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December 5, 2009 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Married (Happily) with Issues
posted by anotherpanacea (182 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Last spring he cut apart a frozen pig’s head with his compound miter saw in our basement

Over the nine years of our marriage, he taught himself to be a master carpenter and a master chef. He was now reading Soviet-era weight-training manuals in order to transform his 41-year-old body into that of a Marine.


I'm sorry, but Dan sounds awesome. If this thing doesn't work out, can I have him?
posted by Think_Long at 7:37 AM on December 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


I really enjoyed the first 1,000 words or so -- liked the couple, liked their parents. Eventually, though, I just wanted them to get over themselves.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:41 AM on December 5, 2009 [13 favorites]


Eventually, though, I just wanted them to get over themselves.

There wasn't any "eventually" for me. I didn't even get past the photo.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:46 AM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Both of these people seem to have some serious sexual hang-ups.
How many times did the writer's discomfort with kissing come up in the article?
posted by mmmbacon at 7:52 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


That woman could really use a vacation from the prison of her own head.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:56 AM on December 5, 2009 [20 favorites]


"Aren't I so Fucking Amazing In 8438 Words."
posted by The Whelk at 7:57 AM on December 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Also, "peddle pushers"? C'mon NYT editors--head in the game!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:01 AM on December 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Eleven years later we had two kids, two jobs, a house, a tenant, a huge extended family — what Nikos Kazantzakis described in “Zorba the Greek” as “the full catastrophe.”

Come on, guys, empathy. It's really tough being an upper middle class white couple.
posted by The Straightener at 8:02 AM on December 5, 2009 [25 favorites]


Man, this thing reads like the script for some Woody Allen movie. Take a successful, comfortable upper-middle-class white couple couple, introduce doubt and bean-plating. Endless exposition ensues.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:07 AM on December 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


I think it broke my scroll bar!

I KNOW it bored me to tears...
posted by HuronBob at 8:09 AM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fifty minutes later, Dan and I stumbled down onto the street, wrung out and dazed. Then we went home and solved the problem, at least at first. I hate to sound all Ayelet Waldman here, trumpeting her steamy sex life with Michael Chabon, but we had excellent sex. We were terrified not to. Yet once we proved to ourselves that we weren’t fools to be married — that we could have as charged an erotic life with each other as we had with others before — the backslide began.

Zing.

It's weird not to be the most irritated person in the room for once; I thought the article was honest and interesting and even sweet, without being hideously inbent and narcissistic. There's no trace of Waldman or Loh here, even though these specific problems are the problems that only upper-middle-class white city folk tend to have.

It's actually a little terrifying. I'll leave it at that.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:09 AM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sure, we ate well. Very well. Our refrigerator held, depending on the season: homemade gravlax, Strauss organic milk, salt-packed anchovies, little gem lettuces, preserved Meyer lemons, imported Parmesan, mozzarella and goat cheese, baby leeks, green garlic, Blue Bottle coffee ($18 a pound), supergroovy pastured eggs. On a ho-hum weeknight Dan might make me pan-roasted salmon with truffled polenta in a Madeira shallot reduction. But this was only a partial joy. Dan’s cooking enabled him to hide out in plain sight; he was home but busy — What? I’m cooking dinner! — for hours every evening. During this time I was left to attend to our increasingly hungry, tired and frantic children and to worry about money. That was our division of labor: Dan cooked, I tended finances. Because of the cooking, in part, we saved little for retirement and nothing for our children’s college educations.
I don't think I like you people very much.
I garnered no sympathy from our friends.
I'm apparently not alone.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:09 AM on December 5, 2009 [19 favorites]


I wonder if the author's ever considered individual therapy. It feels like that might bring her more of what she wants.
posted by anshuman at 8:10 AM on December 5, 2009


THE NEW YORK TIMES

ALL THE NEWS POINTLESS INTROSPECTION BY RICH WHITE PEOPLE THAT'S FIT TO PRINT
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2009 [38 favorites]


My girlfriend and I have a shed. I mean, not an actual shed, since we don't even live in the same state yet, much less the same house. It's more of a rhetorical device at the moment.

But let's say I called her up and said, "Hey babe! You know what would be awesome? This guy on the internet is writing about cutting a pig skull in half with a miter saw to make soup!"

I can tell you what she'd say. "Okay. You can do that in the shed." Because it's a hell of a lot kinder than "Dude, why the fuck am I talking about marriage with a guy who's liable to go and cut apart pig skulls in the house?"

I'm not really into pig skulls, but the shed has a great canning and beermaking setup, a five-string banjo, a few accordions and one of those worm bins for composting. So, you know, basically it's the coolest clubhouse ever, only it doesn't exist except as a relationship-saving rhetorical device. If I had a hypothetical miter saw too, it would be the obvious place to put it.

Meanwhile, she's been getting into the sort of large-scale painting project that takes over an entire room for a month at a time. For Christmas I'm thinking of giving her a hypothetical attic.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2009 [146 favorites]


I'm not through with the article yet, but I would like to take a moment and register my annoyance at how casually the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" are now attached to things like relationships (e.g. Intimate Terrorism). Sure, there are times that actual terror is felt in relationships, but not so much that it should be a book title for a book on love vs power (having not read the book). Over-use the term, and it becomes watered down and less meaningful. But this could take some of the power from those who claim themselves terrorists for their cause. "Oh, like an intimate terrorist? Those guys are real jerks."

/rant
posted by filthy light thief at 8:12 AM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've always heard that going to a marriage counselor more often than not ends badly, because, as mentioned in the article, couples wait until it is too late. My experience with a marriage counselor included bitter arguments in the car on the way back home from a session. And this was in our first year of marriage. Is there something inherently flawed in expecting a disinterested third party to settle differences of opinion grown in a petri dish of intimacy? Accepting a less-than-wonderful union is a better prescription for happiness than rehashing differences of opinion in a therapist's office, in my opinion.

Reading a long article about someone else's problematic marriage is pretty pointless. I'm not sure why I waded through that whole thing. And, yeah, "peddle pushers" from the NYT? Ughhh.
posted by kozad at 8:16 AM on December 5, 2009


I really enjoyed the first 1,000 words or so -- liked the couple, liked their parents. Eventually, though, I just wanted them to get over themselves.

I made it 334 words, the first two paragraphs. And probably a handful more when I went back to do a word count.

I find this kind of "look at MEEE" kind of writing annoying, one reason is that it kind of feels like violating the partner's privacy, and another because it's just narcissistic. But then I thought, you know, obviously people like reading this kind of thing, so who am I to judge?

Then I opened up the thread and my initial knee-jerk reaction was socially confirmed by other mefites. Yay! No need for self reflection here!
posted by delmoi at 8:17 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


This reads like the author's book pitch was cooked up prior to the therapy, and the way she was able to sell it was with the overshare angle, like her just writing a book looking at different modes of couples therapy and their efficacy wouldn't have sold. Which I guess is fine except that considering they admittedly have no major problems doesn't necessarily make her the best person to tell this type of story because ultimately they're a lot less interesting and their story far less compelling than she thinks it is.
posted by The Straightener at 8:17 AM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


oy gevalt!
posted by billybobtoo at 8:19 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I garnered no sympathy from our friends. Still, Dan’s cooking and the chaos it created drove me mad, a position I expressed by leaving whole pigeons untouched on my plate.

I like to think she enlisted the help of her cats, who would find the fattest bird of the neighborhood flock, stalk it and stun it, leaving a bewildered bird to be placed on the lavishly set dinner table. In actuality, I believe she didn't eat her food.

... the shed has a great canning and beermaking setup, a five-string banjo, a few accordions and one of those worm bins for composting. So, you know, basically it's the coolest clubhouse ever ...

Beer making needs it's own shed, as beer can make a house reek, but canning is probably best done in the kitchen. Vermi-posting is better done outside, as worms are great as long as you keep their meals more or less balanced, but if you add anything that's a bit rank, it'll smell for a short while. Once you get your worms well-managed, the only smell you should have is that of rich earth. And I'd be glad to take one of your future accordions for helping you with your worm bin =)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:21 AM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sure, there are times that actual terror is felt in relationships, but not so much that it should be a book title for a book on love vs power (having not read the book).

Dear filthy light thief:

If you had read the book, this would make sense to you. The author uses terrorism, as it was first defined in the 19th century, as an extended metaphor for "scorched earth" strategies in relationship interactions.

In other news, Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point is not actually about people falling over.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:25 AM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sure, it's a "look at me" piece, but it's an interesting one. There are some good stories in there. My only issue is that the writer appears to think, as many autobiographical writers do, that her life is significantly more interesting or that they're that much more unique than everybody else. Maybe I've heard too many Charles Kuralt pieces, but I'm a firm believer that everyone is interesting if you get the right story or angle. Some people just tell a better story than others.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:29 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


The most surefire warning sign that a couple I know is about to separate and divorce is when one of them begins talking about "marriage improvement". Once they start saying things like "We're taking this great Couples Class at the Unitarian Church. We're really starting to 'listen' to each other, not just 'hear' each other," then you might as well start thinking of a good lawyer to recommend to the person in the couple who you like better, 'cause it's just about Game Over at that point.

One book in particular, Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, PhD, seemed to get passed from one about-to-get-divorced-woman to another in my circle of acquaintances every 18 months or so.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:30 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The article is certainly long and the longer it goes, the less empathetic I was for the author, but damn the first half is pretty good. I can easily slide my own marriage right into the slots of the story, just exchange "cooking pig heads for several hours everyday instead of raising children" with "hunched over a computer tending to email and the mefi flag pile."
posted by mathowie at 8:30 AM on December 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Yeah, apparently I also hate these people less than I'm supposed to. Trust me, I hate the fuck out of basically everything the NYT prints about marriage and relationships. But the problem with most of that stuff is that it's about money and status in a totally unreflective way. ("Well, we wanted a marriage that looked better than all our friends', and we wanted kids who had more stuff than all our friends' kids, and here's how we did it. We win! The end.")

