MARCH 16, 2010 5:50PM

You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up

Rate: 18 Flag

I admit it. I’ll pick up a book based solely on the title and this one caught my eye: You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up. It made me giggle and I had just finished a rather bitter fight with my husband and wanted some company in feeling miserable and self-righteous and suspected I might find it in this book.

 

After I examined the cover I realized that one of the authors is Annabelle Gurwitch who I enjoyed immensely on TBS Dinner and a Movie, a show that featured two hosts presenting a movie and cooking some movie-themed dinner while you watched. Annabelle’s wit was sarcastic and wacky. I loved her personality. Well, she found a great match in Jeff as both a life partner and writing partner. They are the couple you want to invite to your cocktail party. They make even the most painful personal events fodder for comedy.

 

The book is structured in “he says” “she says” conversations with marriage fun facts between chapters.  It’s kind of like being in the middle of a marital spat or counseling session, only funny and enjoyable. In both really lovey and really angry couples the outsider can feel alienated, I think, because the couple is so focused on each other to the exclusion of the rest of the world. This book lets you in on the inside joke. And it is very relatable, at least in my experience, my marriage not quite being a source of unending emotional and sexual bliss. It’s close, you know, but not quite there. Jeff compares their book to the marriage self-help books: “I like to think of the authors of those books as the Daniel Boones and Davy Crocketts of the new frontier of marriage. And if they are Boones and Crocketts, then you should think of Annabelle and me and our book as the Donner party.”

 

As the self-proclaimed “Gurus of wrong,” Annabelle and Jeff take us through their courtship, marriage and the birth of their son Ezra who came into the world with serious birth defects. I think their sense of humor was a lifeline through that very tough time. One of the first signs of VACTERL, the condition Ezra was born with, is having no anus. This is a major problem that has to be corrected with surgery, but it's also kind of funny in a dark way. As Annabelle was coming out of the anesthesia from her c-section they told her about the problems with her newborn son she replied, "No anus? What happens if he's gay?" and when informed they would be surgically creating one she said, "Great. My son was born in Los Angeles and they're already making him an asshole!" I wish I could be that witty in the face of adversity.

 

The book is a great deal of fun while still being an intimate look at a real marriage. Through it all you get a sense of Annabelle and Jeff as a loving committed team. Maybe they don't know what they're doing (who does?) Maybe they're doing it wrong, but thirteen years says different. And if they're doing it wrong, I want to be wrong in the same way.

 

Annabelle describes when she felt them cohering as a couple: "It's not as if Jeff and I were combining our lives and by doing so we were bringing out the best and brightest qualities in each other. On the contrary we were mixing up our worst and our weirdest, but all signs were indicating that our boundaries had been changed forever. Maybe we were like Georgia and Russia. Sometimes Georgia is part of Russia. Sometimes Georgia is an independent state. And sometimes they go to war and fight like hell with each other." Through all of it, though, is love and some damn funny stories.

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it sounds wonderful! I hope the library's got it
It sounds great. There is so much mythology about marriage, and the truth is so far from the white dresses and all those damn invitations. I've always wanted to write a real personal ad, not "do you like to walk in the rain"" but "will you clean the toilet?" and "will you be polite to the in-laws even when you hate them?" and "will you clean up dog poop from the carpet with good grace even when you didn't want the dog?"
To which I'd add: Will you still love me when I gross out your friends and relatives by "sharing" stories about my job?

Anyway, sounds like a fascinating book, JJ. I admire Annabelle's approach to life.
What happens if he's gay? Great line, and a brave one to utter on such an occasion.
R
I'll keep this in mind . . . sounds like a great read!
My step-sisters son Miller was also born with this disorder. He is 2 years old now and has more surgeries ahead of him plus he is in the hospital today for a kidney infection, which he gets a lot of due to all of the birth defects. It's a tough one for everyone but we hope as he gets older he outgrows a lot of the symptoms and the operations will fix the rest. I should read this book.
sorry..still laffing...
"I admit it. I’ll pick up a book based solely on the title." I'll click on a post for that reason too. Glad I did and you weren't kidding about dark humor.

When my daughter was born, they asked my wife while pretty sedated if she know what she had. She said "Yeah, a Pontiac." Not as funny as VACTERL but it's all I got.
Okay, I went ahead and bought the book. It looks really good. On Amazon.com they have a mini video of the couple talking and they are funny!
That is a clever title! I used to love Annabelle on TBS Dinner and a Movie. (I picked up the cookbook at a thrift shop a few years ago...a witty book full of movie recs and recipes.) I'll look for it.
A good book review is one that makes you want to drive fifteen miles through a blizzard to the local B&N store - yours is such a review. ~r for absolute EXCELLENCE!!!
You mean that marriage isn't heaven on earth? Who knew? :)

Good review.
Great title and I liked your reasoning for buying the book. I'll give it a read.