July 17, 2012
I don’t know how to ease into this, so I’m just going to jump in!
Appropriate enough for a gspot, or is this gchat?
Ha! Okay, so I have been thinking a lot about your book, which I loved by the way, but you know that because we’re in the same writers group and you helped me with my book and you’re a good friend.
So if I wasn’t a good friend, you wouldn’t love it?
Yes, I would still love your book even if you weren’t a good friend. I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy and especially for a romantic, smart male protagonist. Speaking of which, I really related to Gavin, to his longing. I used to think of love as longing. But now that I am married I find it’s not about longing at all.
Is love longing or is love something you long for?
Having written a thousand love stories for the New York Times Vows section and having your own love stories, what is your take on love now, this very minute?
I think love is a spark. And if you’re lucky and if you work hard that spark can grow. I guess what I’m grappling with now is what happens if you don’t find that spark. Does everyone have that spark?
Good question, because I married a friend with whom I didn’t have a spark at first.
And he lets you say that in public.
It was a “friendship caught on fire.”
Sounds like true love to me.
We were writing partners, and I didn’t see him that way, and he did, and then I did, and then it was on.
So something changed how you saw him. The spark doesn’t have to come first. The spark can come later.
Is there something in your life that speaks to the spark coming later? I think people get really impatient and won’t give someone a third date, but maybe if they waited a spark would come. From my experience, people don’t give themselves a chance.
Or maybe they’d be really bored by the third date and leading someone on. Or worse, boring them as well. And then there’s two bored people desperate to connect, not connecting, and really depressed about it. But I’m a romantic. Really.
I know you’re a romantic, just like Gavin, your protagonist. But do you think that gets in your way? Does Gavin not realize he felt a spark until it’s too late, or was he scared to pursue it? That’s another problem, right? When we’re scared to go for what we want.
I think fear is the ultimate obstacle for everything in life. And especially in love. I have seen it over and over in couples I’ve interviewed and in my own life.
Tell me more about fear.
I think being afraid is an excuse. An excuse to get in your own way. It gives you an out. And, yes, it prevents you from having that extra date that could change everything. It also prevents you from even having the first date or asking for the number.
What do you think people are really afraid of? My parents got divorced, so I was afraid of being like them. What about you?
I was afraid of having my parents’ relationship. But my parents have been married for over 50 years. So I’d be lucky to have their relationship.
Wow, 50 years is a long time. My parents made it 25 years, that’s something.
I think there’s also a larger fear of “Is that all there is?” In some ways, falling in love and picking a life partner is the most important thing we do in our lives. We may never solve world hunger or figure out how to tag photos on Facebook from our phones. But this is the one thing that we can each accomplish. So unless you hear trumpets and cymbals, you can worry that you’re not getting the most important thing in your life right. And where does that leave you?
As someone who used to chase high-pitched love, suck-your-stomach-in love, screaming on-top-of-a-mountain love, I think those trumpets and cymbals are overrated, sometimes false alarms, and certainly not sustainable. I am no expert, believe me, but I think it’s about trusting someone, being interested in them, engaged, present, there for each other, thoughtful and kind, finding common ground while giving each other space. And there’s nothing high-pitched about that, which doesn’t mean I don’t have romantic moments with my husband, they just feel more relaxed. I agree with you that it can be confusing, if you’re used to love “feeling” different. I just think that if people really want to partner up they need to be open to it looking different than they initially thought.
But here’s the question that pops up for me (as a guy). Where does lust fit into the “settle for companionship” argument?
Oh, I think you need attraction, or then it would just be a friendship. I have really hot sex with my husband, it’s just grounded, if that makes any sense
Hot, grounded sex sounds fab. I’m picturing a lot of rolling around on beaches.
Ha! I’d worry about sand getting stuck in my vagina. Ahem, moving on, did publishing your book give you what you thought it would give you? I think love, like success, often feels different than what we thought it would feel like.