There's a lot of money and status here, but if you read between the lines the gist of the story is "Oh crap! We've been living the NYT Style Section Life for ten years and now our marriage is boring us to death, and it turns out even the priciest organic coffee won't hold you when you wake up crying in the middle of the night. Fuck that, that's totally unacceptable. Let's do something." That's a message I can get behind, you know?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:31 AM on December 5, 2009 [44 favorites]


Still, night after night, I’d slide into bed next to Dan. He often slept in a white T-shirt and white boxer briefs, a white-cased pillow wrapped over his head to block out my reading light, his toppled stacks of cookbooks and workout manuals strewn on the floor. He looked like a baby, fresh and full of promise.

If I were her husband, I'd be not very happy to be infantilized like this.

It was kind of a weird piece to read, with its combination of oversharing and inability to be self-aware.

And it really does feel like something where the book proposal came first, and the experiences followed, rather than someone deciding to write up what had turned out to be an important and meaningful time in their life.
posted by Forktine at 8:37 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Last spring he cut apart a frozen pig’s head with his compound miter saw in our basement

Everyone knows you need a bandsaw for this. She should totally dump him.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:41 AM on December 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


I laughed.
posted by philip-random at 8:41 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


nebulawindphone wins
posted by HuronBob at 8:43 AM on December 5, 2009


There. The end. I started by reading every word, then realized I was moving quite slowly through the article. Then I skimmed, and realized two simples facts that the author didn't really take into much consideration: all relationships are different, and setting boundaries for discussions early saves a lot of trouble later on. She feared becoming submissive to Dan's stronger personality, but some relationships work well in the sub and dom roles. As for discussions: it's ideal to have a relationship where everything can be discussed and nothing is sensitive (or if it is sensitive, neither party takes it personally). Some of this can be sussed out early on, other times one side needs to ask the other directly: is this something I can ask you?

I've only been married a few years now, but I'm spending more time looking at how couples interact. I fear becoming my parents at their worst, where discussions are had but no one says anything they really feel, for fear of upsetting the other party. People change over time, and I think back to that Ray Bradbury story whose title I have forgotten. In short, the wife says she's leaving, because she read that all the cells in a person's body are new every 7 years, so she has become a different person. The husband says he's changed alongside her, and all ends well. So I looking for things I avoid talking about with my wife, and find ways to discuss it without either of us getting pissed and storming off.

Dear filthy light thief: If you had read the book, this would make sense to you.

I apologize on that particular poorly chosen example. Having only come across the title in the article and the brief summary on Amazon, I cringed at the phrase.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:44 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


> My only issue is that the writer appears to think, as many autobiographical writers do, that her life is significantly more interesting or that they're that much more unique than everybody else.

That was pretty much my reaction, too. I didn't think it was a terrible piece, nor did I come away hating the author or her husband, but it didn't have much to say beyond "Marriage can be difficult," and I already knew that.

In the wake of Facebook/Twitter/etc. I think we're going to have to resign ourselves to a future in which everyone thinks everything they do is noteworthy to everyone*. Pull up a chair and I'll tell you what I ate just before I went to bed last night, what my wife thinks about Martha Stewart and how my parents traded in their motor home for a larger motor home a couple of years ago.

* and I say this as a guy who loves (as a perusal of my posting history will indicate) to tell stories about myself, my friends and my family. However, the idea of writing - or that anyone would be interested in reading - a lengthy NY Times article/screenplay/book about my marital/sexual/mental peccadillos fills me with a weary nausea.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:50 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a woman who is desperately trying to outsmart herself into not having an affair.

Stop thinking so much and find another man. Clear your head, woman.


ALL THE NEWS POINTLESS INTROSPECTION BY RICH WHITE PEOPLE THAT'S FIT TO PRINT

'Rich'? Rich people don't need to DIY home remodeling.
posted by Zambrano at 8:51 AM on December 5, 2009


I thought it was quite interesting personally. I get very annoyed at the NYT's ongoing series on the special problems that really, really wealthy people have, but I didn't really see this through that lens. The problems expressed here are universal, although the form varies. Yes, most people don't have the problem that their partner likes cooking fancy meals too much ("we should have such problems"). The problem of stagnating relationships after children are born or merely the passage of time, of the fear of addressing the elephants in the room or shaking things up too much, of long-held resentments never expressed until it is far too late—these are all real problems and lots of people have them.
posted by grouse at 8:52 AM on December 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Marriages need to be worked on to make them last.

That could have been the entire article. And should have been.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:52 AM on December 5, 2009


Thank God that Zambrano is here to tell us yet again that the real problem is people in monogamous relationships who aren't fucking other people. What would we ever do without this point of view?
posted by grouse at 8:54 AM on December 5, 2009 [30 favorites]


But to keep expecting our marriages to fulfill our desires — to bring us the unending happiness or passion or intimacy or stability we crave — and to measure our unions by their capacity to satisfy those longings, is naïve, even demeaning.

So after slogging through this whole tepid article, there's this singular point of wisdom: your desires will always exceed your reach. I wanted to shake the author and tell her, "find fulfillment within the limitations of where you are, right now -- and stop trying to deal with your own insecurities by wringing the life out of your marriage!"
posted by ellF at 8:58 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was hoping that the chai tea would wake me up this morning, but reading only half of this article got my blood pressure flowing and I am ready to punch anything. Thanks.
posted by keli at 8:58 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


'Rich'? Rich people don't need to DIY home remodeling.

Lets see, the last time I sold a story to a super small magazine it was like 6 cents a word, at 8438 (roughly) you're looking at .... $506 the pleasure of talking about yourself.

I imagine the Times pays a little better then that. Also, promotion, book deal, press clippings ....
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 AM on December 5, 2009


'Rich'? Rich people don't need to DIY home remodeling.

Well-off people have the option to teach themselves how to DIY correctly. Remember the anecdote about how Dan tore down the front door three times to get it to code? Not-rich folks ignore code.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:00 AM on December 5, 2009


"You can do that in the shed" now enters my lexicon. And by "my" I mean "my wife's".
posted by DU at 9:01 AM on December 5, 2009


"...for the" gah. I should be awake by now.
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 AM on December 5, 2009


Oh crap! We've been living the NYT Style Section Life for ten years and now our marriage is boring us to death...

Until they turned to the People magazine book section for a list of marriage self-help titles...
posted by troybob at 9:05 AM on December 5, 2009


I started wondering why I wasn't applying myself to the project of being a spouse.


What a strange way of looking at life. I have a feeling she never stops talking long enough to notice what is happening right now.

"Hey honey come look at this sunset. What are you doing? We don't need chairs, just come out here and look. No, I don't know where your camera is. Would you just come out here, you're missing the sunset. Why do you need to light candles? WOULD YOU JUST GET OUT HERE? . . .Never mind it's set already"
posted by nola at 9:13 AM on December 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I agree the reading list is weak. Although it's actually pretty hard to find books about this sort of thing that don't suck donkey balls, so if you're the sort of person who approaches a problem by reading a few books about it first, you're kind of doomed to triteness on this one.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:16 AM on December 5, 2009


(Before She Met Me, on the other hand, is an awesome book, but ... let's just say it doesn't end happily for the couple.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:17 AM on December 5, 2009


Ring around your finger.

Rope around your neck.
posted by pianomover at 9:19 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, the NYT Style section is really MeFi's Rorschach blot.
posted by fatbird at 9:20 AM on December 5, 2009 [28 favorites]


'Rich'? Rich people don't need to DIY home remodeling.

As someone who does DIY home-remodeling and who is in the top 5% bracket of US income, I would suggest that you're wrong.

Yes, by hedgefunders' standards I'm poor and so are these people. By human standards, we're both rich.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:20 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nor was the fact that Dan spent the early years of ours writing an erotic bildungsroman about this nightmare ex-girlfriend, the novel at one point ballooning to 500 pages and including references to everyone he’d ever slept with. Even after the book was published....

whoa!

So she's not the only one in the marriage with TMI issues. (Though women authors seem to get reviled more for this sort of thing.) Anyone know the husband's name, and the title of the novel?
posted by availablelight at 9:23 AM on December 5, 2009


Am I the only person who thinks Dan would actually be a quite difficult person to be married to? On paper he's amazing: happy childhood, incredible drive... but in day-to-day life it would seem terribly annoying to live with a partner who has to constantly, obsessively perfect whatever craft he's into to avoid spiraling into depression.
posted by fatbird at 9:25 AM on December 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


availablelight, his name's in the caption. Presumably this is the novel to which she's referring.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:25 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person who thinks Dan would actually be a quite difficult person to be married to?

They both seem like narcissistic headcases to me. Looking at the books he's written, he's got quite the little love affair with himself going there.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:26 AM on December 5, 2009


Anyone know the husband's name, and the title of the novel?

His name is in the caption below the photo at the top of the article. Here are the books Amazon has of his. Reading the blurbs, this one sounds likely, a "meticulous study of the ambivalence and romantic bewilderment of privileged American 20-somethings."
posted by Forktine at 9:27 AM on December 5, 2009


They both seem like narcissistic headcases to me

Yeah they seem to be made for each other.
posted by nola at 9:27 AM on December 5, 2009


Reading the blurbs, this one sounds likely, a "meticulous study of the ambivalence and romantic bewilderment of privileged American 20-somethings."

