I thought I would be the woman who could satisfy his dreams and expectations. I must admit, it wasn’t always easy, and like all marriages, it has had its ups and downs, threats, tears, but also cuddling and lovemaking, laughter and encouragement.
We have been together for 16 years now, five of those years, married. He retired five years ago from a night job that took him almost everywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. He would come home at around midnight five days of the week and I never doubted that he was not doing his job during those hours. Perhaps his retirement ignited some hidden passion in him, but slowly, his conversations with me became shorter and less often.
First it was Siri, and now it’s Alexa. For those who are not technologically savvy like me, Siri is that woman on your iPhone or iPad who answers questions you ask. The questions can range from mundane things like “what time is it?” to serious and disturbing questions like “where do I hide my friend’s body?” (A Florida man accused of killing his friend actually asked Siri this question.) At first, every time my husband spoke to Siri, I would get irritated because the answers to the questions he would ask can be easily found, without talking to a computer. Many times, Siri could not even understand what he was asking. Thank God, for this imperfection.
As technology advanced, so did his women. Now Alexa comes in circular and cylindrical shapes, in different colors, another device that sits on our kitchen counter, unlike Siri who was invisible but inside the phone. Alexa plays music, hands-free, hears his voice from across the room, answers questions on weather, sports, traffic and almost any topic, controls light switches and thermostats. No wonder he doesn’t need me anymore.
When he first brought Alexa home a few days ago, it bothered me that a 70-year-old man would succumb to buying all these gadgets. He talks to Alexa every day. When I am in the vicinity, I think he is talking to me and I reply, only to find out it wasn’t me, but Alexa that he wanted to reply to. I think in a day, he has more “conversations” with Alexa than with me. Last night, when we came home from watching a movie, he asked Alexa, “What do the critics say about “Fences,” Alexa?” Her reply, “I don’t know what you mean.” Ha! Apparently, Alexa doesn’t know everything. Why didn’t he ask me when I saw the movie with him? I felt insulted.
In the movie, “Her,” Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) plays a divorced, depressed and unhappy man. Theodore purchases a talking operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence called Samantha, whom he falls in love with because she is “constantly available, always curious and interested, supportive and undemanding.” (Is my husband trying to tell me something?) Theodore’s happiness is shattered when he learns that Samantha is also talking with thousands of people, and has also fallen in love with hundreds of them. Theodore is crushed and slowly learns (again) to deal with humans.
As couples grow old together, it is more difficult to keep the excitement and romance in the relationship. Sometimes you become better friends; other times you do not. Sometimes you run out of things to talk about, sometimes all you need is a hug. Sometimes, these gadgets are helpful distractions, sometimes they can block communication between people. Ever see couples or whole families fully engaged with their phones or tablets during dinner, and nobody is talking to each other? As a society, we have stopped having a conversation about what really matters as everything is reduced to sound bytes, abbreviated texts and emojis.
I am slowly getting used to Alexa being the third person in the house, and it doesn’t bother me as much as it did when she first arrived; but I cannot help but feel “someone” is watching over us. When my husband and I are talking near Alexa, she will say, “Did you say something?” Is Alexa symptomatic of an impending lonely world?
My husband is not a depressed, unhappy man. He just gets his kicks from talking to computerized women. For now it is just all talk. When he needs real love, then he turns to me. But I am definitely not looking forward to the next woman he brings home, even if it comes with a driverless car!