The day I sold my book, I signed up for online dating. Success does not make a person feel loved. And success doesn’t feel very successful if you don’t have love. At least for me. Which is a total bummer.
Yeah I know, I ended my five year relationship/engagement two months before my book came out, and there were 200 people at my reading, and it felt like none of it mattered because I felt I didn’t have love. But that was the thing, there was so much love all around me. So many friends and family. I was loved. I just wanted more. So, I get it.
I also had, like, 200 people at my reading and party. Had an amazing night. Total high. And then wondered what was wrong with me, that I need 200 people applauding me to feel good about myself. May have to write a book about that. My favorite quote these days is from Cicero: “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.”
That’s a great quote!
Publishing a book is great, because it’s a physical thing I can point to and say, “Look, I made a book.” Or I made words that someone printed in a book (or more likely formatted as pixels on a screen). But the point is, it exists in the world. And it gives me a platform to speak to you in this public forum. And it gives my parents something they can tell their rabbi about. Which as benefits of publishing a book go, should not be underrated.
Ha! True dat! But I’m asking you if it feels like what you thought it would feel like? Like love, when you get it, maybe it doesn’t feel like what you imagined.
Actually, what I’ve figured out is that writing a book and falling in love are very similar. Both involve having faith in a spark. You can meet someone, and have a momentary interest. You can have a passing thought about what might make for an interesting book. But it takes a lot of time and devotion to follow through. And a willingness to overcome obstacles. Most thoughts about books or people flit through a person’s brain without being acted on. But the book or the relationship that comes to exist is the one you believed in, fought for, and stuck with. And there is this incredible sense of achievement. Not because of the brass ring of a published book or a marriage contract. The feeling of having given the best you have to give.
That’s beautiful. I like that. But then it’s like, well, you can have many books, so maybe that means you can have many relationships and they will all be a spark and all be important and there isn’t just one
That’s an interesting perspective. Maybe the idea of mating for life is part of our socio-religious upbringing and not a natural state. Although the people who pull it off, make it look pretty good. An old friend from high school just contacted me, and he’s still with the girl he started dating when he was 15.
Do you believe in marriage?
Yes, I believe in marriage. I wish it believed in me. Though that’s a glib thing to say.
I happen to believe in marriage and divorce. I don’t think you should ever have to stay with someone awful or abusive, but I think being married deepens the bond you have with another person and helps you create a family that feels stable, and in that stability, I have found that I breathe a little better, even if it’s just an illusion because the planet could be destroyed by a meteor.
There are people I wish I had pursued more wholeheartedly.
That goes back to your book. You created a character that does pursue and win in the end. It’s cool we can do that in writing, be the people we want to be, and they can teach us in turn how to be better.
Yes, fiction allows us to turn things around and make life more the way we would like it to be. I wish I had been the person I am now at an earlier age. But then I wouldn’t be where I am now, would I? And I kind of like where I am. I’d just like my life a little better if I could meet someone to share it with. Oh, and I wouldn’t mind a bestseller.
I wish those things for you as well! Okay, one last question, not related to love or marriage: Since you published later in life, and had many creative near-misses along the way, is there any advice you could give to an aspiring author?
Oooh, a question I know the answer to! Here’s my advice to new writers: A writer who doubts himself won’t write. A writer who doesn’t question what he writes, will write poorly. Demand you write the best that you’re capable of. Forgive yourself for not being capable of perfection. And find a writers group with smart and kind people. And preferably sane.
And do you have something to say to the people in their 30s and 40s and 50s who have the dream to publish and think it’s out of their reach, kind of like how you feel about love?
Actually, I think it’s the same advice. And with a couple of word changes, it might apply to love as well.
Devan Sipher has been writing about weddings for The New York Times’ “Vows” column for more than five years. He received a master of fine arts degree from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He lives in New York City, and is still single. Please visit him at www.devansipher.com.