Publisher's Weekly and Booklist didn't seem to like it too much.
posted by grouse at 9:34 AM on December 5, 2009


> Reading the blurbs, this one sounds likely...

"Harp is half-involved in a sparkless relationship with a fellow grad student when he falls for Joan Artois, a magnetic neurotic familiar to anyone who's seen a Woody Allen film...this "most exquisitely sexual and vulnerable girl-woman." Harp's other lover, the politically correct Shauna Rose, is mostly left to pine for him, keeping pots of vegan soup on the stove, stocking seminal postmodern theory texts as bathroom reading, and waiting futilely for him to decide to be with her "for real."...Touted as a read-alike for High Fidelity (1995), this may play better with Maxim fans."

BARRRFFFFF
posted by you just lost the game at 9:35 AM on December 5, 2009 [13 favorites]


I actually felt like my experience of reading this was sort of an example of the premise of the piece; they seemed nice and interesting enough at first, but then when she delved too far under the surface, they didn't seem so appealing.

Take the nightly-gourmet-cooking thing, which sounds kind of awesome in theory but could get really old when there are small children in the house. Pots upon pots piling up, dirty stove, counters covered; and meanwhile, the other person has extra nightly hours of sole childcare responsibility. (On the other hand, it seems like a pretty obvious compromise: alternate nights between elaborate feasts and simple grilled whatever.)

And then there's all the bad temper about petty stuff, like whether the summer house with free grandparent babysitting to which you have unlimited access is "authentic" enough. A little gratitude and good humor, folks.
posted by palliser at 9:41 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Weird reading this as a gay man who's been with his partner for 10 years. Some of it really does resonate. But I couldn't help thinking that there's a gravity to the notion of participating in the cultural institution of marriage that I am, for the most part, barred from. In that sense, as much as I'd like to, I can't relate at all.
posted by treepour at 9:46 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


> The most surefire warning sign that a couple I know is about to separate and divorce is when one of them begins talking about "marriage improvement".

This.

"We enrolled in a 16-hour, two-Saturday course called “Mastering the Mysteries of Love.” The classes teach students how to have “skilled conversations” or rather, I should say, how to stop having the let’s-see-who-rhetorically-wins skirmishes that were standard in our house. A skilled conversation is an exercise in forced empathy. One person starts by describing his or her feelings. The other person then validates those feelings, repeating them back nearly verbatim. Midmorning, with the gongs of the supposedly soothing spa music crashing in the background, Dan and I retreated to a couch with a template for having a skilled conversation about a “small disagreement."

I'd get divorced before I'd agree to attend something like this. You need to take a class in order to learn how to have a civil conversation with your spouse? On how to disagree without it spiralling into a full-blown argument?
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 9:49 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


the guy i'm going to have brunch with tomorrow is anal retentive, schedule driven, a stressed out control freak if he doesn't know exactly what he's doing for the next 6 hours (nap - 4pm to 5pm) whereas i am the exact opposite. we decide if I will return to the arctic circle after going home to mommy on the equator after 8 months here. reading this article turned out, ironically, to give me hope. if they can do it, hell, we should be fine (i hope ;p)
posted by infini at 9:49 AM on December 5, 2009


I have a shed. It's awesome.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 9:49 AM on December 5, 2009


I've got TWO sheds.
posted by The Whelk at 9:50 AM on December 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


at some point you have to stop looking at the plate of beans (unless NYT contact me ;p )
posted by infini at 9:51 AM on December 5, 2009


whether the summer house with free grandparent babysitting to which you have unlimited access is "authentic" enough

The dense fog of privilege obscured everything past your nose.
posted by The Whelk at 9:52 AM on December 5, 2009


As a gay guy, the “how to have a better privileged straight marriage” tone of this article is about as irritating and distasteful as it would be if it were about how to be a better white person. I know I’m being unreasonable.
posted by tepidmonkey at 9:52 AM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


I lost my sheds in the divorce.
posted by Floydd at 9:53 AM on December 5, 2009


Hey, maybe there is no shed, maybe it's one of them metaphorical things. Like, maybe the shed is the place inside each of us created by our goodwill and teamwork.
posted by you just lost the game at 9:55 AM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


As a gay guy in a five year relationship, I wanna give them both AWFUL haircuts.
posted by The Whelk at 9:56 AM on December 5, 2009 [11 favorites]


My girlfriend and I have a shed...only it doesn't exist except as a relationship-saving rhetorical device.

My husband and I have similar rhetorical devices, the relationship-saving one being "Third Wife" (husband had been divorced for two years when we met):

Him: You know what would be good? A nanny, to [leering] take care of me.*

Me: Sounds great. Maybe your third wife can help you with that.

Him: But honey [cheesily], she wouldn't just be for me! She could take care of you, too!

Me: Third Wife! [said in the same tone of voice as Whale Biologist!]


*He's not really a smarmy creep, nor am I a humorless prude. We just have a well-burnished shtick. In my fantasies, we sound like William Powell and Myrna Loy, but I fear we sound more like Richie and Eddie.
posted by bakerina at 10:11 AM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a gay guy in a 17-year relationship, I can only relate to assholes within a physical context.
posted by troybob at 10:12 AM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


* gag *
posted by everichon at 10:14 AM on December 5, 2009


I have to admit I enjoyed the article as a sort of 'work on these thingsfrom the beginning, or else you'll end up with a guy who criticized your kissing technique and then harrangues you for daily make out sessions.'

Not my ideal marriage foundation, and I'm surprised that they were surprised at the issues that came up.

Then, I was glad to be straight, because if I get into this same mess, there's a huge economy built around starting, maintaining, and ending socially sanctioned straight relationships. My LGBTQ friends are left without these support systems.

So I was pissed off at the end of the article for different reasons than many of the other commenters here.

Then I got all pissed at myself because I still really want to get married and have the disagreements and challenges that health married people have, like in this navel gazing bit of NYT self promotion.
posted by bilabial at 10:14 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Horace Rumpole: "Also, "peddle pushers"? C'mon NYT editors--head in the game!"

Thank you. I knew that, if there was a place where other pedants would spot and be bothered by this, it was here.

I would like to add a counterpoint to Weil's perspective, just for posterity:

My husband and I see a marital therapist, and have done so off and on since before we became engaged—to help us talk through and work through the challenges that are borne naturally of any lifelong relationship. At first it was a pre-marital, compatibility type thing; he helped us have difficult conversations around finances, childrearing, in-laws, sex, what we wanted our marriage to mean, and what we viewed as a successful partnership, and how to strive for that. Then, as our marriage evolved, so did the work that we did in therapy. We work on improving our communications, and on being a strong team, and on being good friends to one another.

The sessions aren't excruciating, they aren't self-indulgent, we don't leave them arguing. We don't find the office depressing and terrible (that was a huge red flag for me in Weil's story). In fact, we usually leave energized, and feeling positive about plans for how to address problems via respectful discussion, not arguments that generate more heat than light. We feel positive about showing more consideration for one another.

We go a couple times a month if we are "in crisis" (some kind of external high drama that is stressing the partnership excessively, whether work or in-laws or childrearing), and then maybe only a couple times a year if things are going well— just to get a check-up, the occasional "well marriage" exam, if you will.

Sometimes we go in separately, just to have a one-on-one conversation, because there will always be things that it's easier to say aloud (at least the first time) without your partner in the room. Those usually produce recommendations for a healthy, productive plan to turn a budding concern into a resolved non-issue. This also lets us touch base about maintaining our individual identities, keeping the "spaces in our togetherness" healthy.

I guess my point is that I am Married (Happily) With Issues, as I suspect many partnerships also are... and for us, counseling is not at all like chemotherapy. It's useful, it's productive, and it's far more like the annual doctor's physical and the annual dentist's checkup: proactive maintenance, to discuss best practices, and spot tiny trouble areas and address them long before they can become festering, infected problems.

I hate it when I see the old saw that marriage counseling is pretty much the death knell. I feel that notion only serves to stigmatize marriage counseling.... when in fact, if couples viewed caring for their emotional wellbeing like the same responsible activity that society considers an active preventive physical health schedule, far fewer couples would be discouraged into waiting until it was indeed too late, to talk to someone who could keep them on their preferred path.

Disclaimer: We are lucky to have awesome insurance, and lucky to have a therapist who is really laidback and cool and believes that most people's marriages (and indeed, most people) are just fine, not walking illustrated DSM-IVs, and that folks just need a little assistance from a trained third-party once in a while. If I had a therapist like the one in Weil's article, I might well hate therapy too.
posted by pineapple at 10:19 AM on December 5, 2009 [19 favorites]


Remember the anecdote about how Dan tore down the front door three times to get it to code? Not-rich folks ignore code.

Depending on where you are (and who your neighbors are), the local jurisdiction's building department might care that something doesn't meet code. There are people whose sole job is reviewing building practices of folks who don't ask permission and don't get local review first. Also, they bought a house in San Francisco, where I'd imagine that fixer-uppers are still expensive.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:22 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


just exchange "cooking pig heads for several hours everyday instead of raising children" with "hunched over a computer tending to email and the mefi flag pile."

