You hadn't imagined being married to a writer would be quite like this. Though what would you did imagine it would be like is hard to remember now. Civilized evenings discussing the classics? Moonlit strolls reciting poetry? Cocktail parties with famous authors? Cozy afternoons baking the almond bride cake from Great Expectations? Well, it's not like that, not even the part about the almond cake.
What actually happens is that your wife takes the most personal, private, sensitive details of your life and puts them in a short story for all the world to see. The particulars of your first marriage and your former girlfriends and your formative years are all grist for her writer's mill. (And she doesn't bother to change much, either.) And not just your past -- it's your present, too. Every quirk and misunderstanding and funny thing that happens to you gets used by her. Usually in a way that mocks you.
For example, at your son's birthday party, you drank quite a few martinis to cope with the stress (your wife was off giving a reading) and you can't precisely remember serving the cake. When you tell your wife this, she looks delighted and says, "Oh, my God, I'm going to write a story about a man who has an alcoholic blackout at his own child's party."
You tell her it wasn't a blackout, it was a memory blip.
"That's the disease talking," she says, because in her mind, you have already become an alcoholic. That's another thing -- the version that appears in her work becomes the true version, to her.
Your wife says that she has every right to write about your most personal experiences. She says it's fair game because you're married to her. You're not quite sure that's true. If you were married to a preschool teacher, would she have the right to make you sing "The Wheels on the Bus" over and over? If you were married to a dentist, would she have the right to drill holes in your teeth whenever the spirit moved her?
Worse, sometimes your wife asks you for these details -- begs you for them.
"Tell me something I talk about that you find really boring," she says.
Every fiber of your being tells you this is a bad idea. "No."
"It's for a short story," you wife says. "Come on, I won't get angry."
"Well, okay," you say. "I don't like it when you talk about whether you should cut your hair."
She looks furious. "Oh, fine!" she says. "Do you think I'm interested in all that political shit you talk about?"
Well, yes, you had thought that. Right up until now.
Surely not all writers are like this. You have a very hard time believing the Brontë sisters sat around the fire every evening and took the piss out of their father and brother. Perhaps you should have married a modern-day equivalent of a Brontë sister, although to be honest, that doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun, either -- all that depressed scribbling in journals in itty-bitty handwriting and pressure to take part in the parish and whatnot. But still, you believe the Brontë sisters respected their menfolk. At least more than your wife does.
She wouldn't even let you be in the house when she was being interviewed about her book! She sent you and the children out to a movie and said you couldn't come back until the coast was clear. She let the dog stay, though. "He's handsome and has good manners," she said. (What exactly does that imply about you?)
And why can't the husband-characters in her work be handsome and dashing and mysterious? Why are the husband-characters mocked by all the other characters? Why are they always spouting boring facts? Why are they always drinking Famous Grouse and reading The Wall Street Journal? Why do the wife-characters love them like crazy anyway?
Well, actually, that last part is pretty nice.
Katherine Heiny is the author of Single, Carefree, Mellow.
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