant, I was strategically placed between them. Rob was explained to me as more than just a friend; he was like an older brother and mentor to this new man in my life. He was on crutches, having survived a near-fatal car accident the year before. I put my best efforts into winning him over.

They were so different; and my mother would have preferred Rob.

Jonathan was a rough-around-the-edges Staten Islander whose parents were artists while Rob was a suave Philly boy from what my mother called ‘a good family’. Jon was just breaking into the music business while Rob had industry connections. His father had been Bob Marley’s attorney, and he had been on tour working for the Scorpions before his accident. Jon was wardrobe-challenged, while Rob always knew what to wear. Rob was Jewish and very spiritual; while Jon was half-Jewish and seemed indifferent to religion.

Still, it was Jon who’d captured my heart. Two years later, Rob was a Groomsman at our wedding.

He’s been part of our married life for years, attending and gifting us for every event. He was one of the first to greet our new babies and has had an honored role at family events. But our family isn’t exclusive to his generosity.

After the car accident, Rob became a working actor. In addition to the commercials, films, and TV shows he’s been on, he’s played many roles for the large group of friends I refer to as the Tulane Mafia. He’s been an adopted uncle, travel agent, ticket broker, babysitter, Airbnb host, religious counselor, Tulane tour guide, and more. “Uncle Bubbe” (which means Grandma in Yiddish) has been there for all of us, celebrating and waiting to collect back some of the money he’s shelled out over the years at our Simchas!

Rob earned his cheeky nickname because we often chuckled about his frequent health or situational complaints, ones we all have now in our late 50’s. Being thrown through a car window in his 20’s created physical and emotional trauma that wasn’t always taken seriously. Years later we’re all discussing our many ailments and traumas when we all gather.

As the years went on, Rob’s infrequent relationships became a source of sarcasm to his friends and sadness for him. He was often the third wheel when family gatherings replaced friendly outings.

I don’t remember how we became Fusband and Fife. Maybe it happened because Rob sometimes wanted a female opinion about dates or a woman’s touch when he moved homes. It may have happened because my husband traveled so much for work, and I was frequently alone. We were friends with only the appropriate kind of benefits.

We enjoyed being each other’s “plus one” at events. We could count on each other for good counsel, spiritual guidance, and a laugh when one of us needed cheering up. Often, I was a wing-woman to introduce him to ladies.

Rob wasn’t always monogamous. As the years went by, he found fifes in different cities where his other friends lived. Each of us filled up a female space as Rob continued searching for his person with what we believed to be a list of impossible requirements. We told him this frequently. “Aim lower,” we said.

Finally, after moving back to New Orleans, Rob found her. All of us fifes joked that we were being traded in for the younger, more beautiful version.

She was an aspiring model and writer, smitten with Rob beyond what we believed realistic. We were happy for him but wary of her. We doubted her love and worried about their age difference. But Rob was so happy. His previous world-weary and critical gaze at life was suddenly optimistic. They were in love, serious love. After several years of dating, they decided to get married.

We were losing our fusband but happy to be giving him up. After being a guest, best man, and usher at so many of our ceremonies, Rob was finally having his own big moment.

At the rehearsal dinner, we all toasted the happy couple with effusive joy. I referenced my role as fife and even loaned the bride “something borrowed,” stating its meaning as I had only “borrowed” Rob until he met the right one. More than 300 joyous people celebrated their marriage; their second line was a triumphant parade to celebrate their future life together.

Instead, the lace handkerchief was mailed back a year later with a small note of regret. She was returning the gift and my fusband.

Looking back, there had been a few warning signs. Like the cliché, ‘objects in the rear-view mirror appear closer.’ Maybe we’d looked away, blinded by his happiness and wanting that for him. He’d given away his heart — fully — and it hadn’t worked. Friends and family gossiped. But I worried about him again.

Like death, there are many stages of grieving the end of a marriage. For Rob, the soulful, crushing regret overwhelmed other emotions. She moved out a year after their wedding day, he ate the cake topper by himself, and we tried to understand what happened. The holidays were filled with emptiness, but we’d all promised him that we’d share better times in the very near future.

Then COVID canceled everything, and Rob was alone for months. Finally, he decided to risk plane travel to visit friends across the country. Seeing my friend and former fusband for the first time since his separation, I realized how tragically lonely being single could be during this pandemic. While we moaned about a full house (all of our children had moved back), he’s been staring at four walls alone every day.

At our socially distant dinner, I looked at his warm hazel eyes and silver-grey hair and thought about women across the country who are also alone. He told us he hasn’t felt anyone’s touch for months.

Sure, he’s looked infrequently at dating sites, but who can think of coupling up with strangers during these times? He wants to meet someone, but the right one. Are you her?

Here’s what you need to know: Rob is funny — hilarious actually. His self-deprecating humor has made me snort water while laughing. At 61, he’s still handsome and takes care of himself despite the aches and pains we all have now. He’s self-sufficient, a good cook, and his home is tastefully decorated. He’s very tidy — something I wish my own husband had acquired over the years. He loves music, traveling and he’s great company. Still a music aficionado, he started a podcast about festival culture during this time when people are missing live music. He’s an uncle to many and always generous and loving to friends and family. He lives in New Orleans but can travel anywhere, even though that seems challenging at the moment. Sure, he has some irritating habits, but what husband doesn’t?

To me, Rob is still a gem, maybe a rough-cut diamond, but one that just needs the right polish. As his fife, I promise he’s still got some shine left for the right woman.

C’mon ladies — get in line. Real gems like this don’t last long.

p.s. Here’s his photo - feel free to drop a comment for more details!


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