Dear Ms. Chupack,
Can I call you Cindy? We haven't met but I feel like you're a friend since I've watched every episode of Sex and the City (many of which you wrote, produced and won awards for) and I think we all agree the show is basically like another girl friend. But then I got married, and so did Carrie, Big and every other rom com couple, leaving no one to confer with on my weird "am I normal?" questions about marriage. And then, like a good friend who knows just what to say at just the right time, you were there with your new book, The Longest Date: Life as a Wife.
This book -- a hysterical collection of essays on love, marriage and trying to conceive -- should come with a disclaimer: reading this in front of your husband may prompt awkward conversations. I know this because I read it in front of my husband, who kept interrupting to ask what was so funny. Then I tried to explain and...oh dear.
These days a girl might often have a job, a house of her own and all she needs is the guy. But what you (and I) didn't realize: "that the guy, when he finally did come, would come with things." It should go without saying that those things probably don't match with either each other or a woman's pre-established decorating scheme. I kept thinking "yes!" as you wrote about the surprisingly complicated and emotional fraught process of blending two people's stuff together (where to put a pinball machine?!).
Upon mentioning this to my husband, we immediately devolved into our argument over what color to paint the walls (He wanted red, I wanted a neutral and we compromised on blue. I should also note that we have painted the walls three different shades of blue and still no one is satisfied). But at least my husband hasn't tried to make it snow in the house. That story had me cringing, laughing and totally empathizing with you, btw.
After I got married, I started giving my single friends different advice and the number one tip: make sure you like the stories of the person you are committed to. Because you will hear them. A lot. One of your biggest questions about marriage is one of mine as well:
"What the hell am I supposed to do when Ian is telling friends a story I've heard a million times? Am I supposed to pretend I've never heard it? Should I say, "Oh, this is a great one!" (whether it is or not) so I don't have to hang onto every word like everybody else? Can I go to the bathroom to clear the dishes instead?"
While there aren't really answers in The Longest Date -- no tips, tricks or helpful household hints -- there is an optimistic and humorous light shined on things that aren't often talked about.
Ok, so too much stuff and too many great stories are good problems to have. But still. We both have Real Problems, too.
There's so much written about marriage, relationships and parenting. Until this book, less has been said about the awkward and just plain hard business of trying to have a baby. One of the things I read aloud to my husband was the bit about traveling without ovulation predictors:
"We went to Jackson Hole, and we didn't even take ovulation sticks, which might not seem crazy to you people, but when you're in the middle of this madness, not knowing when you're ovulating is like not knowing where your cell phone is."
I laughed but then sort of cried because I now deeply empathized with stories about the craziness of traveling without ovulation sticks. It's hard talking to friends about it -- they're either still on birth control or complaining about how their infant kept them up night while I feel an assortment of feelings ranging from jealousy to utter delight to have had nine uninterrupted hours of sleep after cocktails. Much of what is written online is loaded with indecipherable acronyms like IUI, IVF, DPO, and FSH. WTF??
I also that same issue of Newsweek on women, fertility and diet and promptly threw it across the room. I completely understand how you were driven to eat the roof off a gingerbread house and I'm sure I was driven to immediately sample something from the liquor cabinet (which I should note is easily accessible to a toddler in my apartment -- because why not?). I was saddened to read about how you and your husband struggled and I am truly happy that you both got your baby. I deeply appreciate -- and I'm sure many other readers, both men and women will as well -- that you both opened up about the roller coaster of ride of trying to conceive with humor, honesty, sensitivity and a minimum of fertility related acronyms.
Culturally, we tell a lot of stories about love -- many, many of which end with "and they got married and lived happily ever after." We writers of rom coms, sitcoms and romance novels perpetuate that. But we don't tell as many stories about after happily ever after. But that's another essay for another day. In the meantime, THIS:
"Maybe fictional characters live happily ever after, but for the nonfictional rest of us, the story continues with a lot more complexity and in a way, marriage winds up being the longest date ever."
Hopefully it's a really great date.
PS: Please consider making this into a TV show.