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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 13/100: Why I'm Still Married by Karen Propp and Jean Troustine

Why I'm Still Married: Women Write Their Hearts Out on Love, Loss, Sex, and Who Does the Dishes - Karen Propp, Jean Trounstine

I think what I liked best about this book was that it showed that there are so many different ways to be married. Marriage is an institution that looks different for everyone, and the voyeur in me likes to peek inside other people's, inevitably comparing them to my own (mostly along the lines of: "I would never put up with THAT," but of course "that" is very different when it's attached to someone you love vs. something you are reading about in a book and totally detached from.)

The book is arranged in reverse order according to length of marriage, so it starts with essays by women who have been married the longest. I found myself enjoying the book more near the end, when the writers were at similar stages in their marriages to where I am -- I related to these stories more. At the same time, I felt that these essays didn't have the "credibility" of the longer-married writers -- I know for a fact that at least one of those marriages is broken up now, and I was tempted to search the other names to see if their marriages lasted. That started to feel stalkerish to me, though, so I decided my time and energy could be spent better in other ways.

Because the fact that some of these marriages might in fact end was not the point of the collection -- the point was for women to reflect upon why they were still married *at that moment.* Each essay consisted of a time capsule for a particular marriage, but not the marriage's fate etched in stone.

I was glad that the book also included essays by women married to same-sex partners. I was a little surprised by how many of the women were on not second marriages, but thirds. I wanted to believe, as they did, that they were on their "final" marriages.

I found that I related to a lot of the women's thoughts or misconceptions about marriage, namely how "surprised" many of them were by the fact that they found themselves married at all, or that they fell for someone different than what they expected. I wonder if this is because all the women were also writers, which kept this from really being a representative sample of women's experiences of marriage in general. Writers tend to be introverted, tend to have somewhat flexible work lives, tend to have some economic instability, so along with them all sharing the same profession, they shared quite a few character traits as well. It made me wonder whether the book would be less accessible to women who were also wives but not also writers.

Some of the essays blurred together for me, while others seemed to end so abruptly that I was irritated by the editors for not pushing the writer for a little bit better closure, especially when it existed -- I'm thinking in particular of a story about a woman who had a health crisis, which made her think of her baby's health crisis right after he was born. At the time she wrote her essay, the baby was four, so I knew he lived -- but we never learned what his diagnosis was, nor hers. Definitely the most frustrating book in the collection.

Like almost every other anthology, this one is a mixed bag -- worth a read, but not a re-read.