The month of Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on the realities of romance. Here’s a book that lets you do just that.
Gotham Memoir teacher Karen Propp has co-edited Why I’m Still Married: Women Write Their Hearts Out on Love, Loss, Sex, and Who Does The Dishes, an anthology of essays by various women writers on being married—the good, the bad, the ugly of it. About the book, Publishers Weekly says, “Whether they're on their first marriage or their fourth, each of the 24 contributors to this thought-provoking collection has terrific stories and wisdom to share, and they all do it masterfully.”
In her essay “Matching Luggage,” Karen herself dares to take us behind the scenes of her own marriage. Here is the essay’s opening:
Excerpt from “Matching Luggage”
From Why I'm Still Married, by Karen Propp
He and I sipped our before-dinner drinks at an outdoor cafe on a temperate evening in June. I was hungry, because we were dining late, and woozy, from the vodka in my glass, and lightheaded, because he and I were sparkling new. Already, I loved his smartness and the way he made me feel alive to the world. His eyes misted when he looked at me. “My parents were sparring partners,” he said. “They lived at the top of their voices.”
I thought he was just trying to say something clever. If you asked me then what he meant, I might have said that he came from an ambitious, opinionated, and excitable family, and that living at the top of one’s voice was fitting for people who hobnobbed with the likes of Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir. Where exactly was, “the top of one’s voice?” Did it have something to do with opera?
And then our meal came, and the conversation moved on to other topics, and I felt satiated. It was a beautiful night, scented with geraniums. In his clunky Honda, we sped past a park called the Emerald Necklace. We held hands, and so intent were we on the current traveling between his hand and mine that there was no need to talk. He parked in front of my apartment; I invited him in. Whatever he’d meant about how his parents behaved had nothing do with us.
But now that he and I have been married almost ten years, I know too well what it is to live at the top of one’s voice. The truth is that my husband can become ensnared in a rage so lethal it makes me shake just to be in the same room with him. He yells terrible accusations at me and I yell equally terrible words back. And yet I love him. Once his anger passes, he is another person—the smart, warm, funny guy I fell for twelve years ago. The father of our child. The person who believed in me when I had nothing but a sheaf of poems and a fourteen-inch television set.
This is not an essay about healthy anger; the cleansing honesty that comes when both people trust each other enough to let their feelings rip. Nor is it a story about feminist sanctioned rage against centuries-old oppression. It’s not even about whether I am or am not a bitch, a role that has become fashionable in certain circles of late. This is a story about an anger that’s as bewildering as it is shameful--a hidden emotional spring in which I almost drowned.
My husband comes across, to most people, as a charming, cultivated individual, someone who can explicate philosophers such as Rawls and Habermas, fix broken toys, paddle a canoe, program HTML and listen empathically to friends in trouble. He knows hundreds of jokes, which he loves to tell. It’s not easy to spot his anger. You have to have known him for years and years; you have be his intimate and you have to catch it at odd, unlikely moments of close proximity.
If you would like to learn more about this book and learn something about how to write from personal experience, Karen will be presenting a free one-hour memoir writing workshop for Gotham Writers’s Workshop. The workshop takes place February 22, 7:30 P.M. at the Greenwich Village Barnes & Noble in New York City. For details, click here.