Sunday, July 29, 2007

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

ISBN: 0452288215
Format: Paperback, 304pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $14.00

Having been married a little over two years myself I was especially interested in reading Why I’m Still Married. Sometimes we struggle; finding the balance and the middle ground can be hard at times. Whose turn it is to clean the kitchen, or who forgot to send the bills off, and it’s a constant battle about who is supposed to feed the cats. But getting to wake up next to my best friend and lover is always a wonderful thing and in the end the good times outweigh the bad.

Why I’m Still Married is divided into years of marriage and the corresponding anniversary gifts. From Silver to Gold features Anne Bernays, Marge Piercy, Susan Dworkin, Aimee Liu, Kathleen Aguero, and Bharati Mukherjee. From Silver to China has Erica Jong, Julia Alvarez, Jean Trounstine, Susan Cheever, Maria Hinojosa, Eve LaPlante, and Jennifer Heath. From Sugar to Tin features Elizabeth Graver, Helen Fremont, Liza Wieland, Audrey Schulman, Hannah Pine, and Karen Propp. The final section From Paper to Wood includes ZZ Packer, Kamy Wicoff, Meredith Maran, Diana Abu-Jaber, and Nell Casey.

What I found most interesting about this collection was how honest and open each author was. We are treated to an inside view of each marriage, the flaws are bared, and mistakes admitted openly. It also features essays from marriages that are unconventional.

In First Person Plural by Helen Fremont we are treated to an inside view of her marriage with her female partner. It was a comfort to read that same sex relationships suffer from the same thing opposite sex relationships do. In her ‘Commitment’ section of her essay she states ‘our marriage is based on a fundamental, irrefutable fact: neither of us can bear the trauma of dating… We are bound to each other because neither of us has the courage to start over again.’ While it struck me as slightly sad the honesty in this statement was very powerful.

Then we have My Husband, His Girlfriend, Her Husband, My Lover, and Others by Hannah Pine in which she shares her experiences with her open marriage. ‘The assumption is that my marriage is full of danger, full of threat, that it survives against all odds.’ But she proves that this arrangement works for her and her husband. While it might not work for everyone, indeed it might not work for most people, she has found a relationship that is strong and loving.

These are not essays about keeping marriages together. In many cases the author is working on their second or third time around but it’s about the faith we have in the state of being married. That despite our disappointments we believe that there could be a happily ever after waiting for us and are not afraid to take a chance finding it.

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