With the mild difference that that's kinda your job, and cooking pig heads isn't his.
Unless he turned the experience into a newspaper column later, I guess.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 10:29 AM on December 5, 2009


tepidmonkey: As a gay guy, the “how to have a better privileged straight marriage” tone of this article is about as irritating and distasteful as it would be if it were about how to be a better white person. I know I’m being unreasonable.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. I have one of those privileged straight marriages -- only without the kids, home ownership in Bernal Heights or lucrative freelance writing gigs -- and I still found her tone irritating and distasteful. If I were unable to marry the person I love best in the world, and thus remain unentitled to the legal protections conveyed by marriage, all while being surrounded by noisy idiots who feel compelled to tell us that God and History(tm) Hates Us, I'd want to start breaking shit after reading that article.
posted by bakerina at 10:32 AM on December 5, 2009


At least an illustrator got paid outta this whole marlarky.
posted by The Whelk at 10:38 AM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thank you for the interesting response to my knee-jerk reaction, pineapple. I suppose I react that way whenever I hear about marriage counselling because it usually is presented (in books, movies, television, etc.) as the relationship equivalent of chemotherapy and because the goals (talk to each other! stop fighting over stupid shit!) seem like something most people should* be able to work out without the guidance of a highly-paid professional.

* this I guess is the key word
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 10:46 AM on December 5, 2009


as a gay man not in a relationship, but with two cats, all i can say is "thank you jesus!".
posted by billybobtoo at 10:51 AM on December 5, 2009


Endlessly self-centered white couple in nest of absolute privilege are slightly discontent.

I don't understand what the responsible editor at the NYT was thinking- this piece is at a minimum, four times too long. On a non-technical note, the folks involved garnered little to no-sympathy. Their problem as a couple is that two narcissists will have trouble, generally.

It sounds like they had nine great years of gravlax and self-congratulatory sex. What's she bitching about, again?
posted by mrdaneri at 11:04 AM on December 5, 2009


I instinctively reject the idea that someone else's problems could ever resemble my own, so I just took this as some random person's slice-of-life story. And as that, it was okay for the most part. But what pissed me off is that she never came to any actual conclusions. It was all "blah blah blah blah blah we tried this and tried that and tried this and tried that" and then ... nothing. She wraps it all up with a paragraph or two of pithy nonsense, and then leaves us to fend for ourselves. To me, this is the narrative equvalent of "it was all a dream." I mean, I read the whole article -- I'm *invested* goddamn it, and this is how you repay me?

Also, I was reminded of Tsing Loh's execrable piece about her own failed marriage, and realized that this couple bears a strong resemblance to one of the couples that Tsing Loh describes. And it reminded me of how all these "relationshipfilter" and "mommy wars" articles are really just a small group of people writing about their boring little lives (and those of their friends) and trying to universalize it to make it sound like they're reavealing some kind of universal truth. We are under no obligation to take them seriously.

Also, the tell-all thing? It's creepy. I feel really bad for her husband and her parents. What a shit show. If they weren't going to get a divorce before, surely they will now.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:05 AM on December 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


From the Booklist review of his book:
Best known for his nonfiction book on surfing, Caught Inside (1996), and a novel about mountain climbing,Looking for Mo (1998), Duane changes course here with an insular, painful story about the particular brand of heartbreak suffered by 28-year-old doctoral candidate Cassius Harper. After experiencing yet another torrid breakup, Cassius decides to give casual dating a try and falls into a comfortable arrangement with colleague Shauna, a vegetarian with a deep nurturing streak. Then he meets neurotic Joanie Artois, described as "raw sex on an oyster shell," and three dates later, he's a goner--despite the fact that she's emotionally abusive and expects to be wined and dined in high style. Cringe-inducing dialogue and tiresome theatrics go a long way toward making this a difficult read, but there's also humor in the way Harper struggles to reconcile the political correctness he must display in an academic setting with the S & M moves demanded by Joanie, and he can be brutally honest about his weakness for disturbed women. Touted as a read-alike for High Fidelity (1995), this may play better with Maxim fans.
Ugh, this sounds terrible. I actually sort-of enjoyed this article, though the references to his book and the weird feelings it stirred up gave me pause. No wonder.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:06 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not being gay, I don't think I have the right perspective to comment here.
posted by found missing at 11:10 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is not wanting to make eye contact during sex such a sign that you are a maladjusted failure at intimacy? I hate doing that, but I think that one or two hangups here and there isn't that bad.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 11:12 AM on December 5, 2009


You need to take a class in order to learn how to have a civil conversation with your spouse? On how to disagree without it spiralling into a full-blown argument?

For a lot of people, they don't need to know how to do this stuff, they need permission to do it. You build up a layer of defensive snark around the issues you disagree on, and being sincere and admitting genuine vulnerability when you're used to snarking feels... pathetic.

It's helpful to be able to say, "Look, I know this 'active listening' thing is lame, and you know it's lame, but this godawful dorky social worker wants us to do it, so let's give it a shot." The issue was never whether it was going to work — it was just that resorting to it of your own accord is uncool and embarrassing. Putting that embarrassment on someone else's shoulders frees you up to do the (pathetic, uncool, embarrassing and also essential) work of having whatever tough conversation you need to have.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:21 AM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's hard to make eye contact when you're wearing an eyeless latex mask.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:47 AM on December 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Stonewall Jackson: "Thank you for the interesting response to my knee-jerk reaction, pineapple."

You're welcome, but for whatever it's worth, I TOTALLY did not read your comment as a slam or as kneejerk. I got what you were saying (I thought), and in fact that "Mastering the Mysteries of Love" BS she mentioned sounded like a B-level bromance script pitch to me (oh wait, it actually was).

It was Weil's characterization that couples' therapy must be toxic, and must be the final heroic measure, which irked me.... simply because in my experience, she's wrong on both counts.
posted by pineapple at 11:48 AM on December 5, 2009


I've got TWO sheds.
posted by The Whelk



So we should call you "The Whelk 'Two Sheds' Strickland " ?
posted by nola at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd get divorced before I'd agree to attend something like this. You need to take a class in order to learn how to have a civil conversation with your spouse? On how to disagree without it spiralling into a full-blown argument?

Well, yes, actually. My ex was incapable of dealing with disagreement without becoming angry and defensive, and could have given a masterclass in passive aggression. If we hadn't had a child together, we wouldn't have lasted a year, but I suppose we both thought we should try.
posted by jokeefe at 11:57 AM on December 5, 2009


I know it should be The Welk "Two Sheds" Jackson but I just wanted to go further down the rabbithole of obscure references
posted by nola at 11:58 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I seem to be going against the tide here, but the husband sounds like he would be tremendously difficult to live with (spending more on food than on the mortgage so that he can perfect his cooking skills, while she deals with the kids getting progressively hungrier and unhappy as he makes his perfect reduction instead of just throwing together some Kraft Dinner for them? Publishing a novel detailing all his previous relationships and the exciting but damaging sex he had with the woman he had just split up with before meeting his wife? Throwing a fit because he's jealous of his wife's closeness to her mother?) and I would assume that before she took on writing this project, she had her husband's agreement. I liked this article, because I'm always curious at the mechanics of long term relationships, and thought that it ended on a realistic but hopeful note. But never mind. Generally anything in the NY Times Style section makes me crazy with irritation, so I do understand the "grar people of privilege grar grar" thing.
posted by jokeefe at 12:06 PM on December 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


For a therapist, these people would be exhausting.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:08 PM on December 5, 2009


A few more thoughts on the relevance of this book to the relationship. The author of the article seems to be trying to convince herself, persistently and repeatedly, that it's normal to be dogged by the exes of your current partner. To an extent, that's true, and to an extent, I sympathize. To be fair, Mr. WanKenobi maintained a mildly popular online diary in the years just before we met, and much of it was concerned with his love affairs, and so I, too, know what it's like to be overly familiar with your SO's tumultuous previous relationships. But after we were an established couple, he stopped writing in it, and certainly stopped writing about the exes. This guy not only continued to write about his relationship with this woman, but wrote a 500 page tome (" . . . Dan spent the early years of ours writing an erotic bildungsroman about this nightmare ex-girlfriend, the novel at one point ballooning to 500 pages and including references to everyone he’d ever slept with . . ..") about the woman and pursued publication of this novel with a major publisher. I don't think it's necessary to whitewash one's past. I don't think he needed to pretend it never happened. But if I were in his wife's position? I'd feel humiliated. I mean, geeze, seriously.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:09 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Straus only has one "s". And if they have Straus, things can't be that bad.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:11 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seems like the real agenda is to tell us how tasteful and intelligent they are.
posted by mattholomew at 12:21 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The article shows why novels are better at revealing inner lives.
(Novelists can't afford to exhaust a reader's patience just because, you know, it's all true...)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:33 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


> To be fair, Mr. WanKenobi maintained a mildly popular online diary in the years just before we met...

Ten years ago, when I met the woman who would become my girlfriend and then my wife, I gave her the URL of my then-homepage (which was a sort of proto-blog filled with my blatherings) as part of my multi-pronged wooing strategy. Later she admitted that the first thing she did was dredge through it looking for the dirt (of which there was none; an account of my first kiss was as salacious as it got).
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:37 PM on December 5, 2009


The Smug is strong with this one.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:58 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a white married middle class guy into home repair but I have no idea what gravlax is. Am I doing it wrong?
posted by octothorpe at 1:02 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shed? Hah! I've got a barn.

Ok, it's really just a bigass shed, because that's the way we roll here in the South.

Michael Vincent Miller describes marriage as mocking our “fondest dreams,” because the institution is not the wellspring of love we imagine it to be. Instead it’s an environment of scarcity, it’s “a barbaric competition over whose needs get met”; it’s “two people trying to make a go of it on emotional and psychological supplies that are only sufficient for one.”

