Since that night, Annette Roque and Matt Lauer have had three children. During her last pregnancy in 2006, Annette filed for divorce. But then she took it back. They went through counseling. This is all public record—I never spoke to them again.
In 2010, the tabloids published more rumors of an affair and a split. The press has always been hungry for blood, with these two—that job, those cheekbones. Lauer told People magazine, “Have we had a completely perfect, easy marriage? No. But the stories you’ve read over the years are not true. I don’t think we’re any different than any married couple that’s been together for 12 years.”
A lot of years, my own wedding and my own child later, I look at pictures of the former World’s Most Eligible Bachelor and his wife in formal attire, squinting into the flash, and I see a married couple with kids who look pretty good for their age and are trying to muddle through. I believe him. I think now about the way he both tensed up and relaxed when Annette walked into that restaurant. The energy he invested in puzzling over her. He looked at her as if she were, and would always be, pleasantly unpredictable to him. Bemused, and enchanted. She steals like a thief, but she’s always a woman to me.
And yes, that is the way I sometimes look at my toddler and yes, I just quoted Billy Joel. Suck it, snobs.
(There is of course nothing to suggest that Billy Joel knows a goddam thing about making marriage last. But as middlebrow or as saccharine as you may find him, he knew something about making a girl feel like the only girl in the world. Look at him. He married Christie Brinkley, and then divorced her, and then remarried a 23 year-old at 55—with Brinkley’s blessing. With a mug like that?)
I never did sleep with Playboy. He went out of town. I moved to a different city just as we were trying to re-connect. He tried to crack a joke about long distance “booty calls” in an email. I think he was just trying to, you know, speak my language. But it so burst the bubble of his sophisticated image in my eyes that I never wrote back.
As a life plan, Annette’s “Always complain” probably won’t get you very far. But I also have no better—or more pithy—alternative. I thought the way her husband wanted to protect her was infantilizing. I thought the way he puzzled over her was a lack of respect. But what did I know? Maybe I had it all wrong, and the way he looked at her was the glue and not the wedge. She may not know why she didn’t sign those divorce papers, what keeps them together. Maybe after all these years, as tired as she is, as angry as they make each other, as hard as it is to live with the cameras, Matt Lauer still makes her feel like a mystery he wants to solve.