“Kutcher’s appearance came as reports emerged that he had been rating girls as ‘hot tub worthy or not’ during a night out in Las Vegas on the weekend of his sixth wedding anniversary.”—Daily Mail
“You got that?” Diddy demanded. “You understand?” Ashton could imagine his friend standing at the edge of the pool in Alpine, watching an early-fall breeze raise waves across its surface. One hand would sit elegantly in his pocket, the other would be stroking the flat smooth edge of his white cashmere scarf.
“Yeah,” said Ashton. “I understand.” He felt uncertain but hoped he didn’t sound it.
Ashton put down his iPhone on top of the San Diego Magazine lying on the glass coffee table. He’d gone to one of the restaurants recommended in it and been served tuna tartare, in a tower. The room’s décor had the same zippy desperation—geometrically patterned carpets, a fuzzy throw at the end of the bed. He stuffed this in the closet and then stuffed the two rugs that were small enough to pick up in there too. That was better. It was still just late afternoon, but he poured himself a glass of vodka—Diddy’s people had seen to it that he had Cîroc in his room—and watched another plane land. Was that the only thing to do in this town? Drink vodka, watch plane land over the bay, drink vodka, watch plane land over the bay.
He picked up his phone again, and for perhaps the hundredth time that day felt his thumb hover forlornly over that lovely white bird in its cornflower-blue square. His urge to Tweet had started out as a dull persistent ache, but now it was like a migraine. How he longed to consult with his 7,852,190 followers to see if they knew what Diddy meant by hot-tub worthy. Of course he’d have to block Diddy from the message. And everyone Diddy followed. But how soothing it would be to stare at that familiar little rectangle, to populate it with 140 characters or less. “Does anyone have any idea what hot-tub worthy means? Please tell me asap.”
But no. The last thing his lawyer had said to him before he snapped his briefcase shut and prepared to leave: “No tweeting anything personal.”
Ashton found a piece of paper and a pen. He hadn’t had a pen in his hand since 2003. It felt kind of nice.
He wrote down Diddy’s instruction in the San Diego Magazine, below an ad for a wine-loving singles party: 1. Find hot-tub-worthy pussy. He thought about this. 2. Find out what the fuck hot-tub-worthy pussy even is. He underlined it several times. He wrote, This pen is cool.
He stepped into the street. There were gas lamps everywhere, and plaques telling you what they were. People were reading them. Mostly fat people. All the plaques said was, these are gas lamps, we had them before we had electricity. What kind of person didn’t know that? He realized that all the plaques all over the world were just things for fat people to look at so they could stop walking.
He saw a sign that read “Petco Park” and he headed in that direction, thinking about Diddy’s final words to him: “Get out of that room and get yourself some hot-tub-worthy pussy.” Very frustrating advice. It wasn’t that he didn’t know what hot girls were. He totally did. It was just that he didn’t know what Diddy was talking about sometimes, and if you didn’t do exactly what he told you he got kind of mad. Also, Diddy was really smart. Like, if your stomach hurt he could tell you what to eat to make it feel better; if it hurt in one way, he’d tell you to eat brown rice or, in another way, to drink a kombucha, or whatever, and it would usually go away. Sometimes if you had a headache he’d make some girl come in from the pool and press a certain part of your hand or foot and it would go away. And he knew what to drink and what kind of music to put on no matter what was going on. He had also taught Ashton to air-dry after taking a shower, and to envision his future while he was doing it. “All the bullshit that you don’t want on you, picture, like, evaporating away with the water,” Diddy had told him.
One day about a month before, Ashton was air-drying and suddenly he pictured Demi evaporating off of him. “Holy fuck,” he said aloud.
“What is it?” she said, poking her head out of her bathroom.
“Nothing, nothing,” he said. “What are you doing? Photographing your boobs and Tweeting it to everyone in the free world?”
He hadn’t meant it to sound so harsh. He opened his mouth, to say something like, “Sorry, babe,” but Demi just laughed her throaty tiger laugh and ducked back into the bathroom. “Yup,” she said, and he heard the mechanical camera sound, once, twice, then three times.
He saw some bright blonde heads in the sunshine and walked hopefully towards them. Hot-tub worthy? Hot-tub worthy? He thought about how Russell Simmons had told him to say “om namah shivaya” to himself. He figured that “hot-tub worthy” was probably not a good mantra. He dialed Russell.
“Hey,” he said. “It’s Ashton. Do you have a minute?”
“I have one minute,” Russell said.
“Diddy told me to go get hot-tub-worthy pussy and I don’t know what he means by that. I don’t want to…”
“No,” said Russell. “You definitely wanna hit the nail on the head. Diddy doesn’t like telling people shit and seeing them fuck it up. Hot-tub worthy. Well, sounds to me like you definitely want the titties to float in the water.”
Oh, Ashton thought, brightening. A plane was, unsurprisingly, landing over the bay and he took a fresh interest in it.
“I’m out, “ Russell said.
All right. Good. This was a good first step. A quick perusal of Petco Park did not reveal any titties that looked like they would float.
