Monday, September 10, 2007

The Truth and Nothing but, by Susie

This was originally written for Redbook online, as part of their summer bookclub.

Occupational hazard of being a writer: people wonder how much of your own life is in your books.

When I was writing romance novels, my dh (lovely term, that, covering “dear husband” or “damn husband”, as the case may be. Often both) considered this a bonus. The love scenes? About him? Every single word.

But now, with the upcoming release of Just Sex, he’s concerned. Because the husband in that book is not a good guy. The husband cheats a lot.

I’m a little worried about setting the record straight on this. (I worry a lot. One of my talents.) Because it seems to me the surest sign of a celebrity’s relationship being almost over is when they give an interview about how great said relationship is. Shelf life after that? Maybe three months.

There are some things in Just Sex that are an awful lot like us. My husband travels on business too much, often to Chicago. I am hopelessly addicted to Diet Coke. We got married young. (I was twenty, he was twenty-five, by two whole weeks. Hey, he needed a green card, and I was young enough to think my life was over if he had to go back to the other side of the world.) Our dog did bloat once, in the middle of the night when the dh was out of town.

But I’m pretty sure he’s not cheating on me. At least not up ‘til now. There are two reasons for this:

1) If he was, I’d make him suffer. A lot. I remind him of this regularly, and he believes me.

2) The dh likes to make money; he likes to spend money. He has no interest in the day-to-day management of it, which means every penny goes through me. Every credit card statement, every check, every instant cash receipt. If he’s having an affair, it’s as a kept man. And really, if we’re not talking a young Richard Gere, how often does that happen?

We’ve been married a really long time. I’d have to say that a good part of the reason for that is as simple as the fact that we both went in thinking there was no out. This was it. So neither one of us ever does anything unforgivable. (Lots of things that need forgiving? Oh yeah. Regularly.)

I remember when we were looking for our first house how many of them were being sold because of an impending divorce. There’d be pictures on the wall, family pictures: happy parents, gorgeous kids. A house that had obviously been put together with love, to hold a family that was no longer whole.

Divorce just doesn’t look fun to me. And very expensive,

I’m not saying there aren’t good reasons for it. And that whole two to make, two to break is a crock . . . one person, who doesn’t want to be there anymore, can break marriage. Sometimes you just gotta get out.

But we’re both decent people. And we both know we don’t want that. Too much trouble.

From my husband’s perspective, I think there’re two reasons this works for us.

First off, I make him laugh. All the time.

I’m not funny. You have to trust me on this. (Sometimes on paper, when I get to think about it for days on end, but not in real life.) But for some reason, he thinks I’m absolutely freakin’ hilarious. It’s weird, but it’s nice.

Second, he thinks I’m just this side of Cindy Crawford.

You have to trust me on this one, too. I’m not. Never was. Not even, remotely, with low lighting and heavy-duty beer goggles.

It’s genius on his part, when you think about it. And quite efficient.

All guys want to marry supermodels. In the genes. But there’s a downside to that. I mean, how many guys could actually catch one? And they’d be expensive to keep, and you sure couldn’t take them out to chow down on a cheeseburger.

So he’s just decided, all evidence to the contrary, that I am as hot as a female comes. Delusional, of course, but very clever.

For me, it’s as simple as the fact that I like that I make him laugh, and I like that he thinks I’m beautiful. And he’s a good guy, all told, a very good guy.

A single friend of mine once asked how, when I walked down the street and a gorgeous man passed, could I live with the idea that I’d never have a chance to sleep with someone like that again?

Are you kidding me? He wasn’t going to sleep with me anyway.

If I went out looking for some great thing out there, I know, I know, that I’d be sorry. I don’t want to do all that again, all that energy, and that worry, to try and build a good relationship. I’ve got one. Okay, maybe the next guy wouldn’t snore quite so loud, and maybe he’d never forget my birthday. (He made up for that one really well, by the way; a guilty dh is a much better gift giver than a regular it’s-your-birthday dh.) But maybe he wouldn’t think I’m hilarious, and maybe he wouldn’t think the only reason I’m not a famous supermodel is that I’m 5’4.” And I doubt he’d not mind at all when I woke up him after a long day at work to hold me, night after night, when I can’t sleep because one of our kids is sick, or I’m stressed about work, or something I saw on the news is haunting me. And for certain I wouldn’t have the memory of the awe on his face when our sons were born.

So no, Tom-the-cheater isn’t based on my husband. I promised him I’d let you all know. (A few of my friends’, now, that’s another thing entirely.)

And our dog lived another seven stupidly delirious years.



Betina Krahn said...

Wow, Susie, what a post!

I'm in awe of your honesty and your wonderful perspective on your marriage. I'm very happy for you and wish you all the very best together.

And I have to admit, after reading the book, that I wondered what on earth made you write this kind of book? Especially after all the sexy, funny romances you've written. Made me wonder. . .

Care to give us a little insight on why you chose this subject?

Michele Hauf said...

What a neat relationship, Susie! ANd I bet all our hubbies have oft wondered, 'Does she write about me?" I frequently tell my hubby that if he'd crack open one of my books, on occassion, he might find something in there about him. Still hasn't gotten him to read anything I've written. (In my defense, he just doesn't read at all, unless it's about guns and hunting.)

I'm also a firm believer in that the holder of the checkbook will always know right away if the other spouse is cheating. That's why it's in my pocket. Not that I think my spouse would cheat. I believe he thinks he got a good one, too. (Though there are days I look at him with wonder that he puts up with me).

Thanks for the great post!

Helen Brenna said...

Good thing you cleared that up, Susie. I was planning on giving your dh the evil eye next time I saw him!

Just kidding.

Strange isn't it, that so we can write about things we've never experienced? I imagine it's a bit like acting, only on paper. I find myself sitting at my computer trying to "get in character." Sometimes I'm laughing to myself, sometimes I'm crying, sometimes I'm talking the scene out.

I've told my family they'd all think I was completely crazy if they put a camera in this room and watched me work.

Candace said...

I think you're on to something, Susie. Laughter and delusion as the basis of a good marriage. I never thought about it quite that way before, but it's definitely a workable theory.

My dh (34 years and counting)thinks I'm hilarious. No one else thinks I'm more than mildly amusing. Occassionally. He also thinks I'm outragously hot, too. And I'm not that, either. (Really, at 56, how hot can you be?)

But it works for us.

Majik said...

What an awesome relationship!! It is refreshing to hear that someone else has a normal-but-exciting (you picks it where you can *lol) life. Kudos!

Debra Dixon said...

Susie-- Loved it! We've talked about marriage before because we're both long-term inmates. I'm always felt a great kinship with you because we both like our husbands a lot and that's a darned precious commodity.