Pity the Poor Writer’s Husband by Holly Robinson
“So, what do you want for Mother’s Day?” my husband asked a few years after our youngest son was born.
I hesitated, not wanting to appear too greedy. “Oh, I don’t really need anything,” I murmured.
“Come on,” he urged, taking me in his arms. “Tell me what you really want.”
“Um, okay. Can I have a weekend alone?”
He rolled his eyes. “Again?”
Yes. Again. Dan had given me a weekend alone the previous Christmas. Not in a fancy spa, but in a cheap hotel half an hour from home. It was the kind of hotel room where people lie on floral bedspreads still wearing their shoes, and pull the room-darkening drapes to either sleep off a bender or have an affair. I did neither. Instead, I holed up to write 10 hours a day on a novel. Pure bliss.
Now, 20 years later, Dan doesn’t even bother asking what I want for Christmas, Mother’s Day, or even my birthday. He just tucks a fancy computer-generated gift certificate into my hot little hand that says, “Go ahead. Write your damn novel.”
Pity the poor writer’s husband. He suffers long stretches alone, as his wife tools off to writing retreats and conferences whenever she can. Even when she can’t actually go away, she might take extra-long at the grocery store because she has really sneaked off to a cafe to edit a chapter. Or he’ll come home and find her sitting in the car and scribbling in her journal after a trip to the grocery store, the ice cream melting on the back seat.
A writer’s husband must often fend for himself. Cooking? I set alarms everywhere—my phone, my computer, the stove—and even so, there have been a few smoke-filled evenings where Dan has come home from work and sighed. “Cooking by remote control again, eh?” he says.
Of course, writers are usually good in bed—we’re known for our passion and imagination—but cuddling? A writer’s husband must content himself with a pillow at times. With her mind ranging free as she makes love, his writer is likely to spring out of bed and grab her journal before that damp spot on the sheet even has time to dry. You have to capture good ideas like butterflies in a net.
He may also have to wait his turn for the bathroom, that poor husband. Where better to think in a quiet place away from the household Bermuda Triangle, than in the shower? Clever writer wives even keep writing implements stashed on the bathroom shelves. You don’t want to miss a visit from the muse while blow-drying your hair.
A writer’s husband must also be a pillar of good cheer during the many, many times when his wife’s work is rejected. During my worst rejection to date—when a novel I’d been sure my agent would sell was turned down by the last editor on his list—I telephoned my husband at work and made three requests: Grand Marnier, chocolate truffles, and the movie Moulin Rouge on DVD.
“Kids, don’t go in there,” Dan had to say that evening, blocking the door to the family room, where I was prone on the couch and in no state to be a mother.
And, finally, a writer’s husband must put up with the suspicion that his wife is sharing perhaps more than she should. “You wrote an essay about my vasectomy?” Dan asked in horror. “And you sold it to a national magazine?”
Ah. Well, yes. “It’s a great essay,” I protested. “You don’t mind, do you?”
When I told him how much the magazine was paying me, he said he guessed he could live with it. “Just don’t put me in a novel,” Dan added.
“Nobody will even know it’s you,” I promised.
Holly Robinson is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Huffington Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, More, Open Salon, and Parents. Robinson holds a B.A. in biology from Clark University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She and her husband have five children, two cats, a grumpy hamster, and two very stubborn small dogs. Holly’s latest novel, Beach Plum Island, is out now. Learn more and order your copy here.
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