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My Five Husbands

by Elisa Peterson

I’ve had 5 husbands. That’s right, five. And, in the end, I left them all. Fickle, unable to form deep and lasting relationships, unrealistic expectations; these are terms I’ve used with which to beat myself up. I like shoes, too, and have spent way too much money on some of them, believing them to be the most amazing shoes I’ve ever seen, only to discard them later or leave them languishing in the dark corner of my closet because they pinched slightly on the right little toe. 



Carlos, my first husband, saw me walking down the street in Seattle. It was 1963. I was 20. He was 23, a beautiful green-eyed Mexican of Spanish (Castilian) descent, so his haughty mother told me later. Thus, those green startling eyes, fringed with black lashes and those white teeth and that beautiful lithe body. 

When Carlos saw me, he turned on a dime, grabbed my hand and said, “I must marry you!”.  Silly me… I thought this was romantic.

I gave him my phone number and a month later I was wearing a one carat diamond on my ring finger, left hand. In those days a diamond that size was considered proof of something. I had been chosen by a beautiful bold lavish- spending-man with black hair, green eyes, white teeth and a perfect body. How could I refuse?

 Carlos had style; I’ll say that for him. He liked nice things. He wore white cotton boxer shorts and he instructed me on how to iron a crease in them. His dress shirts were always professionally laundered and starched. His shoes were shined. I was his biggest accessory, and he was proud of me. He sent my measurements to a Chinese tailor so we could order custom-made clothing that would flatter my 21 year old body. His favorite was a Butterscotch gold crepe silk dress covered with fringe beaded sequins that shimmied and shook when I walked. It was the kind of dress that could only be worn about once a year because it was so spectacular. He bought me a Doberman Pinscher that he named Satan and a baby blue Thunderbird convertible. He would ask me to pick him up from work. “Put the top down and bring Satan” he would command, and I would show up, my bouffant hairdo covered in a chiffon scarf tied just so under my chin, Satan, the dog, his two front legs stretched out over the back trunk, barking randomly like a sentinel. 

Carlos was good in the kitchen. He was amazingly confident and creative with food.  One time he blew our guests away with his flame-throwing technique, making Peaches Flambe’.

He liked the outdoors. He taught me to shoot a shotgun, bought me a cute safari looking hunting vest and took me dove hunting. Somehow I overcame my horror at the whole event (those big loud guns, those poor dead little birds that he instructed me to tuck away in the pockets of my cute hunting vest).  I complied, then posed prettily for the camera in my adorable khaki hunting outfit. After shooting little birds out of the sky all day, Carlos would get out his chafing dish, light the candles and create some sort of sautéed French Dove breasts .Very romantic.

Carlos was sexually very enthusiastic, a sort of sexual athlete and proudly boasted to our friends that we had sex every single day. I still remember that bedroom, and the Catholic picture of some saint, or was it Jesus? hanging over the bed where I submitted 365 days a year to his daily sexual rigors.

I tried discussing moderation with Carlos, but he would have none of it, citing the common warning that he might go looking elsewhere if his needs weren’t met. It was on this topic where I began to go a bit crazy.

One day I left town to visit my parents (probably to get a break from the relentless sex, and when I came home my brand of Scotch was depleted. Carlos didn’t drink Scotch, so I asked him if he had entertained guests while I was away. “No” he said. The next day when I went into our common workplace a gay man named Jerry greeted me and said, “Sorry I drank all your Scotch!” At the look on my face he put his fingers to his lips and said demurely, “Oops!”

I wish I could say I was heartbroken, but, reader, I was mostly just blindsided. I hadn’t a clue that Carlos could swing both ways. After I recovered from the shock a door opened for me to leave. Looking back I chide myself that I could have shared Carlos with Jerry and given myself a break, but I wasn’t quite that liberated or practical and there was more amiss than just this little peccadillo. I wanted out.

I’d like to say that my enduring gift from Carlos was the lesson of saying no when I needed to, or that I learned a host of other lessons about self worth, people pleasing and assertiveness. But what began, with Carlos, and ended five husbands later was just the first in a bewildering series of tutorials on just how rudderless my life was.

What I still thank Carlos and credit him for is his recipe for Caesar Salad. Thanks to Carlos, I make a mean Caesar Salad.


Always use an unfinished Maple Bowl that’s never seen detergent

Coarsely cut sour dough bread into 1” pieces, drizzle and toss with olive oil, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Bake in 450 degree oven until browned, but still slightly soft in the center.


Chop or tear 2 hearts of romaine in 1” pieces.

drizzle olive oil around the bowl

onto the drizzled oil throw a pinch of dry mustard 

coddle two eggs and beat them with a fork

squeeze juice of one lemon into eggs

chop 1 can of anchovies, fine or course, depending on preference. 

add to lemon, egg mixture.

 add a skosh more olive oil and dash of Tobasco sauce


Toss romaine with dressing, lightly, adding ground pepper to taste, sprinkle liberally with ground Parmesan, toss again, add croutons.

Salty, tart, crunchy, delicious.


Thank you Carlos, wherever you are.

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Elisa Peterson is an artist and writer, currently writing as cheerfully as possible about aging, under the circumstances.

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