A Bob's Big Boy drive thru sign
A Bob's Big Boy drive thru sign

Dear Paul, Can my late-night ramblings to a defunct drive-thru clown head be considered an affair?

Paul Kiernan

The clown seemed like a welcoming listener. He was open, expressive, and infinitely patient.

Dear Paul,

I've been married to the same man for 27 years, and we are, for the most part, happy.  Our one child, our son, has moved out and lives his own life, and we have a great relationship with him. All seemed well until our son; I’ll call him Calvin, moved out, and it was just myself and my husband, whom I’ll call Albert. About two weeks after Cal left, I noticed my husband, and I don’t talk much. He was never much of a talker, but when we were dating, it was cute; he was shy, I told myself, but after time he would open up. He didn’t. Now, without the buffer of Cal, we spend entire days saying only a few words to each other. We don't fight, there is no tension, we still love each other,  but the silence was killing me.

One night I was coming home very late from a quilting seminar two towns over, and I was hungry. I had forgotten to eat in all the excitement and passion of the quilting event. Driving into town, I saw, glowing in the spill of a streetlamp, the shining head of a drive-thru clown. It called to me; it had the feeling of an Edward Hopper painting. I pulled in and waited to be asked for my order; no voice came out, just the smiling head of the clown. I don’t know if it was the hunger or the silence I knew was awaiting me at home, but I looked at the clown, head tilted slightly to the left, and I just broke down.

Now, I have tried therapy, but it never seemed to work; I was very self-conscious, spilling my guts to a stranger. This was different. The clown seemed like a welcoming listener. He was open, expressive, and infinitely patient. Without thought, I began to open up to the clown and share my problems. I spoke for over an hour, and I felt better. When I got home that night, my husband kissed me, said he was glad I was home, and asked about the quilting event. I gave him a short recap and then went to take a shower; I felt unclean.

Two days later, I was back at the clown late at night, sharing more of my troubles. Eventually, this became a twice-weekly happening. After my husband fell asleep, I’d sneak out, not starting the car til I was at the end of our street, which is on a hill, and speeding off to talk to my clown. The twice-weekly sessions have now become an everyday occurrence. I feel so much better, and I am now able to handle and understand the silence at home. I worry that what I’m doing will be seen as cheating on my husband. I don’t want to hurt him or our son, but I cannot imagine life without my clown head. What should I do?


Jane in a box

A fast food restaurant with a neon sign reading drive-thu open

Dear Jane,

It’s no secret that we all need to talk at some time; it’s good for the soul and a billion-dollar industry. Talking is good. But, I have to say, what you’re describing is what some call an emotional affair. Cathy Meyer, over at Brides Magazine, wrote a very interesting article back in December of 2022 outlining the main differences between emotional cheating and a physical affair; it’s worth taking a look at.

My initial reaction is that you’re just doing what you’d do with a close friend, just talking. After rereading your letter, I think that if you were talking to your friend Ima at the coffee shop, you wouldn’t be sneaking around. So, this is different. Be aware emotional cheating can be grounds for divorce.

Let me share this story from the late 1970s in Creamwater Junction, Kentucky, as it is similar to your situation.

Emilou Cheeseman was in a situation like yours, a good marriage, children left home, and she and her husband, who both loved each other, spoke very little. One night when returning from home from an evening of frog giggin’, she found herself feeling a little peckish, and there, up ahead, she saw the bright and welcoming boy with the plaid overalls holding up that huge burger. She pulled in, waited for the greeting, which never came, and then poured her heart and soul out to the big boy. After about an hour, she wiped her eyes and went home.

Emilou didn’t tell Hank, her husband, about the encounter, and she planned for it never to happen again; however, it did.

Much like you, Jane, Emilou continued to go back, sneaking out at night to talk to her Big Boy. One evening, Hank feigned sleep, and when Emilou had left the house, he followed her. He sat across the street in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot and watched as his wife pulled into the drive-thru, shut her car off, and just talked. He sat frozen for over an hour and watched his wife talk and talk, weep, and eventually start her car up and head home.

Hank and Emilou had it out in the driveway, and she, feeling that Hank was pressuring her to stop talking to the Big Boy, felt cornered and blurted out, I love him. Hank left and retained a lawyer and started divorce proceedings, claiming that his wife was having an emotional affair with the drive-thru Big Boy statue.

Judge Mildred Coffner was assigned the case, and when Hank and Emilou stood before her, she said, “Really? Is this happening? Am I being punked?” She was not pleased and told the couple to get help and dismissed the case. 

The couple tried counseling, but nothing worked. Emilou started going back to the drive-thru, and one night in late November, as Emilou pulled into the drive-thru, she saw Hank standing there with a shotgun. In a fit of rage and passion, Hank shot the Big Boy.

“He was just a kid, a boy; yes, he was big, but he was still just a boy,” said the Jack-in-the-Box drive-through clown.

“We all liked him, sure there was competition, but in the end, we all knew it was just the job. I never dreamed he’d end this way. What a waste,” a visibly shaken Burger King remarked.

The funeral was held in drive-thru fashion and was attended by many fast-food icons; Ronald MacDonald sent a video that was shown at the wake. In it, he praised Big Boy’s strength, good cheer, and outfit.

Hank was convicted of misdemeanor discharging of a weapon in public and had to pay a fine. Emilou eventually moved and started a relationship with a drive-thru dry cleaner’s speaker box. That affair ended when the static from the box made communication almost impossible. She is currently involved with Wendy. She claimed never getting over her love of The Big Boy.

So, Jane, there you have it. Be careful, or this whole situation could bite you in the ass. Long and short, yes, your late-night ramblings could be construed as an affair. Talk to your husband; take him to meet the clown head; it might help. Best of luck.