In almost any relationship there will be discrepancies between spouses regarding time spent on interests. Me, I’ll sacrifice almost anything to hit single track on my mountain bike. And Edna? It’s reading.
Back before our son was born, I considered myself quite a reader. But I realized that I was deluding myself once I shacked up with someone who belongs in the pantheon of the World’s Greatest Readers. (Note that I use ‘great’ here in its ‘infamous’ sense, such as ‘the county’s greatest thief’ or ‘the Earth’s greatest catastrophe’.) Edna will read anything, anywhere, anytime.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s good for writers to be partnered up with readers. It makes for a pretty symbiotic relationship, and back when we started up, books were something that connected us. But now Edna reads a certain book too often that instead has divided us: A virtual fake book. That is, FaceBook.
My beautiful wife (with her reading addiction and fear of ‘missing out’ of anything her friends are doing) had succumbed to the seductive wiles of Facebook, the sexy site with cloven hooves and spiky tail. Destroyer of cuddle-time and all things decent—now optimized to work with her iPhone!
How’s a normal guy to compete? Facebook has all the right moves: it offers flirty titillations in the form of hunky exes asking to be ‘friended’; it fans the flames of her fear of ‘missing out’ on banal updates concerning like-minded peoples’ food consumption and photos of their pets in costumes; and it provides shared, tribal, outrage over puppy mills and the Supreme Court and (pick your flavor) politicians.
Things were already bad, but the addiction got even worse during our recent, incredibly long winter. If I went to bed before her, my wife would hit Facebook like one of the neighborhood raccoons that clamber into our compost bin to get tipsy on fermenting fruit. I once woke to find her wandering around the house in the dark, her face lit up only by the glow of her laptop, addled and exhausted, as she attempted to follow friends’ links with the goal of actually reading and viewing everything that had been posted that day. I was at my wits’ end. How could I get her to stop?
Stop in the name of love
One snowy, June evening this year, after trying to get her attention for the better part of a weekend, I had a brilliant idea: sabotage. But should I hack the Wi-Fi? Have the microwave ‘blow the fuses’? Forget the pay the Internet bill? Then I decided I’d have to confront this Facebook problem face-to-face. I girded my loins (not as easy as it sounds) and approached her at the dining room table, manfully slamming down the lid of her laptop.
I had imagined this intervention dozens of times by this point, which always ran something like this (after the manly slamming part, of which there were a few variations, depending on the loin girding):
“This affair with Facebook—it’s got to stop,” I say, outraged.
Edna’s face clouds—then bursts into tears. “I know, Darling,” she says, surprising me (because she’s never called me ‘Darling’) “I’m out of control. Save me.”
Suddenly shirtless, I tear the Wi-Fi box out of the wall and toss it across the room, as if it weighs nothing, then snuggle her in my arms, cooing the words, “It’s over…it’s all over now.” The terrible Facebook monster would be vanquished. I would be a hero—and have the mother of my child (and cuddle time) back.
No one was more surprised than I when, after I actually did slam down the lid of her laptop, Edna did NOT burst into tears, or snuggle in my arms—though her face did cloud over.
“What the H..E…double toothpicks are you doing?” is what she finally hissed, rising slowly from her roost. She bared her fangs, and her bat wings began to unfold (or at least I think they did—I was too afraid to look at her).
“We need to talk,” I said with a tiny voice, looking down at my girded loins for courage, “Something’s got to change.”
“Don’t you ever—!“
“I want my woman back,” I pleaded, my voice barely a whisper, “Please.”
My wife froze. The fangs re-sheathed themselves, the bat wings retracted. A tear formed in the corner of her computer-wearied eye. Somehow I’d broken Facebook’s demonic grip and I finally had her attention.
The following conversation was difficult to say the least, but we were able to plow our way through it, and we made a promise that we’d have no Facebook within an hour before bed. We set a goal of decompressing together at the end of each very long days with a bit of actual face time.
A couple of months in, the strategy seems to be working and we’re actually talking more in the evening (though it hasn’t hurt that, strangely, the “darn microwave keeps blowing the fuses”, either).
Sean Toren loves living the full catastrophe in Minneapolis with his wife and son. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org with thoughts or suggestions.