how to be married

How to Be Married: What I Learned From Real Women on Five Continents About Surviving My First (Really Hard) Year of Marriage by Jo Piazza

I feel incredibly churlish for giving this two stars and also disappointed to have to admit that I DNF at around 65-70%. 

There's some good stuff here, actually. Piazza shares what she has (intentionally, with either a reporter's/writer's eye or with memoir-writing intentions) learned from asking women from other countries and cultures how to be married, happily, sexily, contentedly. I liked these parts quite a lot and found some of it fascinating, and sometimes inspiring to incorporate into my own life. 

I have always been critical of readers/reviewers who criticize memoirs for being too all-about-me because, for God's sake, that what a memoir is and if you don't like that, then don't read it. But while listening to this on audiobook, I was repeatedly irritated when she reverted to sharing her personal experiences within her relationship. This wasn't because it was too all-about-me, but rather because the about-me parts didn't have a solid and honest and reliable grounding for me (me, the person writing the review this time). Piazza explains that her courtship and wedding were quite whirlwind, short-term affairs and while this made me skeptical at first, I was willing to stick it out because, yeah, it happens. But I think my skepticism was validated and began to grow when she explains that on her honeymoon, she threw up for the first time in front of her husband and she felt humiliated and convinced it meant the marriage was doomed. 

Yeah... so, sure, I can be convinced to get on board with a quick romance and marriage, despite it not being my personal experience and despite that I would personally be unlikely to do such a thing. However, I do find it quite disturbing that she was with a person for such an extremely short period of time that they'd never seen one another through an illness or even an ill-advised night of heavy drinking. At what point does one feel confident in declaring "in sickness and in health" when they've only ever seen blooming and happy health? And perhaps if you feel humiliated and ashamed and worried about the future of your marriage for throwing up from food poisoning, perhaps you should have waited just a tiny bit longer before making that commitment. By the time marriage rolls around, one should have a reasonable balance of confidence in the stability of the relationship for such an incident. That felt more like something someone should feel justified in worrying about on, like, a fifth date.  

This was just one of the incidents she relates that I just couldn't relate to/understand. For example, she writes that while on a trip in Paris, learning about sexy lingerie and the long-term seduction techniques of French wives, she buys a $250 t-shirt by "accident" and feels bad that she cannot return it, once her new husband discovers how much it costs. I suppose it could have been an accident - and I'm not declaring it wasn't, actually - just wondering where the faultiness lies in the telling of this story. Piazza and her husband are both writers with careers that frequently take them on international trips with foreign currencies. Even if you can convince me that a couple of long-experienced travelers like that couldn't manage to calculate the exchange rate before making such a purchase, I've also been in plenty of boutiques in both regional and international cities wherein simply walking into the store, you already know that the clothing is going to be ludicrously priced - at least a clue to double check your math before committing. I spent far too much time puzzling about what actually happened in this situation. 

Finally, I had to stop because I found the author's own narration of the audiobook was difficult to get through. She repeatedly enunciated words that had no need/context for doing so and it was incredibly distracting.

Once again I feel like a heel detailing my dislikes, here, because it's an admirable project she shouldered, and I did find value in some of what I read. I may even try to return to it at another time, but not on audiobook, and perhaps with a bit of distance from some of her personal relationship dynamics that I found intolerable this go around.