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I think I accidentally bought my wife porn.

My wife was in dire need of a new book. She had just finished the critically and commercially-acclaimed The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (which, though I recommended, I have yet to read) and was impatiently waiting for me to finish the next book on her list, Island of Vice by Richard Zacks, a nonfiction account of then-police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt’s attempt to clean up and shut down dirty ol’ New York City. Since I am home all day with nothing to do, and I have ample time to grab the baby and run out to our friendly neighborhood bookstore, my wife asked me to go out and find her something new to read.

It’s the summer, so I went with (what I thought was) a summer read. It sure seemed popular like a summer read. It was sure being talked about like a summer read. It was sure featured near the front of the bookstore like a summer read. It sure bore all the trappings of your standard typical summer read.

Turns out, the book I took up to the check-out counter, my daughter in tow, was a little thing called Fifty Shades of Grey.

I have since asked other mothers I know about this literary treasure (other mothers?). I heard tales of grandmas locking themselves in upstairs bedrooms with the book for entire weekends during family reunions. One mother told me that women all over the country were emptying hardware stores of their entire rope inventory for “recreational use.” A second mother told me she’d heard that people all over the country had made the same blunder I had and mistaken the book for a summer read, and that was at least partially responsible for the book’s staggering success (something like 50 million plus copies sold). A third mother asked me why I didn’t bother to read the summary on the book’s back cover.

Does this kind of thing happen to other stay-at-home parents, to other standard American caregivers, to other erstwhile innocent parental consumers? Frankly, does this kind of thing happen to anybody? Does anyone accidentally buy porn for someone else?

And what kind of person accidentally buys porn for someone else? And with his daughter in tow? What must the bookstore sales associates have thought? Here’s this guy, with a toddler, and he’s buying porn. What a creep! A weirdo, a pervert, a no-good ne’er-do-well.

And how would I have explained myself? I didn’t know? I was confused? I’d made an accident?

But sometimes, I guess, you’ve have to get past these things.

And as I write this, I turn to the page where my wife’s bookmark rests (page 69, of all places), and wonder if my daughter’s mother has casually gotten past all of my apparently puritanical reservations about her reading material…

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