A FEW WEEKS AGO I TRAVELED TO SEA ISLAND, GEORGIA, TO ATTEND THE WEDDING OF MY BUDDY DAVE. For those unfamiliar with this postcard perfect corner of the south, Sea Island is part of the Golden Isles of Georgia, a resort community catering to the rich and famous, where the cost of a wedding is equal to the GNP of a mid-sized Central American country (not Belize). Dave is a conceptual poet, meaning that he considers poems but doesn’t often write them down or assemble them into book form for the purposes of financial gain or professional accolades. He has a Masters degree in Sitcom Theory from the University of Phoenix, and his thesis was on the influence of Tennyson in the third season of According to Jim. So how, you ask, does a Dave end up as the groom in a wedding that cost more than the US spends annually on green energy research? Well, certainly not from the profits from his recent work, a 50,000 word, one-line poem set in Jon Cryer’s guest bathroom called Taste of Sheen. No, Dave married the heiress to a third world child labor and human trading conglomerate, and the opulent affair was all taken care of by his new pappy-in-law.
This trip provided me with my own financial challenges. But Dave bailed me out of a Costa Rican jail in 2008 after a misunderstanding involving 11 liters of goat’s milk, an 18-year-old prostitute, and an unloaded handgun, so I owed it to him to attend. So, as Dave and I sipped $6000 single malt from $300 glasses that someone else paid for, watching the sun come up over an island reserved for the wealthy and Republicans, we started talking about what his new bride could expect from her life with a writer who once published a 400-page collection of poems that only used the letter ‘R’. Here is the result of our conversation, the TSJ guide for those newlyweds who have taken on the challenge of marrying an artist.
1. The wedding will be awesome.
Your wedding will be a blast. No question. Your artist partner will have all their eccentric, MFA-wielding, publicly-funded, left-leaning friends on hand to entertain the guests and steal bottles of liquor from the open bar. The bands will be of the highest quality, and will play for free, though they will surely make off with some of the dinnerware and likely knock up one of the bridesmaids.
Soon after the nuptials, your home (which is much larger than the bachelor apartment your artist partner shared for three years with six people while unsuccessfully trying to write a play about the experience) will be visited by unwelcome guests. They’ll probably be there by the time you’re back from the honeymoon. They’ll say they’re just there for the weekend, but will take up residence from anywhere from 3 weeks to 5 years. They’ll eat your food, abuse your loofa, wear your summer dresses in winter, and sleep with your friends. They’ll pay you back with good intentions and smiles, a character named after you in an unfinished play, and the occasional tempeh and tofu raw food casserole.
2. Be prepared for many house guests.
Soon after the nuptials, your home (which is much larger than the bachelor apartment your artist partner shared for three years with six people while unsuccessfully trying to write a play about the experience) will be visited by many peculiar and unwelcome guests. They’ll probably be there by the time you’re back from the honeymoon. They’ll say they’re just there for the weekend, but will take up residence from anywhere from 3 weeks to 5 years. They’ll eat your food, abuse your loofa, wear your summer dresses in winter, and sleep with your friends. They’ll pay you back with good intentions and smiles, a character named after you in an unfinished play, and the occasional tempeh and tofu raw food casserole.
3. The job is never coming.
Any chance of your artist getting a 9-to-5 vanished the moment you decided “true love doesn’t need a prenup.” Oh, sure, they talked a good game during the courting period. But the promise of a “real job” is pillow talk for the aspiring artist. It’s a turn on. But it’s genuine. They actually believe it, and in some distant corner of their right-side brain they romanticize the notion of putting on a suit and going to meetings and “buy, sell, trade, you’re fired, get me that form!” But it’s never going to happen. With the exception of accepting a tenure track position at a university in a remote Iowan town you wouldn’t live in if all the other towns in America simultaneously imploded and Canada disappeared, your new partner is unemployable. Way to think that one through.
Oh, get ready for some waterworks. Artists have many many many feelings, and as soon as you say “I do” they’ve been given the green light to share those feelings at all hours of the day and night. Even a successful artist is like a 14-year-old-girl-watching-Oprah-while-reading-Twilight fanfiction-where-Bella-dies. But, truly, what were you expecting? Where do you think those poems come from? You think that saxophone solo made itself beautiful? You think all those dark colors in that new painting in the guestroom were an accident? TSJ suggests investing in Kleenex and patience.
5. Self-destructive tendencies.
The artist will find new and unique ways to make their lives (and now yours) unnecessarily difficult and trying. The writer will set fire to his publisher’s office, negating a book deal and canceling the advance. The musician will attack the A&R guy with his trombone, putting an end to a promising recording session. The playwright will add a third scene to their production in which the entire audience gets sprayed in llama urine. The painter will get obscenely drunk at a vernissage and make sweet, sweet love to an hor d’oeuvre tray still being held by a frightened server. Because more than abject failure, financial ruin, or obscurity, the artist greatly fears success and happiness. Hell, I’m hoping my agent and my wife are reading this right now and are tearing up contracts and drawing up divorce papers by the end of the next paragraph.
6. Alcoholism, drug addiction, or infidelity. Maybe all of the above.
Unfortunately for you, the talented artist has problems with booze, drugs, and monogamy. I mean, we all have problems with those three things, but how we confront them is what defines us as humans. And even worse for you, the artist can easily justify their whiskey-soaked, Oxycontin-riddled philandering because they took Intro to Anthropology and Psychology electives during the eighth year of their joint BFA in Sculpture and Finger Painting. Also, because they’re drunk and high and not wearing pants when you find out, and there are fewer things in this world more difficult to rationalize with than a blackout drunk prescription med-impaired experimental novelist who needs your love in order to find the will to live.
Mike Spry is the author of JACK (Snare Books, 2008), which was shortlisted for the 2009 QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and he was longlisted for the 2010 Journey Prize. His most recent work is Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011).