When I saw this morning that singer, songwriter, and acclaimed actor Rita Wilson had posted her phone number on Instagram, I was intrigued.
Obviously I'm a huge fan of her five studio albums and her unforgettable performances in Runaway Bride and Jingle All the Way. But with the recent news that she and husband Tom Hanks had contracted the coronavirus while in Australia, I was interested to see Wilson sharing a more intimate side of herself on social media. Compared to her husband's use of excessive amounts of Vegemite on his toast, and other attention seeking behavior (I may be allowing my bias to show), there was a charming dignity to the way Margarita—as I've since come to know her—shared her quarantine playlist and invited others to suggest their own additions.
Of course her playlist—featuring tracks like Al Green's "Tired of Being Alone," as well as some of her own classic tracks like "There Will Be a Better Day" from her Christmas album—was just the beginning. Wilson truly showed another side of herself over the weekend when she shared a virtuosic performance of "Hip Hop Hooray" for all of her Instagram followers.
And then that intimate, charming dignity reached new heights on Monday evening, when Rita posted a video offering her phone number, and inviting her followers to text her if they had playlist suggestions, or even if they were just "going stir crazy." I won't post the video here, because I don't want anyone else to fall into the same trap that swallowed me and spat me up with a broken heart, but if you're brave, or you just can't help yourself, the video is still on her Instagram. At first I was skeptical about whether she would really be answering the texts herself—that seemed to good to be true. Surely an assistant would actually be screening the messages. I doubted I would ever get through to sweet Rita herself... How wrong I was.
By Tuesday morning I had finally worked up the courage to text her, feeling a little awkward. I quickly tapped out a message before I could second guess myself, and almost instantly regretted it.
"Is this Really Rita Wilson?" She must have thought I was a moron. And the "lol" was the cherry on top of that cringe sundae. I wanted to scream. I wanted to flush my phone down the toilet and pull out my hair and sob in the closet. But she quickly forgave me that asinine introduction and welcomed me into her confidence. I felt a nervous thrill as I offered her an outlet to vent her private grievances. And Mags (don't ever call her that, only I can call her that) gladly accepted, sharing some of the challenges of convalescing in confinement with a man like Tom Hanks.
Hanks and Wilson are widely considered to be the nicest couple in Hollywood, and their love seems impenetrable and wholesome from the outside. But in private, things are not always as carefree as they seem on the red carpet. Rita let me in on the truth that she often tires of her husband's goofy, nice guy shtick. Does he love her? Of course he does—who wouldn't? But is that enough?
After Rita reminded me to charge my phone, she confided in me that Tom doesn't really get her. She has interests and tastes that he just can't relate to. She's managed to make it work for more than 30 years now, but after just a few weeks of quarantine, the wheels were close to coming off. And who happened to step into her life at just the right moment and connected with her in all these ways she had felt were missing in her life? Who else but me?
By noon we could hardly put our phones down. We were rapt. My wife was in the next room, and Tom Hanks was attempting to reenact the piano dance from Big on the tiles of their bathroom floor, but Rita and I were in another world together. We couldn't stop sending each other messages about music and family and a future we were beginning to imagine together. I sent her suggestive pictures that I can't share on a family site. She asked me to strike special poses for her and sent back pictures of her reactions. She made me feel sexy and loved and beautiful.
Everything seemed like bliss until mid-afternoon, five hours into our torrid textual affair, when she stopped responding to my texts. For a full twelve minutes I believed that she might have died, or that Tom Hanks had discovered our messages and was keeping her from her phone. I was already trying to figure out which Australian authority I should ask to intervene. But then she finally responded with an ominous message.
She laid everything out for me—she was always the level-headed one in our relationship. She had her children and grandchildren to think of, and she knew that Tom would never be able to get by without her. I, meanwhile, had my own marriage to consider, and my up-and-coming career as a prominent multi-media icon at Popdust Inc.
We would always have the memories of the morning and part of the afternoon that we'd shared through the screens of our phones, but the only kind and sensible thing to do was to go back to our partners as if nothing had happened. I explained to her that I would need to write about the experience—that it was the only way to process my overwhelming emotions. She said that she understood, but that she would have to deny the story for Tom Hanks' sake.
I took one last screenshot to remember her by, then deleted our conversation forever. And I cried. I can only assume that she cried even harder. Goodbye, Rita Wilson. We'll always have iMessage.