This makes me feel sad for M. V. Miller. My marriage is not a competition. It isn't a seesaw, it is more like a trampoline-- the higher he bounces, the higher I bounce. The more selflessly and thoughtfully I give of myself, the more he gives of himself and vice versa. I can see how some people might view marriage as hard work-- to think ahead to make the other person's life easier, to keep your temper and not speak out hurtfully, to ignore the mistakes and shortcomings of your partner-- but I view it as a lovely dance that takes practice to appear effortless.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:05 PM on December 5, 2009 [28 favorites]


I thought the reason I couldn't get through the piece was that I was on the ellipitcal, and lacked the concentration to find le point. Glad to know other (presumably seated) people had the same problem.

By the way, for everyone who wonders how the NYT can devote so many inches to the (non?) problems of straight, married, well-off, well-educated white Americans ... it's because that's the business. While paper has a vast and diverse universe of internet freeloaders, the demographic that actually buys print editions of the NYT and whom its print and on-line advertisers are paying to reach is very narrow.
posted by MattD at 1:39 PM on December 5, 2009


Also, how in the world can you hate French kissing? More to the point, how could you possibly stay married to someone who hated French kissing? I couldn't even *date* somebody who insisted on closed-mouth kisses.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


All this stuff, the sheds, the pig heads, putting up with narcissism, no french kisses, is so that in the end, when we are staring at shitting the bed and the bright light at th eend of the tunnel, we can look forward in the hope of not dying alone.
posted by Xurando at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2009


My girlfriend and I have a shed. I mean, not an actual shed, since we don't even live in the same state yet, much less the same house. It's more of a rhetorical device at the moment...

I have a wife of over ten years, and we totally need a real, actual shed. Having space for stupid, noisy, messy things is a boon to a marriage. I keep meaning to clean out the garage for this, but it's an attached garage, so it isn't quite the same.
posted by davejay at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Irony, snark, being cool, these are things you use to jockey for status. Win/lose things. Exhausting.

Regarding the French kissing situation in the article, why would you want your partner to do something that you hate? Is tongue wrestling all that great when your partner doesn't like it? Blah.

If someone is going to do doing something that they hate on a daily basis, just to make me happy, it better be something like the dishes instead of something optional like swapping spit.
posted by kathrineg at 2:53 PM on December 5, 2009


If someone is going to do doing something that they hate on a daily basis, just to make me happy, it better be something like the dishes instead of something optional like swapping spit.

How about making a grilled cheese sandwich?
posted by grouse at 3:05 PM on December 5, 2009


it better be something like the dishes instead of something optional like swapping spit.

LINDA
We talked about how passion didn't
matter as much as comfort, stability.

STEVE
That's bullshit.

LINDA
No kidding. We lived together for two years.
We're still friends, but...

STEVE
I did the same thing. One day, one of you goes
for groceries and never comes back.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:05 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


but some relationships work well in the sub and dom roles

The dominant party is always happy. And anybody "happy" to be a doormat has a mental problem.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 3:16 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doing something to someone that you know they hate* isn't passionate. It's gross and unfun.

unless they want you to do it because they hate it and they like that, in which case...well, that's probably another discussion
posted by kathrineg at 3:17 PM on December 5, 2009


bravelittletoaster: "The dominant party is always happy. And anybody "happy" to be a doormat has a mental problem."

A mental problem that makes them happy? Sounds like a good mental problem to have.
posted by kathrineg at 3:18 PM on December 5, 2009


Maybe we should rename it freedom kissing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:24 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, I've never been able to figure out why people are so afraid of dying alone. I mean, it's not like you're going to care after your dead. I'm a lot more afraid of living alone, which can happen regardless of whether or not you're married.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:31 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think people are afraid that they are going to have to live alone long after they have lost the ability to attract a mate.
posted by grouse at 3:34 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just felt really sorry for their children.
posted by bearwife at 3:41 PM on December 5, 2009


I'm a white married middle class guy into home repair but I have no idea what gravlax is. Am I doing it wrong?

I didn't know either but I looked and it's omygod this
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:52 PM on December 5, 2009


I'm afraid of dying alone, that's why I have a couple of cats to gnaw on me. Hopefully they can render my body unidentifiable, thus hiding my lonely, lonely shame.

Seriously though, I live in NYC and if I were ever wealthy enough to die alone I'd piss myself with happiness, and that would be totally fine because I would be ALONE.
posted by kathrineg at 3:53 PM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is there any species of fish that the Nords won't haphazardly preserve?
posted by kathrineg at 3:55 PM on December 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is what happens when you marry a hipster. No retirement savings and crispy fried pigs' ears in your salad.

That was like a Modern Love column except you feel embarrassed throughout the whole thing and can't stop reading. I predict divorce (hopefully I'm wrong).
posted by anniecat at 4:17 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, how in the world can you hate French kissing?

It explained a lot. If she won't French kiss, you know what else she won't do.

That's a dealbreaker!
/lemon

So no wonder the guy spends like five hours trying to get dinner just right.
posted by troybob at 4:18 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is the third thing about unhappily married priveleged forty-something writers I've read very recently which dwells in a whole lot of detail on the husband's near obsession with being an expert cook, making sauces, buying expensive ingredients, etc. (Sandra Tsing Loh's article and Julie Metz's "Perfection" being the others). I don't know what that means but it's becoming a bit tiresome to read about, as much as the marital woes.
posted by jamesonandwater at 4:19 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


who agreed to publish this on the NYT and how do I contact him so I can get paid to write crap
posted by Neekee at 4:30 PM on December 5, 2009


Sounds like she just needed something to write about.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:35 PM on December 5, 2009


Me, I thought the piece was fucking inspirational. One day, I too will have a wife and kids and money and a nice house and enough privilege and connections to bore Sunday Styles readers to tears with my self-absorbed, beanplating analysis of the minutiae of my mundane and uninspired life.

And I'm gonna collect a paycheck for it too.

You watch me.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:44 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've always heard that going to a marriage counselor more often than not ends badly, because, as mentioned in the article, couples wait until it is too late.

My other half actually used to do relationship counseling, and hated it for this exact reason. She eventually quit, because all she wanted to say to every couple was, "Well, you're here for relationship counseling, which means this relationship is much too far gone to save, so I'd advise breaking up as soon as possible, while there's still some chance of the break-up at least being amiable." Naturally, she couldn't actually say that, which is why she didn't go into relationship counseling long-term.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:47 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Endlessly self-centered white couple in nest of absolute privilege are slightly discontent.

I don't understand what the responsible editor at the NYT was thinking


They're thinking "That's our target demographic!" as someone has already said.

The "peddle" thing, on the other hand, is a shootin' offense.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:23 PM on December 5, 2009


I actually repeatedly tried to find the 'Modern Love' title somewhere on the page because the characters were so revolting and narcissistic I couldn't believe it wasn't part of that series.
posted by winna at 5:24 PM on December 5, 2009


Those of you who say you would have found the husband's novel a humiliating experience if you were the wife ... don't marry a writer. Seriously. Good writer, bad writer, mediocre writer, whatever, if they're a serious writer, that kind of thing is par for the course.

Writers draw from their own experiences, and censoring those experiences is the first and last step to the end of any worthwhile insight in your writing.

So, the cooking stuff? I'm right there with you. The jealousy of the mother? I'm in complete agreement. The book he wrote? My reaction is, "If it needed to go in the book, then it needed to go in the book."

I realize other people might have different reactions, and I'm not saying mine is better or worse. I'm just saying -- if you would have found that humiliating, don't marry a writer.
posted by kyrademon at 5:31 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is the third thing about unhappily married priveleged forty-something writers I've read very recently which dwells in a whole lot of detail on the husband's near obsession with being an expert cook, making sauces, buying expensive ingredients, etc.

It's everywhere!!!1!

The guy in that one is pretty impressive, because his wife's a food editor and he's still a passive aggressive douchechef.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:36 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those of you who say you would have found the husband's novel a humiliating experience if you were the wife ... don't marry a writer. Seriously. Good writer, bad writer, mediocre writer, whatever, if they're a serious writer, that kind of thing is par for the course.

::clears throat:: Some of us who think that his head-up-ass narcissistic self-obsession would drive us over a cliff of rage are writers ourveryownselves.

Human beings can indeed write both fiction and non-fiction about topics other than themselves. Among the two people to whom I would strongly recommend this are Ms. Weil and Mr. Duane.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:38 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]



I'm not through with the article yet, but I would like to take a moment and register my annoyance at how casually the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" are now attached to things like relationships (e.g. Intimate Terrorism)


I'm no expert, but if intimate terrorism is anything like emotional fascism, I'm pretty sure there's an Elvis Costello song about it.
posted by thivaia at 5:42 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, question for you, Sidhedevil ... if you thought it was important to the story you were writing to include intimate details of a previous relationship (whether loosely or precisely, whether heavily fictionalized or near-exact), and you thought doing so might upset your current partner, would you leave it out?

I wouldn't. I would certainly talk to my partner about why I was doing it, why I thought it was important to what I was writing, reassure them about our current relationship, and all of that ... but I wouldn't leave it out.
posted by kyrademon at 5:44 PM on December 5, 2009


I saw my wife sometime last week, I think she was in the kitchen when I was on my way to the bathroom.
posted by maxwelton at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2009


Good writers don't need to cannibalize their personal relationships for material.
posted by The Straightener at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, question for you, Sidhedevil ... if you thought it was important to the story you were writing to include intimate details of a previous relationship (whether loosely or precisely, whether heavily fictionalized or near-exact), and you thought doing so might upset your current partner, would you leave it out?

I wouldn't write a 500-page slightly fictionalized bildungsroman about myself in the first place. Not because it would upset the Largely Mythological Husband, but because it would make me hate myself forever.

