Couplings: The Angelina Problem

Your husband waxes on about his crush on Pillow Lips, and you’re so cool, you play along. Are you nuts?

 Despite our Puritan roots, our culture applauds a certain amount of sexual liberalism. Or at least the appearance thereof. For instance: We love it when chicks make out in bars. We respected Hillary Clinton’s stoicism about the Monica Lewinsky affair so much, we elected her to the Senate. Jealousy, on the other hand, is unsexy, primitive, the province of Amy Fishers and Lorena Bobbits, of Julia Roberts’s scary mustachioed husband in Sleeping With the Enemy. Monogamy, even as a word, is unsexy. But threesomes — that’s sexy.

Once, Phil told Amy he thought Faith Hill was hot. “She blurted out, ‘Omigod, Faith Hill is so beautiful, I’d do her,’” he tells me. “I replied, ‘That’s on my List.’”

Okay, great. But honestly? Amy is lying. Here is how I know: No regular 34-year-old woman wants to get naked in the same room as a completely flawless pop star. (And btw, Hillary is pissed, and the chicks kissing in bars pretty much hate themselves.) But Amy, like me with Mr. Huge in our initial Angelina Jolie conversation, feels a need to project a more liberal front. We all want to appear like we’re really self-secure, even if we’re not.

That can backfire. Take Colleen and John in Center City, who, when I asked them about their lists, came up with different answers:

“John gets a pass for Christina Ricci — before she succumbed to the Hollywood mainstream,” said Colleen, a curvy brunette, confidently. “He’s very into her curvy, mildly Goth look. And I have to say it makes me like him more, because he’s got the hots for someone who isn’t the complete opposite of me in the looks department.” Meanwhile, across town, John, asked who he’d want a pass for, answers quickly: “I would use my ‘Get out of jail free’ card for [emaciated actress] Keira Knightley.”

“He said that?” says Colleen, later. Oops.

Worse, games like the List can become a gateway drug. As you get progressively more comfortable, you start moving beyond fantasy to the realm of possibility. Elizabeth and Steve’s A-list exemption mandates that “only super hot, super exclusive” celebrities make their lists because once, Elizabeth says, “I tried to argue for Donnie Madia, a Chicago restaurateur. Steve vetoed it.”

That was probably smart. If Elizabeth adds a restaurateur today — even one who lives in a different city — what’s to stop her from adding the guy who works at their local coffee shop tomorrow? Or a co-worker? Or a mutual friend? Basically, someone close enough that Steve might actually worry about her actually cheating with him? I mean, how out of the realm of possibility is it that Brad once had a list — and Angelina Jolie was on it?

Vera recently told me that Tom occasionally mentions how pretty a certain one of her co-workers is. “He just thinks she’s the cutest thing,” she says. “I mean, it’s funny. Kind of.” I don’t think it’s funny. I want Tom to shut up, because he’s taken the game to a bad place. Britney Spears, who lives in magazines, is one thing. Someone you see every day — and could potentially run away to the Mount Laurel Hampton Inn with — is quite another.

Look at my friend Dan, who had a girlfriend he played these kinds of games with. She once mentioned that she thought his roommate was hot. He laughed it off, but it made him uneasy. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” he said. “I felt like she was flirting with him every time they had an interaction.” And guess what? After Dan and his girlfriend broke up, she started seeing his roommate.

“Once I was having a super crush on a mutual friend,” says Amy. “I was really obsessing, to the point I felt the need to confess. Then when I did, Phil’s reaction was just ‘Okay.’” Well, of course it was. Phil had set up a paradigm where he had to be okay with confessions like that. Luckily, for them, things worked out. “I was so waiting for this big reaction that didn’t come that it made my crush less exciting, and it just fizzled out,” Amy said. Hopefully Phil is on the same page, although I wonder how he really feels whenever Amy is alone with their mutual friend.

Vera, for her part, is considering retiring her List. “I swear the reason Tom says that stuff is because I’ve been acting so cool about it, and he believes that I’m cool, but the truth is, I’m only pretending to be cool. And that’s my fault, not his. And I can’t blame him for it, because he’s being honest … and I’m not.”

So this week I canceled my order of ­custom-made Vince Vaughn wallpaper. And when Vince comes to town, I may just keep my sightings of his celebrity super-fineness to myself.