On a Monday night in November 1997, when Whitney Gilliece was dragged by her friends to a bar to watch football, the last thing she expected was to meet her future husband.
She was feeling sick, but her friends talked her into going to TGIFriday's in Towson for "Monday Night Football" anyway. "I'm a Steelers fan," she explained, adding that she was not exactly dressed for romance. "I was wearing a jersey, a baseball hat backward, jeans with holes in them and work boots."
She saw a fellow she thought was a "hunk" at the bar. His name was Chris Caretti, and as Whitney recalls: "He looked like James Bond in a three-piece suit, leaning against the bar, watching the game with a martini in his hand. ... He looked so distinguished."
That, as they say, was that. The two met, dated and were married a year later. And marriage, it seems, hasn't changed Whitney's first impression. Recently, in a national magazine, she let the whole world know how "hunky" she thinks her husband is.
A few months ago, Whitney Caretti, 25, was flipping through Redbook magazine and noticed a contest titled "Hunky Husbands." Wives were asked to send a picture and a 200-word essay about their husbands. She entered her 28-year-old husband without his knowing. Her essay and snapshot landed Chris Caretti not only a spot among the 40 hunky husbands chosen from among 264 entries, but also an invitation from Redbook to travel to New York and be one of five "hunks" used to publicize the contest.
"It was a good time," said Chris Caretti. "At first I didn't want to do it, but it wasn't like a contest and there were no egos involved."
To get her husband into the contest, Whitney Caretti sent in a picture of him looking Bond-like in a tuxedo, along with a rhymed essay with lines like:
"He is the elegant and astute Y2K Fred Astaire; The dark brown eyes, those eyelashes, that glare [sigh]; His perfectly chiseled face and mesmerizing voice; It goes beyond his captivating guise ... he cooks and cleans by choice." The photo and poem got the couple to New York, where Caretti got to pose in Central Park. "I wore a Brooks Brothers tuxedo," he said. (That's how he is pictured in Redbook.) "Some of the other guys wore casual items from Joe Boxer - not their underwear. Their wives probably wouldn't like that."
They were interviewed by the television entertainment show "Extra" and by Fox News, for which the husbands wore Redbook T-shirts.
The high-style clothes from the fashion shoot had to go back to the stores, but "Redbook did let us keep the T-shirt," Caretti said.
While the exposure has been exciting, the Owings Mills couple remain down to earth about their lives together, which seemed almost as unlikely as their first meeting. "It was crazy, because both of us were career-based and not looking for marriage," said Whitney Caretti, who works for the accounting software firm SystemLink in Towson. "I always thought I'd be 30 before I would settle down."
"We both knew it was right," said Chris Caretti, who works as a real estate appraiser.
The couple was married at St. Philip and James Rectory in Baltimore, then took off for a honeymoon in Cancun, Mexico.
Whitney Caretti doesn't need a contest to brag about her husband, who, she said, does so many things to make her feel special. "When he's leaving in the morning he'll kiss me before leaving. ... When I had surgery and was on medication he totally took care of me. He nursed me back to health and put his life on hold until I was better. When I was at my worst, he was there."
Caretti said he believes in making the time after work very relaxing.
"I like to buy her flowers and keep her guessing. Since I work at home it's easier to have a dinner date ready for her so when she comes home, there are candles lit and music playing."
Though Caretti is now an official "hunky husband," he thinks there really is a lot more to him than that. "I'm happy my wife finds me attractive, but I want people to know that I'm intelligent."
His wife enthusiastically agreed. "He's so much more than appearance," she said. "That's just an added bonus."
So has there been much reaction to his moment in the spotlight so far? "No," Chris Caretti said. "It's really not that big a picture in Redbook."