He called Justin Timberlake and told him the same thing he’d told Russell. “Hot-tub worthy,” Justin Timberlake repeated.
“It’s weird, right?” Ashton said. “Like I never heard that term before, and now, I feel like it’s like, the only thing I’ve ever heard. You know?”
“You’ve never heard the phrase ‘hot-tub worthy’ before?” Justin laughed cruelly.
“Dude, I’ve been married to a woman in her late 40s for the last six years. She listens to India.Arie.”
“Crab salad, thanks,” Justin said to someone else. Then he said, “Who the fuck is India.Arie?”
“Some lady,” Ashton said miserably. “Anyway, if you know so much about hot-tub worthy tell me.”
“Well, it’s kind of just a feeling…”
“I need facts, “ Ashton said. “I’m not interested in feelings about hot-tub worthy. Tell me something I can use. I have to call Wilmer before he leaves for Burn 60.”
“Not too short,” Justin Timberlake said. “One of the reasons I broke up with Britney Spears is ’cause, once I got a hot tub, she was too short. Short chicks disappear in a hot tub.”
“But they have those ledges. She can sit on a ledge.”
“Come on, dude. Everyone sits on the ledge. They still look like apples with hair.”
“Oh my God,” Ashton said. Maybe this was starting to make sense. “You went out with YOG right after her.” “Yog” was short for “Ye Olde Giant”—what they called Cameron toward the end of her time with Justin.
“The Snooki factor in action,” Justin said. “It’s real.”
He called Wilmer. “I can’t believe you called Diddy before you called me,” Wilmer complained.
“He’s, like, more wise,” Ashton said.
“If he’s so wise why didn’t he just describe to you what hot-tub worthy is.”
“Because he’s so wise you can’t ask him stuff. It’s like bothering Yoda.”
“If he’s Yoda,” Wilmer said, “who am I?”
He would have liked to say that he was Han Solo but he was more like Chewbacca. He pretended he hadn’t heard him.
“Gimme something or I’m calling Masterson,” he said.
“All right, all right,” Wilmer said. “Even when I got really sick of Lindsay, she looked good in a hot tub. I don’t know why, you know? It’s hard to put your finger on.”
“Jesus,” Aston said. He was walking slow and realized it was because he was behind a whole group of people. He tried to plow through them as he replied, “What is this shit? Timberlake says it’s like, a feeling, you can’t put your finger on it, I mean… hot-tub worthy. You’ve all heard it before but me. So how do I spot it? Do not let me bang some random hot girl and catch a lifetime of shit from Diddy, dude. You owe me that.”
A woman in front of him in glasses and a vintage dress—the sort of thing Rumer might wear and ask you a million times if you liked it, and then cry because you said yes a million times but she didn’t believe you, turned and shushed him. “Could you please keep your voice down? I’m trying to hear the tour guide.”
“Tour guide? For what?”
She rolled her eyes and said, “The Andrew Cunanan walking tour?” and ran to catch up.
“Hey,” he said to Wilmer. “Sorry.”
“What have you got so far?” Wilmer asked.
“Uh… floating boobs, tall or at least not super-short…”
“Oh right,” Wilmer said. “The Snooki factor.”
Ashton wanted to burst into tears. Six years of marriage and he didn’t even speak the language anymore. He was about to give up when Wilmer shouted, “Hair! Hair! You want a girl that puts her hair up in a hot tub. Because it looks good. Like all tendrilly and shit.”
“I don’t know.” Ashton doubted this mattered.
“Yeah, well. Don’t forget the Did is major into fashion. ‘The devil is in the details, Wilmer.’ He’s always saying that to me. Shit. Okay. Good luck.” He paused and then added, “Plus, a chick who can drink, right? You don’t want her to puke.”
A went back to his hotel and stared out the window and tried to imagine how many people in San Diego were victims of human trafficking. He decided it was probably about a million.
That night Ashton Kutcher trolled San Diego for a tallish woman with floaty boobs and long hair who looked like she could drink a lot even as her body was being heated and dehydrated beyond healthy levels. When he finally found Sara Leal, he thought, well, I don’t know if she meets all the requirements but I’m exhausted. All in all, he felt he’d done pretty well, and once her picture started appearing everywhere and he hadn’t heard from Diddy, he figured he could just forget the whole thing.
A few days later he was coming home from the set of “Two and A Half Men” when his phone rang. Diddy. “Hey.”
“You call that hot-tub worthy?” Diddy demanded.
“She was pretty,” Ashton said. “She gets, like, free drinks and trips to Vegas just for being pretty.”
Diddy sighed. “I’m not mad at you. But you’re in a whole new world. And I got too many businesses and sponsorships to teach you the difference between ‘pretty’ and ‘hot-tub worthy.’ Now, like I said, I’m not mad. But I’m going to need some time before we talk again, son. Peace.”
Ashton felt himself go pale. He stared out the window with sad, wide eyes and watched cars pass and palm trees swaying in the wind.
The next day his picture appeared in the tabloids. Some photographer had taken a shot the moment after Diddy had hung up on him. The consensus was that Ashton Kutcher looked very emotional, and that the alleged split must be taking its toll.