I like to write self-deprecating essays based on personal experience. My wife, however, doesn’t want to feature in these pieces.
‘You shouldn’t have married a writer,’ I say.
‘I didn’t,’ she replies, ‘I married a lowly advertising executive.’
‘Well, you’re married to one now.’ I puff my chest out.
My wife raises a sceptical eyebrow. Despite all my endeavours, my wife still thinks of me as the guy who puts out the rubbish on Wednesday mornings.
Those of you acquainted with my wife will know that it would be a brave man who goes against her wishes. But to acquiesce would hobble my creativity. To write her out of my life would be to present myself as a saddo recluse. She’s often the only person I interact with for days. I would have nothing to write about other than the dog, the cat and my inner thoughts. (And you wouldn’t want to be subjected to those.)
The solution, possibly, is for me to invent a fictional wife. But I could run into trouble with this too. Imagine, for example, if I wrote that my wife has taken on work as an actress in blue movies to help pay for our energy bills. My real wife would go ballistic and tell me I couldn’t possibly write such a thing. I’ll explain that I’m writing about my fictional wife, not my real wife. ‘No one will know that,’ she will say in the kind of tone that leaves no doubt that I am about to spend the evening on the naughty step. ‘They’ll think I’ve become a porn star.’
‘What are you saying? That I couldn’t be a porn star?’ Whether or not my wife could make it as a porn star is a conversation to be avoided. It could only end badly.
So, as you can see, there’s no good option. If I go against my wife and write about her, there’ll be hell to pay. If I invent a fictional wife, there’ll also be hell to pay. If I don’t mention her, I’ll have nothing to write about. (And there’ll probably still be hell to pay for presenting myself as unmarried and available.)
Quite a pickle.