In general, though, I think writers marrying writers is usually a disaster.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:59 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I made it further into the comments than into the article, and that wasn't far. I'm confident, though, that my wife and I beat the author and her husband handily in the marriage contest, which seems to be what she's going for, here.
posted by Huck500 at 6:07 PM on December 5, 2009


if you thought it was important to the story you were writing to include intimate details of a previous relationship (whether loosely or precisely, whether heavily fictionalized or near-exact), and you thought doing so might upset your current partner, would you leave it out?

An inability to write fictional fiction should be considered a sign of a massive lack of imagination.

I say this as a writer, too.

I'll also say, as a writer, that people are more important than books.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:33 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Seriously, there were plenty of assholes who wrote hurtful things about people they knew in my MFA program--some would even write hurtful things about people in their workshops and bring those pieces to workshop. I never, ever found this to be an illustration of genius but rather of self-centeredness and pettiness. These were people who really should have been focusing on their fiction. YM, and perspective, MV, of course.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:36 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I disagree with you guys about the writing. Most of the great modern works of art, music and writing are inspired and influenced by traumatic parts of our past. But thats my opinion.

It also depends on what type of writing you are into.
posted by mattsweaters at 6:52 PM on December 5, 2009


OK ... leaving aside my jaw-dropping astonishment at the number of people here who seem to be implying that drawing from your personal experience is the mark of a bad writer (seriously?) ...

1) The problem WASN'T that he wrote the book. The problem was that it made her wonder if he considered sex with her kind of boring and vanilla and they NEVER DISCUSSED IT.

2) Obviously, people can make personal attacks against other people in their writing, and probably you shouldn't show that writing to the person in question unless your aim is specifically to make them feel bad, which is probably a poor motivation for good writing most of the time. However, this wasn't the case here -- he wasn't writing about her, he was writing about an ex-girlfriend.

3) Of course people and relationships are more important than writing. But that works both ways. When someone pours years of work into a novel about a painful subject in their past, possibly the response "That makes me uncomfortable. Please stop." isn't giving very much support and understanding to the person doing the writing.

As I said, this works both ways. Which is why if you write a novel that makes your partner uncomfortable in some way, discussion and explanation should certainly take place.

But for the love of Pete, are you people honestly suggesting that writing something so personal that it might potentially make someone close to you uncomfortable is off-limits? Seriously?
posted by kyrademon at 7:17 PM on December 5, 2009


This isn't an attempt at great art, this is a working nonfiction writer who is trying to sell books and articles. This is what happens when that type settles down, has children and becomes middle class. They can't get out to find decent subjects to write about anymore because raising a family has come to consume all their time and become their identity. So they write about that, because they want to keep their name out there, keep seeing their name in print. I have watched a similar thing happen locally when women journalists I've known take maternity leave. Suddenly they are mommy bloggers, their beat has become their living room because that's about as far as they get on any given day when raising small children. The problem is that this world is so small that to turn it into book length material you have to magnify little things into this spiraling world of self-absorbed meta-reflection and then shoe horn in some larger theme (like couples counseling) for a selling hook you can pitch to publishers. They result is this kind of weird yuppie overthinking, oversharing family story about being above average but basically unspectacular.
posted by The Straightener at 7:21 PM on December 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


Kyrademon, not that it's off limits but it's generally unnecessary. If you truly think that your romantic life history is the most compelling story you could tell you are probably either a relatively new writer or you are totally out of ideas. That is, unless you are somehow truly spectacular in that regard, which neither of these writers are.
posted by The Straightener at 7:26 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


All this bitching about the NYT Style section -- but as far as I can see this essay appeared in the NYT Magazine?
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:27 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK ... leaving aside my jaw-dropping astonishment at the number of people here who seem to be implying that drawing from your personal experience is the mark of a bad writer (seriously?) ...

Actually, no one here is saying that. There's a massive difference between drawing on personal experience and writing a 500-page autobiographical bildungsroman that discusses your sexual history in vivid detail.

1) The problem WASN'T that he wrote the book. The problem was that it made her wonder if he considered sex with her kind of boring and vanilla and they NEVER DISCUSSED IT.

Well, if you read the descriptions of the book, it's clear that Daniel Duane actually contrasts his wild ex with a more vanilla fellow graduate student. The problem might not be that he wrote the book, anyway, but there is something potentially humiliating about airing ones' laundry like that and publishing it--particularly if your spouse comes from as reticent a family as the author of the article seems to.

2) Obviously, people can make personal attacks against other people in their writing, and probably you shouldn't show that writing to the person in question unless your aim is specifically to make them feel bad, which is probably a poor motivation for good writing most of the time. However, this wasn't the case here -- he wasn't writing about her, he was writing about an ex-girlfriend.

Actually, he writes in detail about his entire sexual past (which, not having read this book, I don't know if it includes his current wife or not), not just the ex-girlfriend. So I have to wonder: what exactly was his motivation here? One of the article's underlying themes seems to be the way exes can loom large in a relationship; how is such a thing magnified when you can read about it and potentially share it in lurid detail? Is it right or kind to allow your spouse access to those parts of yourself?

3) Of course people and relationships are more important than writing. But that works both ways. When someone pours years of work into a novel about a painful subject in their past, possibly the response "That makes me uncomfortable. Please stop." isn't giving very much support and understanding to the person doing the writing.

I don't think that Daniel Duane would have been seriously damaged as a person had his fairly unsuccessful novel not been published. If someone from my life, who I loved and valued, came to me and told me that my writing was hurting them, you can sure as hell bet that I'd at least take their feelings seriously into account. There are reasonable limits to love and support. This is one of them.

But for the love of Pete, are you people honestly suggesting that writing something so personal that it might potentially make someone close to you uncomfortable is off-limits? Seriously?

For the love of Pete, yes. All this stuff about artists being exempted from the normal rules of society--that it gives them license to be unbearable to the people around them--is bullshit. Serious bullshit.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:32 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you truly think that your romantic life history is the most compelling story you could tell you are probably either a relatively new writer or you are totally out of ideas. That is, unless you are somehow truly spectacular in that regard, which neither of these writers are.

This this this.

Seriously, nobody wants to read a 500-page bildungsroman about your relationship with your ex-girlfriend, whoever you are. It doesn't matter if you're James Joyce (who drew on his autobiography sparingly and to great advantage) or Frederick Exley (who drew on his autobiography almost exclusively, but who had a great sense of humor and appropriate reticence about himself).

But for the love of Pete, are you people honestly suggesting that writing something so personal that it might potentially make someone close to you uncomfortable is off-limits? Seriously?

I'm suggesting that writing something so navel-gazing as a 500-page bildungsroman about a middle-class white person disappointed in love is A HORRIBLE IDEA for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with one's relationship.

But, in regard to the relationship, I think that writing an autobiographical novel in which one glorifies a particular kind of sex and denigrates a different kind of sex and obsesses about an ex-lover without discussing any of this with the current lover, let alone spouse, is kind of creepy.

I bet she wouldn't be so pissed off about the book if a) it was any good, and b) if he'd had the decency to talk with her about how she might react.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:33 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


And in any case, kyrademon, my main beef was with this:

Those of you who say you would have found the husband's novel a humiliating experience if you were the wife ... don't marry a writer. Seriously. Good writer, bad writer, mediocre writer, whatever, if they're a serious writer, that kind of thing is par for the course.

because it's false. I'm a writer, many of my friends are writers, and we don't write autobiographical fiction. "Serious writer" is not synonymous with "autobiographical fiction" at all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:36 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


...don't marry a writer...

...many of my friends are writers, and we don't write autobiographical fiction...


Heh, yeah, the first thing that came to mind for me was the tortured existence of those poor men and women married to the authors of O'Reilly programming books.
posted by troybob at 7:40 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fact that the author has to insert (Happily) into the title says it all. She needs to state that they are happy because the narrative doesn't support that conclusion.
posted by obol at 8:03 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm intensely curious about what being High Fidelity for the Maxim set entails. Because to the extent that the Maxim set reads stuff other than Maxim, High Fidelity can be High Fidelity for the Maxim Set. High Fidelity is a fine book but it isn't a terribly challenging. I've got to think that the author of the review really just wanted to make Dan cry.
posted by I Foody at 8:59 PM on December 5, 2009


I have a pretty good relationship. It could be better if I were allowed to marry him. But the 21st century doesn't permit us to formalize our love. The moral and legal authorities seem to think that because we both have cocks, we can't possibly possess affection and that our relationship cannot extend beyond our apparently perverse sexual preferences. We can't even get respect from President Barack Obama, who says that, because of his Christian background, marriage is something sanctified by a man and a woman, but who has insisted that we can take it to the bank. I find this confusing. Because due to present legalities, the bank doesn't even permit us a joint checking account. This is what we file two separate tax returns for each year.

There are things about my partner that drive me crazy. For one thing, he looks like me and shares the same name. And this causes confusion among our friends. They refer to us as “the two Eds,” sometimes believing that both of us are the same. But I'm the one with the beard, and he's the one without the beard. Last spring, he was asked by a teabagging neighbor to cut apart a frozen pig's head with his compound miter saw in the basement. But we didn't have a miter saw and we didn't have a basement. Because we live among bigots, the hardware store owner asked us not to come around again because both of us were light in our loafers. I didn't understand. I insisted that I wore a pair of Adidas, while he wore a pair of Doc Martens. I'm no saint of the spouse, either. I can't be. Because Ed can't be my spouse. But in general we do O.K. Even when we're cosntantly asked to justify our relationship status.

