This was a very strange book for me to suddenly just pick up, as marriage is generally speaking pretty much at the bottom of my lists of interests. It is kind of funny, as I am personally relatively happily married (and as this book, as well as quantum mechanics will tell you, relative is the nature of the universe), and modern marriage and it’s dualistic nature can also be deeply fascinating to think about.
I don’t know why, but I did pick it up on my Kindle, possible to balance the grostesque zombie holocaust in WWZ, and Nick Cave’s kinky and wonderfully depraved Death of Bunny Monroe, or possibly because I’m relatively new to marriage, and was just interested in other people’s ideas and perspective as a source of second-hand wisdom.
Though I am generally speaking a highly cynical and misanthropic bastard, and treat the quirks of Western culture around marriage with gleeful amusement, I was very pleasantly surprised when I started reading this book. I thoroughly distrust the ideas and expectations institutions like Disney and Hollywood build around marriage, and the way they represent members of Monarchy and the happy ever after. Similarly, I feel nothing but utter despise towards upper middle-class representations and aspirations of weddings and marriage, which comes across as nothing more than a hollow, desperate facade of perfection, which holds up to reality roughly as efficiently as a small sheet of wet toilet-paper to a fusion-powered Victorian era steam engine travelling at 8% lightspeed. The sort of mentality promoted by reality television of sparkling brides, $600,000 weddings and casual, tabloid media obsessing over every possible minute detail of celebrity-weddings, reported with absolute, un-ironic conviction and without the slightest sign of even a rudimentary notion of self-sarcasm.
This glamorised and completely fabricated idea maintained by 1) institutions like Cosmopolitan, and 2) twats, is the reason I take dark delight in hearing about high divorce-statistics and messy divorces following short, pretentious marriages that begin to unravel as soon as the last $5000/plate wedding guest leaves the happy couple to discover their mutual incompatibility and intolerance.
I also kick small children when their parents aren’t looking and take out detective novels from the library, read them through, and then pencil in the end solution on the margin of the page following the murder.
The idea of You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: a Love Story is very simple, while quite uncanny, giving the opportunity to both parties of the marriage to voice their thoughts and experiences, spanning the whole length of their 13 year relationship. So obviously both accounts are a collection of wonderful and fascinating rambling, ranting, biased opinions and selective recollections, spanning dating, kinky sex, hopeless romanticism, cynical pragmatics, romantic holidays, awkward relatives, vaginas, everyday neurotic problems and the terrible weight of caring for a child born without an asshole. Oh btw, spoiler alert.
The writers Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn are both quite funny and open in writing this, both coming from Hollywood comedy and acting circles, and are very easy to relate to, intelligent and open people. As a minor negative point, both also come across as thoroughly unlikable and narcissistic: Jeff as a sex-obsessed, moody sport-jock; more of a caricature of a Jewish male than a real, living and breathing person, and Annabelle as a neurotic, self-centered and self-righteous lunatic, ready to have a breakdown at the drop of a hat.
Of course, that is always a risk when coming out and giving even a quasi-honest account of yourself, and coming across as both awesome, and as an arsehole at the same time. Almost like…a real person (dun-duh-dunnn!). The happy couple seems, end the end, to find the happy medium of functional dysfunctionality, the cornerstone of any lasting relationship, which balances all the ups and downs of having to live with another smelly, messy neurotic bugger that keeps hogging the best seat in the house and always leaves the toilet paper the wrong way around.
In the end, this was quite a clever and funny book to read, because it could even make some of the dullest topics in existence quite funny and interesting, like for example the inevitable, public facebook tiff, that every bastard today feels compelled to enact, and causes embarrassment for everyone involved. If you have never unfriended your partner so far, only to friend them again two days later and get into that vicious cycle, then you definately should congratulate yourself and treat yourself to a Ben & Jerry’s: you are slightly less of a twat than everyone else.
Another recent read: first few chapters of Going Rogue: an American Life by one Sarah Palin. Now that shit is crazy. I thought Marquis de Sade’s Justine was an example of a work of a deranged mind, but Sarah Palin just takes the biscuit. And possibly the entire Netherlands baking industry. Or the Platonic meta-biscuit that comprises all the biscuits in existence, eaten and uneaten, as well as all potential biscuits, that could ever come to exist, yet to be discovered.
That one is also a very fascinating read, offering a view into the perfectly polarized, extreme conservative frame of perception that is the noggin of the Tea Party figure head, occupying that wonderful shadowy space between fact and fiction.
For Sarah’s credit, the person who comes across the lines is a very upbeat and positive individual, who is absolutely adamant in her beliefs and is not afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right, regardless of any adversity on her path. That person just happens to be crazy, and the adversary, eight times out of ten, reality.