They have different recollections of movie night.
There was snuggling on the couch. There was Sandra Bullock and The Blind Side. But was there iPhone?
Jesse Lamb, husband: "I didn't pick it up all through the movie."
Shawn Lamb, wife: "I saw you pick it up."
Welcome to life as a Gadget Widow. It's the world of two women on a mission to restore romance to couches across the country, to raise awareness of death-by-device.
They're not antigadget, exactly. They're learning to live with a third party.
• • •
Some programming notes.
Shawn Lamb is married to Jesse Lamb. Stephanie Stamas is married to Nick Stamas.
Jesse's a lawyer and Nick's a programmer, and they're developing savor.ly, a social networking website for restaurants. They're cousins. They're geeks.
They all live together in a plush Trinity house. Shawn, a nurse, and Stephanie, an athletic trainer, have been friends since college. They got closer out of self-preservation, because they shared an intruder that permeated the deepest weave of their adult romantic lives.
On one (massive) desk, Jesse and Nick have eight laptop computers, four iPhones, one iPad and two printers. There are more computers throughout the house, plus two Xboxes, a PlayStation 3, a PSP, a Nintendo Wii and a GameCube.
The guys roll over in the morning and grab iPhones to see what happened overnight on Twitter. They text during dinner. They sit face to face and talk to each other . . .
On Google Chat.
In October, Shawn and Stephanie made the tragic mistake of accompanying their guys to a tech conference in Jacksonville. The days would be devoted to work, but the nights would be filled with romance and fiery connection.
"We had spent all day in the hotel room getting dolled up," said Stephanie, 23. "They texted to each other all night. We were literally in a corner by ourselves."
They met other bored spouses — women, men, gay, straight. If others were football widows in the fall, they were gadget widows all year.
"We just started bonding over it," said Shawn, 25. "We thought, we should go somewhere with that."
They came home and opened a Twitter account (they get the irony, but we'll get to that). They found other gadget widows on the Internet, offering advice and generally commiserating.
Jan. 5: You're a Gadget Widow if you have to check your significant other's Tweets to see how their day is going :(
Feb. 7: Going to the Apple store is not my idea of a romantic date!!!!
Feb. 14: Date night watching romantic comedy with my lover & his Macbook Pro. What's your gadgetwidow V-day story?
They developed a following — more than 500 people so far. They went to conferences to pass out cards and sell $10 custom-designed T-shirts — cute, girly and covered with little iPhone application boxes that spell a message:
I'm multi-touch too.
• • •
The men helped launch Gadget Widows. They helped with the concept, the website, the shirt. Being business-minded, they thought the idea was smart and savvy.
Besides, their wives didn't actually hate their guts.
Shawn: "They've come up to us with concern, like, this is a joke, right?"
Stephanie: "They are good guys. They understand we're making light of it."
In fact, they find the husbandly geekdom strangely . . . attractive.
Jesse gutted his first VCR at age 4. He studied for tests by listening to audio lessons on triple speed while playing Xbox — he passed the New York Bar exam this way. He disassembled computers just to see how hundreds of screws fit back together.
"It was really impressive to me," Shawn said.
Stephanie loves that Nick can fix her computer. That he helped them connect on Skype while she lived in Orlando before they were married. That he is clever.
Before he proposed last year, Nick, 25, launched nickanie.com and a secret Twitter page devoted to his plans (okay, his anxiety). Friends followed Nick's mission to propose on the beach with the ring in a shell.
June 3: Potential Nightmare #11: Her: "Cool shell!" *quickly picks up* *chucks into ocean*
June 4: Ring is rigged up, nicely photographed! Alcohol purchased! Forecast holding strong at 60%! Nickanie.com is XHTML 1.0 Transitional Compliant!
June 6: RELIEF. Plan was near flawless, weather was GREAT, friends, family were GREAT. Feeling very blessed. @nickstamas & @stephwunder are engaged!
"I like when he uses his technology to romance me," Stephanie said. "He could compartmentalize it, but he doesn't."
This is really about balance, they say. About finding a level of sanity and fighting for quality time — even if it means they change a little, too.
When the women got on Twitter, their guys beamed. Both Shawn and Stephanie have iPhones now. They occasionally join their husbands in dinner-texting marathons. The whole table gets silent, faces aglow.
For a wedding gift, Shawn gave Jesse a 12-inch PowerBook. She walked down the aisle with an azure iPod mini tied beneath her gown — something blue.
"Including your spouse in your interests is really what it's about," said Jesse, 27. "We're trying to bridge our interests."
Gadget Widows have plans. They're introducing a new shirt (I'm in a polygamist relationship). They're filming Web videos. They hope to host spa days and margarita outings for lonely spouses at tech conferences.
And yeah, they'll still gripe.
On their anniversary this year, Jesse tweeted that he loved being married to Shawn.
She yelled at him to stop tweeting.
• • •
Shawn had the day off. Jesse was home.
They decided to go out to a rare lunch together.
Before they left, Jesse looked at his iPhone. He thought about his wife, then set it down.
Shawn: "Aren't you going to get your phone?"
Jesse: "No. It can stay here."
And it did.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857.