Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: The Longest Date

By Jami Deise

As an avid reader who’s been married for 23 years, I’m dismayed that most women’s fiction centers around single or divorced women and their various relationship struggles. We may not believe in happily ever after any more, but surely there’s something worth reading about after one says “I do,” other than ugly divorce tales. Married women have lives, jobs, usually kids, relationships and adventures that deserve to be heard.

While not a novel, Cindy Chupack’s collection of essays, The Longest Date: Life as a Wife, helps fill that void. Chupack, a writer for HBO’s seminal series Sex and the City, along with other TV comedies, is a former sex columnist for magazines and well-known funny person. Unfortunately, as far as the book is concerned, her reputation led me to expect it to have the same tone and level of humor as my favorite Sex and the City episodes (and there are many). Instead, while some of the essays are mildly amusing, others are heartbreaking and a few are annoyingly smug. The writing is top-notch, but none of the stories would make a good Sex and the City episode.

When Cindy meets Ian, he’s a bad boy who warns her he’s not going to say “I love you” and will probably break her heart. Instead, he proposes to her on a beach, riding up on a white horse fully decked out in armor – literally a knight in shining armor. He takes the California bar so he can move for her career; he’s a fabulous cook who throws dinner parties for their friends who used to star on Friends; he dotes on her when she’s sick in bed; he wants to dance with her in the snow. True, that snow was inside their L.A. beach house and it freaked her out, but still, the message is clear – she got her prince. The biggest complaint Chupack has about her husband is that he’s a little untidy and smokes too much pot. Most of the tales she tells are about herself – she’s a clean freak who watches too much reality TV and sometimes has petty thoughts about making more money than he does. At her most annoying, Chupack includes her wedding vows – all five pages of them.

In the last few essays, Chupack throws out any pretext of humor and writes about her struggles with pregnancy and infertility. These are the most moving sections of the book, and the pages in which she is the most sympathetic. Possibly these events caused Chupack too much pain to write further about them, which is understandable.

With Chupack’s credentials, I was expecting a modern-day Erma Bombeck. Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t satisfied by the book, or maybe my naturally cynical nature needs something a little more mean. If you’re looking for a collection of essays about a modern-day happily ever after, this may be the book for you. But if the idea of a guy proposing from on top of a horse makes you throw up a little in your mouth, you might want to skip this one and reread The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Septic Tank. I do plan on checking out Chupack’s earlier, pre-Ian collection of essays, The Between Boyfriends Book, and watching a few Sex and the City episodes. The one where Carries breaks out in hives trying on a wedding dress comes to mind.

Thanks to Penguin for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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