By Jenna McCarthy
When I encountered this book title, my little hand instinctively made a bee-line for the 1-Click checkout button, no questions asked. Call it woman’s intuition.
Little girls dream of someday being a bride, standing hand in hand with their dashing prince charming. And grown women absorb bridal media (whether shamelessly or covertly) and contemplate their own dream ring and wedding day details. The act of getting hitched is a rite of passage heralded in our Western culture as the ultimate must-do if one is to be taken seriously as an accomplished adult and decent human being. We’re coerced into taking the plunge from our parents, enticed by government benefits, and bribed by insurance policies. But what happens after the wedding? Most girls assume it’s an automatic Happily-Ever-After, case closed. If It Was Easy, They’d Call The Whole Damn Thing A Honeymoon is how Jenna McCarthy goes about peeing all over that nonsense. In a relationship/marriage/self help genre largely dominated by Christian counselors, the ever-cynical, sarcastic and secular McCarthy assumes the stance that two completely individual adults sharing the same space for the rest of their lives in a state of sexual monogamy must be a trending social anomaly as it betrays nature. Arising from this imposition is a cruel laundry list of universal clashes between the sexes, issues which she has granted chapter titles such as “Can We Talk? Obviously Not,” “Gee, Honey. Are You Sick? I Never Would Have Guessed,” and one of my favorites, “It’s The Thought That Counts (But Thanks For The Blender).”
To support the case McCarthy’s making, she calls into evidence the testimonies of more victims, other women equally disenchanted by the strange-ass-shit their own men do. At some of these confessions I was chuckling for I am all too familiar with them myself, others had me rolling my eyes at the women for being so petty, and then there would be one now and then that made my jaw drop in horror—habits so downright bizarre and unimaginable that no woman should ever be subjected to it and some mother somewhere should be slapped. And though I couldn’t particularly relate to universal concerns like wrestling over the television remote and the hot mess that is marital “date night,” reading other people’s complaints had me analyzing my own relationship and such is the aim of this book: for those of us who have yet to marry, do you really know what you’re in for? And for those of us who are already married, you are not alone in your pain. But McCarthy also challenges the axiom that perhaps the grass is not always greener on the other side and invites readers to contemplate if we could trade in that one thing that drives us nuts about our man in exchange for another, would we? Most likely not, provided our options here. In fact, if you’re anything like me, this book will have you counting your blessings. So much of this stuff, my guy does not do. And so much of this stuff, I do not care enough to even consider complaining about. Worse yet, I felt sorry for my guy because I came to realize how much he’s got to put up with about me! It made for a very interesting read.
Whether or not you agree with the book, relate to any single point, or just end up donating your copy to someone else’s yard sale, you’ve got to at least giggle once or twice at McCarthy’s sense of storytelling. Now, I’m a picky bitch and the first to call fraud when a book is pitched as laugh-out-loud-funny and it’s in fact not, so I’m proud to say this one did me in. As an astute writer and a natural comedian, McCarthy goes on these ridiculous tirades about personal exchanges between she and her husband, or her own theoretical explanations to illustrate why women and men are genetically dissimilar, making me laugh, snort, and interrupt whatever it was my guy was doing so I could reread it aloud to him. Needless to say, I found myself feeling a little sad as I ran out of pages to read, wanting more of McCarthy’s quirky, cynical wit.
And for the record, in spite of her listing off every point of contention that has ever arisen between she and her husband over a 13 year span, including flinging profanities, roadside abandonment, and the occasional flying cup, McCarthy’s relationship does not come across as toxic or dysfunctional. Despite the book’s presentation, it’s not all bleak. In fact, the only person McCarthy comes down on harder than her husband would be herself. The matrimonial monster spares no one as she razzes herself plenty (albeit tongue in cheek condemnation) when it comes to shopping, toileting, and gift-giving. In the times that Jenna is at her worst, her husband shines his best and she manages to sneak in a few mushy-gushy awww moments for us to see what a marriage really looks like; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
If It Was Easy… is a darkly comical review of human relations that hits the domestic nail right on the head, which is somehow still endearing when we find someone we can love in spite of these peculiarities and perceived flaws. Marriage is a matter of push and pull which we subject ourselves to for the sake of para-bonding; McCarthy doesn’t make an attempt to understand the phenomenon, but only to turn the spotlight away from the glamorized wedding bells to the cold, steely death knell of the very serious—and very seriously underrated—commitment that is legally binding, sexually frustrating, self-contradicting, morally fraught marriage… and she does so laughingly, because that’s the only way we’re going to get through it.