Kendall and I were married seven years ago today. The term “seven year itch” was coined many years ago when the average length of many marriages was apparently seven years (those statistics are even more dire today). According to this theory, once promoted by psychologists, the temptation to cheat on your spouse or call it quits becomes much more pronounced in the seventh year of marriage. The phrase was immortalized in a successful 1952 play by George Axelrod (who wrote the screenplay for “The Manchurian Candidate”) and a few years later in the brilliant Billy Wilder film adaptation starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe.
In “The Seven Year Itch,” Tom Ewell’s wife, played by Evelyn Keyes, absconds to the country for the summer, leaving Ewell alone in their Manhattan apartment. One floor above, an aspiring and voluptuous actress, played by Marilyn Monroe, is subletting the apartment and strikes up a friendship with Ewell—mostly because he has air conditioning in his place while she has no relief from the stifling New York heat.
Ewell, alone after seven years of marriage, can’t help but fantasize about carrying on a wild affair with Monroe’s character. He finds various ways to get Marilyn alone in his apartment and is constantly making terribly awkward advances that fly right over the oblivious actress’s head.
Do you want to hear the God’s honest truth? Although I love Marilyn Monroe, I’d much rather be with Evelyn Keyes’ smart, sexy Helen Sherman than spend five minutes with Monroe’s ditzy character. Oh, I don’t for a minute think that Marilyn Monroe herself was a ditz, but I do think the character she played in this wonderful film was bubble-headed to the extreme. Yawn.
I would have been bored silly by Monroe’s character and would have high-tailed it to the country to be with Evelyn Keyes. I hope Kendall is flattered and not insulted to hear that I think she’s more Evelyn Keyes than Marilyn Monroe. Hell, I’d take Keyes’ Suellen O’Hara over Scarlett, too. And give me Keyes’ version of Ruby Keeler in “The Jolson Story” over the real Keeler. On the other hand, as I wrote just after Keyes’ death in 2008 when she was haunting my blog, the real Evelyn Keyes gave Marilyn Monroe a run for her money in terms of her off-screen exploits with famous men. Hmmm...
I wrote about our wedding on our first anniversary and as we celebrate our seventh, I must say I’m grateful to be on the other side of that event. Oh, it was a great wedding but remembering what goes into the planning of such a day, even one as “simple” and homespun as ours, makes me woozy.
In retrospect, I cringe when I think of the issues that somehow seemed important to me at the time. My first wedding 10 years earlier in Paris with its 400+ guests bore a strong resemblance to the coronation of the King and Queen of France. I vowed for years that if I ever got married again, I’d opt for total simplicity, preferably 20 people in a Chinese restaurant. The minute Kendall and I decided to get hitched our 20 guests quickly bounced up to 150 and counting but at least we knew we’d get married in our new house. A simple wedding in our loving home—what could be easier?
Well, as the plans took shape, Mr. Simplicity here turned into a male Bridezilla, panicking about things like getting matching tablecloths and the right kind of plates, and making sure we had enough food (i.e., enough to feed Romania). Kendall’s planning ideas, on the other hand, were so rustic and do-it-yourself that she practically had herself crocheting the chuppah and hand-blowing the glass we’d smash at the end of the ceremony.
I don’t know why I was surprised that we were doing our usual polarizing dance. Sometimes we are like that couple in the Woody Allen movie, disagreeing about ridiculous things for the sake of argument. Wife: “The Atlantic is a better ocean!” Husband: “No, the Pacific is better!”
When Kendall said she didn’t think we needed to rent any chairs for the wedding reception, I had visions of my relatives passing out from exhaustion, a plastic cup of lukewarm punch dropping from their hands. We’d lean down to their flailing bodies and strain to hear their barely audible last words: “I j-j-just needed to sit down for a minute.” Kendall also believed that she could prepare all of the food herself, whipping up several hundred sandwiches that morning in her wedding gown. And we certainly didn’t need to get any additional plates or glasses—if we ran out she’d just excuse herself and do a few loads of dishes in the kitchen, what’s the big deal?
By the time Kendall came around and agreed to let someone else handle the grub, I was able to see the light and let go of most of my prissy demands. We ultimately came to appreciate what the day was really about (NOT tablecloths!) and it all came off without a hitch. In the end, we did do things our way, starting with our decision to use the 1927 wedding photo of Irving Thalberg and Norma Shearer on our own invitation (they were married near us at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple). I loved that some people actually thought it was a photo of us! We later spent hours in the Motion Picture Academy Library looking for the perfect photograph of the married Irving and Norma for our thank you notes. That photo sits on our mantle in a beautifully engraved silver frame someone gave us as a wedding gift!
Kendall and I have been through a hell of a lot in the past seven years but I wouldn’t trade a second of it. Our marriage is stronger than ever even though my general cynicism about the institution remains. I always loved Oscar Wilde’s comment that “marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.” No one in their right mind would embark on such a journey, but oh, what a rewarding trip! Seven year itch? No way. I love you, Kendall!