Perhaps the most explosive New York Times Magazine cover story in history has been burning a hole in my kitchen table for the past few days. It’s written by San Francisco-based writer Elizabeth Weil, and the topic is how she and her husband Daniel Duane, attempted to work on their marriage, via therapy, communication, love and attention, etc.
The nut sentence of the piece speaks of Dan’s resistance to exploring the inner workings of their marriage with an eye toward improving it. Writes Elizabeth, “He met my ocean analogy with the veiled threat of California ranch-hand wisdom: if you’re going to poke around the bushes, you’d best be prepared to scare out some snakes.”
Let’s get right to the slimiest snake in the piece. In therapy, the couple discussed what Weil terms “well-rehearsed gripes.” In that group falls this: “The time Dan proposed a trade: he would clean up more, he swore he would, if I would just French-kiss him spontaneously once a day; I gave up first.”
Talk about a doozy. If I ever found myself insisting on such a trade, you can bet I’d be in favor of some outside assistance with the ol’ marriage. The post-game breakdown on this shocker of a passage goes as follows:
Point No. 1: These people are either really honest and open and courageous, or they’re channeling their inner reality-TV personas toward a lucrative book contract. (“Duh” Update 4:53: She’s already working on a book.)
Point No. 2: This whole French-kissing thing had been a longstanding problem for the couple. Elizabeth writes that the discussion of the French-kissing deal dredged up bad memories of how Dan had made critical comments about her kissing prior to their engagement. Which leads us to:
Point No. 3: If you can get past the kissing problem, you can get past anything. Think about it: Incompatibility on the kissing front is something that two individuals discover before just about anything else. It’s a first-date staple. You kiss at the doorstep, or in the car, or in the computer lounge, or on Twitter. And if it doesn’t go well, then it’s tough to sked that second date. Far more trivial matters have derailed a budding romance. Yet this guy has lived through years and years of un-intrusive kissing! And this woman has lived through years and years of intrusive kissing! Consider how this clash plays itself out in practice. Dan is going for it, pushing….well, actually, no, I don’t want to consider it.
Yet! Yet! I can’t get beyond this kissing problem. Each time I pick up the story, I re-read the part about the French-kissing bribe. And then I pick it up again, and I re-read the part about the French-kissing bribe. I have no interest in knowing anything more about this couple, unless there’s a resolution to this kissing crisis.
What could the Sexist possibly have to say about this?