Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling (2011)
The Best Distraction in the World: Romance and Guys
Married People Need to Step It Up
PRETTY MUCH the only thing I remember from my Shakespeare course in college is that one can identify a comedy, as opposed to a tragedy, because it ends in a wedding. (I also remember that weird play The Winter’s Tale, where a woman poses as a statue for years or something. I remember thinking, What am I reading? This is ridiculous. Take this off the syllabus!) That’s also how, I’ve noticed, most romantic comedies end. But I think the actual reason Shakespeare ended them there is because he thought the journey leading up to marriage was more fun to watch than the one that begins after the vows were said.
Growing up, I would say about 25 percent of the kids I knew had divorced parents. It wasn’t out of the ordinary at all, and in fact, it was kind of glamorous. You never knew which parent’s house you were going to have a sleepover at, and you hoped it was the dad’s. The dad’s house always had cable TV or a pool, and he ordered out for dinner instead of cooking.
As an adult, I’ve met an ocean of divorced people. I might even know more divorced people than married people, because I live in godless Los Angeles, where if you’re engaged it simply means you’re publicly announcing that you are dating a person monogamishly.
I also became familiar with an entirely new category of people: the unhappily married person. They are everywhere, and they are ten thousand times more depressing than a divorced person. My friend Tim, whose name I’ve changed, obviously, has gotten more and more depressing since he married his girlfriend of seven years. Tim is the kind of guy who corners you at a party to tell you, vehemently, that marriage is work. And that you have to work on it constantly. And that going to couples’ therapy is not only normal but something that everyone needs to do. Tim has a kind of manic, cult-y look in his eye from paying thousands of dollars to a marriage counselor. He is convinced that his daily work on his marriage, and his acknowledgment that it is basically a living hell, is modern. The result is that he has helped to relieve me of any romantic notions I had about marriage.
What is fascinating to me is that divorced people tend to be the least depressing or depressed people I know. They’re all unburdened and cleansed, and the wiser for it. This is the case even if they didn’t initiate the divorce. I have a comedy writer friend, Sandy, whose husband left her for another woman the moment his restaurant (which Sandy had invested in and made possible) became successful. It was kind of the worst story anyone had ever heard, a betrayal that, had it happened to me, I would’ve driven slowly around downtown Los Angeles at night in my car with my windows rolled down, trying to solicit a hit man to murder my husband. After six months of hardship and going to therapy three times a week, Sandy’s now elated. She realized—as has almost everyone I know who has been left or broken up with—that, by divorcing her, her husband relieved her of the job of eventually leaving him. As my mom has said, when one person is unhappy, it usually means two people are unhappy but that one has not come to terms with it yet. Sandy hadn’t realized how unhappy she was until he was gone. She told me that her husband’s leaving her was the nicest gift he ever gave her, because she would never have seen clearly enough to do it herself. It’s not easy, of course; they have kids, and coordinating and sharing them is a hassle and a heartbreak. But she’s still better off than she was before.
A COUPLE OF GREAT MARRIAGES
My parents get along because they are pals. They’re not big on analyzing their relationship. What do I mean by pals? It mostly means they want to talk about the same stuff all the time. In my parents’ case, it’s essentially rose bushes, mulch, and placement of shrubs. They love gardening. They can talk about aphids the way I talk about New York Fashion Week. They can spend an entire day together talking nonstop about rhododendrons and Men of a Certain Age, watch Piers Morgan, and then share a vanilla milkshake and go to bed. They’re pals. (Note: they are pals, not best friends. My mom’s best friend is her sister. A best friend is someone you can talk to ad nauseam about feelings, clothing, and gossip. My dad is completely uninterested in that.)
Not to belabor the Amy Poehler of it all, but I’ve always really admired her marriage to Will Arnett. I remember at the Parks and Recreation premiere four years ago, Amy was looking for her husband toward the end of the night. She stopped by me and a couple other Office writers who had scammed invites to the party.
AMY: Hey guys. Have you seen Arnett? I can’t find him.
We didn’t know where he was, and she shook her head good-naturedly, like, “That guy,” and went on looking for him. I had never heard a woman call her husband by his last name, like she was a player on the same sports team Will was on. You could tell from that small moment that Will and Amy are total pals.
C’MON, MARRIED PEOPLE
I don’t want to hear about the endless struggles to keep sex exciting, or the work it takes to plan a date night. I want to hear that you guys watch every episode of The Bachelorette together in secret shame, or that one got the other hooked on Breaking Bad and if either watches it without the other, they’re dead meat. I want to see you guys high-five each other like teammates on a recreational softball team you both do for fun. I want to hear about it because I know it’s possible, and because I want it for myself.
I guess I think happiness can come in a bunch of forms, and maybe a marriage with tons of work makes people feel happy. But part of me still thinks … is it really so hard to make it work? What happened to being pals? I’m not complaining about Romance Being Dead—I’ve just described a happy marriage as based on talking about plants and a canceled Ray Romano show and drinking milkshakes: not exactly rose petals and gazing into each other’s eyes at the top of the Empire State Building or whatever. I’m pretty sure my parents have gazed into each other’s eyes maybe once, and that was so my mom could put eyedrops in my dad’s eyes. And I’m not saying that marriage should always be easy. But we seem to get so gloomily worked up about it these days. In the Shakespearean comedies, the wedding is the end, and there isn’t much indication of what happily ever after will look like day to day. In real life, shouldn’t a wedding be an awesome party you throw with your great pal, in the presence of a bunch of your other friends? A great day, for sure, but not the beginning and certainly not the end of your friendship with a person you can’t wait to talk about gardening with for the next forty years.
Maybe the point is that any marriage is work, but you may as well pick work that you like. Writing this book is work, but it’s fun work, and I picked it and I enjoy doing it with you, Reader. It’s my job, and it’s a job I like. Tim, on the other hand, had chosen a very tough and kind of bad-sounding job, like being the guy who scrapes barnacles off the pylons of an oil rig in the frigid Arctic Sea.
Married people, it’s up to you. It’s entirely on your shoulders to keep this sinking institution afloat. It’s a stately old ship, and a lot of people, like me, want to get on board. Please be psyched, and convey that psychedness to us. And always remember: so many, many people are envious of what you have. You’re the star at the end of the Shakespearean play, wearing the wreath of flowers in your hair. The rest of us are just the little side characters.