The idea of trying to prove our union came to me in bed. I've never really believed that you can just marry one day at the altar or before a justice of the peace. Because I've never really had an opportunity to become married – truly married – the way that other couples do. Ed and I know a married couple named Elizabeth and Dan who bitch and moan about the most pedantic qualities of their relationship and who take their easily consummated right for granted. They don't seem to understand that the center of their collective existence is something that Ed and I can never have. But they complain louder than we do. And they resort to narcissism,, and writing about their narcissism, which is surely a disease deadlier than the way we are. On the bright side, there's the bountiful word rate that comes from writing superficial articles for The New York Times Magazine, which might atone for their superficiality. But they just don't understand that if Ed and I were allowed to marry, we wouldn't be nearly as superficial.
posted by ed at 9:53 PM on December 5, 2009 [7 favorites]



..Come on, guys, empathy. It's really tough being an upper middle class white couple...

..That woman could really use a vacation from the prison of her own head...

..I made it 334 words, the first two paragraphs. And probably a handful more when I went back to do a word count. I find this kind of "look at MEEE" kind of writing annoying...

..Aren't I so Fucking Amazing In 8438 Words...




Do we really have to do this every time someone posts a feature from the New York Times?

There are plenty of discussions on Metafilter that really do call for an injection of race/class/sex/sexual orientation conciousness and a smack around the head for people who are oblivious to their own privilege. There are plenty of writers who really should be told to remove their heads from their own arseholes. But I don't think any of that is called for in this thread.

For pete's sake, people, this is the New York Times. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Every publication has its target market; in this case, it's upper middle class New Yorkers and readers of all stripes around around the world who aspire to, are fascinated by, or feel some resonance with their peculiarly idiosyncratic existence. This article isn't front-page agenda-setting journalism, it's an 8000-word reflective feature. It's supposed to be about her. It's the writer's job to think deeply and bravely about subjects which most of us take at face-value. It's her job to display her inner world with a degree of (apparent) honesty that would make many of us squirm. Doing all of that is hard. That's why she writes for the New York Times, and we don't.

Of course there are other, more desperate, struggles which are equally worthy of written exposition. But writing isn't easy, and writing prose to a New York Times standard requires a level of higher education which is, unfortunately, correlated with privilege. Writing 8000 tight, evocative words takes time - it's not the kind of thing you can dash off in your lunch break at the 7-11. If you can find a poorly educated, deeply disadvantaged person who can illuminate her own relationship struggles and nagging inner fears with the same clarity and insight, I would much rather read her story. In the meantime, I can only only say that this was a thoughtful, well-written article, and you shouldn't have to personally identify with every word to recognise that the writer has interesting things to say.

You know what this thread is like? It's like a diner who walks into a swanky French restaurant, orders steak tartare, and then climbs on the table and starts yelling about how most of the world eats rice and maize, and the chef is an attention-seeking wanker who should stop overthinking things, and what's wrong with peanut butter sandwiches anyway, and hey, why the hell does your meal look like a pile of raw meat with an egg on it?

Go ahead and hate on the print media all you like; good writing is still good writing, and there's nothing savvy about shitting on an article while never actually engaging with its content.
posted by embrangled at 10:01 PM on December 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Conversely, I find it very discouraging that you and others here feel that the job of the New York Times, supposedly the best newspaper in the country, is to each week hold a mirror up to America's wealthy and congratulate them for the bravery to conquer the small struggles of their easy, advantaged lives.
posted by The Straightener at 10:16 PM on December 5, 2009 [11 favorites]


There are plenty of discussions on Metafilter that really do call for an injection of race/class/sex/sexual orientation conciousness and a smack around the head for people who are oblivious to their own privilege. There are plenty of writers who really should be told to remove their heads from their own arseholes. But I don't think any of that is called for in this thread.

You have to strain seriously hard not to see the class implications of this story. How many of the 45 million Americans without health insurance do you think can afford couples counseling? Of those with insurance, how many have plans that cover it? If your insurance doesn't cover it, you're talking about spending roughly $160 per week out of pocket in order to get access to the services discussed in this story, and seeing how we are still in the worse recession we've seen since the Great Depression, the number of families (with two children!!) with $640 per month in disposable income to spend on counseling services is a vanishingly small number.

Of course there are other, more desperate, struggles which are equally worthy of written exposition. But writing isn't easy, and writing prose to a New York Times standard requires a level of higher education which is, unfortunately, correlated with privilege. Writing 8000 tight, evocative words takes time - it's not the kind of thing you can dash off in your lunch break at the 7-11. If you can find a poorly educated, deeply disadvantaged person who can illuminate her own relationship struggles and nagging inner fears with the same clarity and insight, I would much rather read her story.

What an utterly nauseating statement.
posted by The Straightener at 10:38 PM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Last spring he cut apart a frozen pig’s head with his compound miter saw in our basement


If you can cut apart a frozen pig's head with a miter saw, either you're pig's too small, or your saw's too big for the basement. You may need to consider a shed.
posted by Graygorey at 10:41 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


fuck this self-indulgent crap.
posted by tehloki at 10:46 PM on December 5, 2009


This is the third thing about unhappily married priveleged forty-something writers I've read very recently which dwells in a whole lot of detail on the husband's near obsession with being an expert cook, making sauces, buying expensive ingredients, etc.

Woe be unto the kitchen bitch without a pre-nup. Mangina: heal thyself.
posted by dgaicun at 10:52 PM on December 5, 2009


From today's front page of the New York Times global edition website:

Aid for relatives offers an alternative to African orphanages
Is money tainting the plasma supply?
Climate Talks Negotiators at Climate Talks Face Deep Fault Lines

Rumoured death of the print media aside, the NYT is still respected around the world for its reportage, investigative and - occasionally - social justice journalism. But the article that this thread is about is from the NYT Magazine. It's serving a different purpose, and catering to a narrower demographic. The mag exists to sell advertising, yes, but also to tell stories which don't belong on the front page because they're personal reflections, not news.

If articles like this were all that were left of journalism, I would be as discouraged as you. But they're not. The article is what it is. And I still think there's a place for first-person reflection, because frankly most of us are too busy working jobs and making ends meet to reflect on every aspect of our own lives in quite such exquisite detail. Reading about someone else's struggles can illuminate your own, and that's as true for a well-written feature article as it is for a great classic novel.

Surely you don't you believe that the poor and the desperate don't also have nagging fears about the integrity of their relationships? Because I've been poor and worked shitty jobs and struggled to make ends meet, and I can tell that you even then, I had many of the same worries suffered by the privileged author of this article. Everybody has petty life struggles, even people whose other struggles are about rent or food or life and death. What a wealthy, privileged life offers is the time and mental real estate to think clearly about them.

[It makes me sad to be picking a fight with you, Straightener. I've read and admired your work for years, and nothing I'm arguing in defence of this article is intended as disrespect for the kind of writing you do - which, I guess we'd both agree has far more serious implications for social justice. I just think that there's room for both, and it's disingenuous to shit on one thing just because it isn't something else.]
posted by embrangled at 10:53 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


(He is) spending more on food than on the mortgage so that he can perfect his cooking skills, while she deals with the kids

Doesn't she say that they split up duties - he does cooking, she does finances? In which case, their pathetic financial situation is mostly her fault, because she has taken responsibility for it.
posted by jacalata at 11:01 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Of course there are other, more desperate, struggles which are equally worthy of written exposition. But writing isn't easy, and writing prose to a New York Times standard requires a level of higher education which is, unfortunately, correlated with privilege. Writing 8000 tight, evocative words takes time - it's not the kind of thing you can dash off in your lunch break at the 7-11. If you can find a poorly educated, deeply disadvantaged person who can illuminate her own relationship struggles and nagging inner fears with the same clarity and insight, I would much rather read her story."

What an utterly nauseating statement.


Why? Regardless of where you start out, if you struggle through life and higher education and your early career to the point where you have the writing ability, time and inclination to write for the New York Times, you have become, almost by definition, privileged. Should that privilege then disqualify you from writing first-person reflections about your life?
posted by embrangled at 11:13 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Should that privilege then disqualify you from writing first-person reflections about your life?

If her editor won't do the damned job, something has to.
posted by Limiter at 12:01 AM on December 6, 2009


Do we really have to do this every time someone posts a feature from the New York Times?

On Metafilter, unless you're eating grass clippings and gravel you're considered part of some ultra privileged elite.
posted by atrazine at 4:12 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The dominant party is always happy. And anybody "happy" to be a doormat has a mental problem."

A mental problem that makes them happy? Sounds like a good mental problem to have.


Pedophiles are happy molesting children. Alcoholics are happy drunks. Rapists are happy raping. Which is why rational people find some other criteria besides "oh it makes me feel good".

Besides that, I've never understood why people who claim to enjoy submission complain when I shove my foot up their ass.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 4:23 AM on December 6, 2009


The first two paragraphs read like an amateur blog about relationships. Then I started drifting off. This article was terrible to read, but good for my insomnia.
posted by thisperon at 5:11 AM on December 6, 2009


On Metafilter, unless you're eating grass clippings and gravel you're considered part of some ultra privileged elite.

The grass clipping and gravel diet is very en vogue right now, and those of us who live on a salary below $30k per year can't afford it. And why should we? Dirt was good enough for my daddy; it's good enough for me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:22 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why? Regardless of where you start out, if you struggle through life and higher education and your early career to the point where you have the writing ability, time and inclination to write for the New York Times, you have become, almost by definition, privileged. Should that privilege then disqualify you from writing first-person reflections about your life?

A lot of these people don't actually have the writing ability. What they have are connections. This woman's glurgeful maunderings about her vapid existence are no more worthy of publication than anyone else's (not at all worthy, in other words), but she is part of the cultural group which includes the submissions editors.
posted by winna at 6:54 AM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


The problem is that this world is so small that to turn it into book length material you have to magnify little things into this spiraling world of self-absorbed meta-reflection

Straightener, you make the point in the beginning of your comment that you're talking about journalistic writing, in particular, and I just wanted to highlight that distinction, because I have a bit of a personal pet peeve about the fact that "women's" literature -- that concerned with the "smaller" world of relationships and domesticity -- is often considered less worthy as art.
posted by palliser at 7:40 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The article was interesting, just as peek into how other people are married.

Metafilter's unsurprising reaction was not. Why do you people read this stuff if it upsets you so? For those who seem to hate the NY Style section, ya'll seem pretty familiar with it.

Come on, guys, empathy. It's really tough being an upper middle class white couple.

This statement is so weird and just feeds into the GRAR GRAR of class warfare. Is it really that hard to see them as people?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:09 AM on December 6, 2009


It sounds like they had nine great years of gravlax and self-congratulatory sex. What's she bitching about, again?

Metafilter: nine great years of gravlax and self-congratulatory sex.

(or it's ten by now, isn't it?)
posted by dfan at 8:40 AM on December 6, 2009


I'm sorry some of you didn't like the article. My wife and I did, which is why I posted it. We identified with their disgust with the current state of relationship therapeutics and what masquerades as wisdom in romance, and we share the desire to have a better relationship without that tinkering bringing the whole thing down around our ears. I agree that it reads like a pitch for a book, and the byline, which mentions the book by name, confirms that.

I'm not sure why an article on the difficulties in a marriage can't be pro-marriage equality, though. If marriage isn't worth working on, then it's not worth fighting for. It's precisely because a marriage is something valuable, because social and legal support for families is such an integral part of making them work, that discrimination on the basis of sexual preference is such a horrible injustice.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:47 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


bravelittletoaster: "Pedophiles are happy molesting children. Alcoholics are happy drunks. Rapists are happy raping. Which is why rational people find some other criteria besides "oh it makes me feel good".

Besides that, I've never understood why people who claim to enjoy submission complain when I shove my foot up their ass.
"

What does this have to do with people who have a happy marriage that irrationally bothers you?
posted by kathrineg at 9:07 AM on December 6, 2009


In defense of the New York Times, this audio slideshow involving interviews with some of the 120 people who were fortunate enough to land a job at Applebee's (out of 6,500 applicants) offers more perspective in a few minutes than reading this vapid article. It isn't always white privilege and superficiality at the Gray Lady. That is, when they remember.
posted by ed at 9:34 AM on December 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


The whole idea that their problems don't matter because they're relatively rich is a weird idea to me. First yes, if their was a problem auction I'd probably pick having a spouse that spends too much on making really fancy food over most problems. But really one of the reasons why I support progressive policies is that I believe that having more money, past a certain point, doesn't make you all that much happier, that makes me think that redistribution to the legitimately poor can lead to supperior utilitarian outcomes. A consequence of this is that I don't get to be all dismissive and contemptuous of the human problems of the relatively affluent. They aren't so much less painful than middle class and working class problems. They're just better decorated.
posted by I Foody at 9:48 AM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's her job to display her inner world with a degree of (apparent) honesty that would make many of us squirm.

I didn't say what I did because I thought the article was self-indulgent, but because it seems to me that her obsessive self-scrutiny is making her unhappier than anything else in her relationship with her husband. When she says "And as I lay there, I started wondering why I wasn’t applying myself to the project of being a spouse", all I can think is, ur doin it wrong.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:36 AM on December 6, 2009


But what pissed me off is that she never came to any actual conclusions. It was all "blah blah blah blah blah we tried this and tried that and tried this and tried that" and then ... nothing.

No kidding. I was all ready for the next page and then- nothing.

I also find it strange that they e-mail on serious topics. “Remind me again why you invited so many ex-lovers to our wedding?” Seems to me that topic might be better handled in person. Easier to be nasty via e-mail, easier to seem nasty via e-mail.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:12 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really, though? "Obsessive self-scrutiny?" She's been married to this guy for ten years, and until a few months ago it didn't occur to her to ask if she was going at it the right way. Does that look like someone who obsesses over this stuff to you?

She sounds to me like someone who got hung up for a little while on some pretty normal doubts, after ten years of basically unbeanplated marriage. That's nothing to be ashamed of in my book. Anyone can do anything for ten straight years without having some fleeting doubts come up is likely to be a robot or a vegetable. And she did what any reasonable person does when they get hung up on this sort of doubts — she considered them, she talked them over, she decided she could live with them, and she moved on.

I can see how you think she shouldn't have written about it. I get that other people's crises of faith can be boring, the same way other people's dreams can be boring, and you're certainly not obligated to spend your time reading about either. But I'm baffled by the idea that she's a bad person for having the crisis, that it's some kind of punishment that she brought on herself for the awful sin of introspection. Maybe you've never woken up one morning thinking "Wait, am I doing this right?" — but if not, you should give it a try. In the long run it tends to make your life better and not worse.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:14 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good writer, bad writer, mediocre writer, whatever, if they're a serious writer, that kind of thing is par for the course.

Presuming you mean "that kind of thing" to mean "borrowing elements from life to use in one's writing" -- and yeah, I agree with you technically.

However, when I borrow elements from life, I make sure to disguise the actual person involved, or change things, or use such insignificant elements so as not to embarrass the person I've borrowed from. I'll do something like set something in my grandfather's house or talk about a kid playing "Dukes of Hazard" on his dirt bike the way my little brother did. I don't go on to talk about my grandparents' love life or my little brothers' academic career or any other such thing that would make people point to something I've written and turn to my brother and say, "shit, man, did you really do all this?"

I'll grant you that I haven't read this gentleman's book, but that many pages inspired by an ex-girlfriend smacks me as being subtextually about "let me write about the way this all SHOULD have happened, so I end up looking like the good guy". That's not writing, that's therapy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The dominant party is always happy. And anybody "happy" to be a doormat has a mental problem.

So I had this relationship in college, where the girl was not very bright, and left all the decisions to me, and let me control things. At the time, I didn't have a realistic understanding of what a dom/sub relationship was (isn't that the thing with whips and chains?) so didn't know that's what we had going. Ultimately the relationship failed, though, because there was a lot of passion, but it drove me crazy that she wasn't bright. To the point that I told her, on more than one occasion, "just stop talking. I can't stand to hear you talk."*

Years later, we met and talked and hung out a bit, and she was acting kind of the same way -- and then she said something really, really insightful, and I had this epiphany: she is really smart, and has been hiding it. I immediately called her on it, and she started to deny it, then pause and admitted it. We spent the next few hours talking about it. It was like talking to an entirely new individual that I'd never met before.

What it boiled down to was this: she was an older (than me) woman, attractive and intelligent, and men seemed intimidated and threatened by her, so she decided to dumb it down about the time I came along -- and it worked so well for her, she ran with it. As she told me, she loved not having to be the smart one, the one who made the decisions, the one who had to solve the other person's problem -- and she loved knowing that it was a choice she'd made, that she was in active control of the relationship in large part through being so passive.

In retrospect it made me sad, because we'd both moved to very good places in our lives, but I couldn't help but wonder what our relationship would have been like if she'd trusted me not to run screaming from someone smarter than me -- especially since our relationship was the one that drove me into the arms of brilliant women from that point forward.

*I was an asshole, I know this, and if you really feel like reminding me -- I deserve it -- do so in mefimail to avoid a derail
posted by davejay at 12:26 PM on December 7, 2009


I read and read and read. I had to go read other articles. I kept coming back to this article. Finally it was over. I wondered why I sat through it all. I wanted to believe it was all about exorcising demons and trying to be a better person. Maybe writing this was the therapy she needed all along. Then I was mad when I read that she was writing a memoir about all of it. Really? You have that much more to say? Really? I felt as if the NYT was running an informercial for her yet to be published book. That kinda chapped my ass.
posted by brokeaspoke at 1:35 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


My Psyche professor in college said that the only career that wasn't taught in school was being a good parent. I think I'd add maintaing a relationship to his maxim. Maybe she's self-obsessed, maybe she just wants to learn how to be more proficient at what she does, I don't know. I can't fault the impulse to improve though.

For those who want to hear more, or hate more, Elizabeth Weil was on Forum with Michael Krasny on KQED this morning. The audio hasn't been uploaded yet, but it usually doesn't take long.
posted by lekvar at 11:40 AM on December 8, 2009


This article made me glad I was no longer married.
posted by trii at 8:22 PM on December 8, 2009


This article made me glad I was no longer married.

Oh that makes me sad. I think that marriage gets such a bad rap. People are all too willing to joke about how horrible their marriage is or how awful/stupid their partner is but a great partnership is a terrific way to go through life. I know achieving it is difficult, but as with many other aspects of life, the greatest effort pays off in the greatest return.

I wish happy marriages received more press, but they are boring. If I start telling you about all the bliss and benefits I enjoy from ....but there...your eyes are starting to glaze over and you think I should just shut-up about it.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:42 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I appreciated the article.

My take on it was that the article was that it was LESS the navel-gazing of a priveliged couple and MORE the author willing to take some serious risks with her marriage by subjecting it to a Gonzo-style approach to writing a piece (and soon to be book) on the counseling / self-improvement biz and an in-depth commentary on the over-sized expectations of the modern American marriage.

For those in troubled relationships, it just may ferret out the right (or none) approach to marriage counseling-- rather than trial and error that may actually do more harm than good.

I was left feeling that the author was was slightly reckless, despite the seemingly happy ending.

Her husband summed it up well at the beginning of the piece, -- if we're going to shake the bushes, don't be surpirsed when the snakes come out.
posted by iam2bz2p at 11:40 AM on December 10, 2009


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